Five highlights from the carriage museum
There are over forty carriage on display at the carriage museum with a huge amount of history behind them all. Here are some of the highlights from the collection, to give a taste of the variety in the museum.
1. The poshest – the Craven State Chariot
This state chariot was built by Hooper and Co., one of the very finest London coachbuilders in the nineteenth century. State carriages were only owned by the nobility and it would just have been used for attending very important occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament, society weddings and grand receptions. This beautiful example was built for the Earl of Craven in the mid- 19th century. As it is in its original condition because it was used so rarely, it one of the most important carriages in the collection. You can see the Craven crests on the carriage and, included in the silver plated furniture on the outside, is the coats of arms of the Craven family on the hammer cloth. The interior is beautifully lined in a bright, very rich shade of damask.
2. The furthest - the Antrobus Travelling Chariot
This travelling chariot took Gibbs Crawford Antrobus all over Europe during his career as a diplomat at the beginning of the 19th century. For example, as a junior secretary under Lord Castlereagh, he attended the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) that marked the end of the Napoleonic War. Travelling chariots would be well equipped for long journeys and could be used for travelling from town house to country residence or for journeys as elaborate as the Grand Tour of Europe. This carriage has its original imperials (light wooden cases covered in leather) on the roof. On long journeys it would be pulled by pairs or teams of horses hired at inns along the way, ridden by post boys who would then hack the horses back from the next post. The horses were changed every 10-12 miles. This vehicle could however also be converted for town use, making it quite a versatile carriage.
3. The fastest - the Whitechapel Cart
This speedy two-wheeled carriage was the Ferrari of its day and even sports similar bright colours. Built in the late 19th century, it was most recently used for tandem driving, where two horses are being driven one in front of the other. The tail board of the carriage can be hinged down to make space for two passengers facing backwards, in addition to the driver and another passenger facing forwards. To adjust the balance of the vehicle there is a crank handle which can be would to move the seat.
4. The smallest – Two-wheeled Child’s Carriage
This little cart was built by John C. Oke, Newfoundland. Children’s carriages were often pulled by a large dog or sometimes a goat or other animal. A cart like this, along with a Newfoundland dog called Bouncer, was given to the future George V when he visited Newfoundland in 1901. It is possible that it was this cart as a number of carriages from the Royal Mews were given to the Science Museum, who own this vehicle, by Edward VIII. Children’s carriages were often based on full sized ones and sometimes looked like a miniature version of the family carriage.
5. The last – the Hearse
After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, many followed the example set by Queen Victoria of an extensive funeral and strict mourning. It was big business too as whole mourning emporiums and warehouses were dedicated to selling anything from dresses to stationary to coffins and gravestones. Of course you would want to be sent off in a fashionable way and the hearse was just the vehicle for this purpose. This carriage was built around 1900 and owned by Partis Undertakers of Faversham, Kent, where it was used until the mid-20th century. The horses used for funerals were always black and they often had black ostrich feather plumes on the head pieces of their bridles and on their pads.
Carriage museum guide book
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