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History by the Yard

Find out the facts in an informative pamphlet written by one of our contributers.

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Carriages and their Parts

barouche`:
A four-wheeled carriage with a falling top and a driver's seat on the outside. The two inside seats face each other. The vehicle is usually pulled by four horses in pairs. It has the undercarriage and lower quarters of a full coach with a hood over only the rear seat.
boot
trunk or enclosed area to carry goods, still used that way in Britain for the "trunk" of an automobile.
brougham:
-named after the first Lord Brougham who designed the carriage 1838-39; a four-wheeled close carriage adapted to either two or four persons having a curved opening underneath the driver's seat in front, able to turn in a narrow space. It is a one horse vehicle with varieties "single", "double" and "bow front".

buggy (Anglo-Indian):
from Hindu baygi-gig - to move;
1. A light vehicle, either with or without a top, generally with but one seat, and drawn by one or two horses. A name given to phaeton, or chaise but always for one person.
2. In England, a light one-horse, two wheeled vehicle without a hood. (Used in Regency times, see Vanity Fair, entered the vernacular in Victorian period)
caisson:
-from French caisse-chest; a military term for an ammunition wagon.
carriage:
-Middle English-cariage-a baggage transport and Old French carriage-a cart; a wheeled vehicle for conveyance of people or things. Originally any vehicle for passengers. Later used for the frame, axle, and wheels which carry the body, "under-carriage".
cart:
-Middle English kart, Anglo Saxon craet, Irish cairt; A general name inclusive of a number of vehicles differing in construction and use, as:
(a) a heavy vehicle for rough work, usually two wheeled and fitted for one horse;
(b) a light,two-wheeled pleasure carriage, with or without a top;
(c)colloquially, any wheeled vehicle, as a delivery cart.
chaise:
-from French chaise-a chair; a two wheeled vehicle for two persons, drawn by one horse, and generally furnished with a hood that can be let down. A light weight vehicle, a seat on a framework with springy shafts.
Chaise:
Generally an enclosed four-wheeled carriage seating up to three people, and driven by a rider mounted on one of the horses (see "postilion"). The more or less standard vehicle for families which are "respectable", but not extremely wealthy.
Postchaise:
A chaise used with rented horses (see "post"). The postchaise was always yellow and was sometimes referred to as "a yellow bounder." It was controlled by a postillion riding one of the horses. The "hack" post-chaise used by Mrs. Long in Pride and Prejudice was itself rented.
clarence:
-from the Duke of Clarence. A coach with curved glass front, fully paneled body with elliptic springs at the front and both elliptic and C-springs at the rear.
coach:
-from French coche - Hungarian kocsi; A four-wheel closed vehicle of considerable size drawn by four or six horses. It is applied to a vehicle with fixed head, doors and windows.
Coach dog:
A Dalmatian dog raised in the stable with the coach team so that the dog is attached to the horses and protective of the team and carriage. The dog is trained to run under the back axles of a coach and to protect the carriage on outings and the team in the stable. Dalmatian coach dogs were considered living ornamental accessories to a carriage and were the first "car alarms."
Coachman:
In the stables of wealthy European countries, the head coachman held a position of authority, controlling a staff of underlings ranging from under coachman to stable boy, each with clearly defined duties and distinctive clothing. Even families without claim to a coat-of-arms would provide livery for their coachmen and grooms. The coachmen's garb included a greatcoat with one or more shoulder capes to lead rain off the shoulders.
cocking cart:
A high seat two wheeler with a small box body for the carrying of fighting cocks. This style, and that of the dog cart, became the basis for many of the commercial carts used from Georgian thru Victorian Britain.

coupé:
--from French couper-to cut, used originally to denote cut down coach bodies. Later used to signify a larger vehicle similar to a Brougham, yet smaller than a Clarence.
curate cart:
-A small one horse type of two wheeled cart.
curricle:
-from Latin curriculum-racecourse for chariots and currere-to run as in careen; a chaise or showy carriage with two wheels, drawn by two horses abreast with a bar across the backs of the horses to carry the weight of the pole.
dasher:
Holmes earned an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary for this use of the term for "dashboard", the carriage part under and in front of the driver's feet that protects against flying dirt kicked up by the horse's hooves.
Dog Cart:
It was made with a ventilated compartment used to carry sporting dogs such as greyhounds to a coursing event. Similarly the Cocking Cart was used to accommodate fighting cocks. Again, as in the case of the Dog-Cart, these carriages developed into pleasure carts and were rarely used to transport either cocks or hounds.
This kind of vehicle would normally have been driven in tandem and that's the reason for its height. This characteristic also makes it a difficult carriage to drive and it could easily have been thrown out of balance by any sudden movement of the groom in the rear.
exercising cart:
A light road cart used merely for exercising horses.
gig:
-A light carriage, with one pair of wheels suspended on thoroughbraces, drawn by one horse. Later versions are the curricle, cabriolet, Dennet, Stanhope, and Tilbury. The Stanhope was a small two seater designed by Fitzroy Stanhope, the second son to the Third Earl Stanhope. It was suspended on four springs to provide a smoother ride. By 1830 it was a popular vehicle for trips between the suburbs and the city.
groom:
-A male servant employed to care for horses. He might accompany a carriage on an outing to look after the horses while the owner was away from the horse and carriage. Curricles had a small seat at the back of the carriage to accommodate a groom. His duties included currying, saddling or harnessing, feeding and watering the horses, and oiling their harness. A groom in a large establishment would answer to a head groom with the head coachman as the overall director of the stable.
hackney:
-A horse or coach kept for hire. Name derived from a french word for a slow moving hired horse. The hackney coaches were numbered, licensed, and regulated with strict rules about cleanliness and fares.
hansom:
The Hansom Cab derives its name from its inventor, Joseph Hansom, an English architect, who patented the design in 1834. It is a low-hung "safety cab" or hackney carriage with two wheels, seating two persons and having an elevated seat behind for the driver. The driver could open and shut the passenger doors from where he sat.
landau:
A closed carriage of German origin. A coach with two seats and a head in two sections which may be opened and folded back, drop windows to make it an open carriage in good weather.
Mail coach:
-The official mail coaches, which plied a certain route carrying mail and passengers with stops at specific coaching Inns on the way. They are very large coaches with a seat for the driver in front and additional seats for passengers on top and at the rear. Usually pulled by a team of six horses, which are changed at the regular post stops so they can run all the way.
Park Drag
Park Drag:
-A large private coach with a seat for two footmen at the rear used for traveling or formal occasions.The Park Drag is a derivative of the earlier English Mail Coach and Road Coach which crisscrossed Britain by the hundreds, carrying passengers and mail in the late 18th and early 19th century. The mail coach so captured the imagination of people of the time that the coach, coachman, and Mail Guard became celebrities. It became fashionable for young men to buy up coaches to drive for sport and play. After the Mail Coach was replaced by the railroad even more people acquired the out of use Mail Coaches. It became so popular that a Four-in-Hand Club was formed in London in the early 19th century and driving meets were often held in Hyde Park even more coaching associations were formed by late in the Century. The coaches used by the members began to be referred to as "Park Coaches."
phaeton:
-from Greek phaethon-to shine;
1. A character in mythology: a boy who tried to drive the sun chariot, who was destroyed by Jupiter with a thunderbolt to prevent him from setting the world on fire.
2. A light four-wheeled carriage with open sides in front of the seat, generally drawn by one horse. The term was first applied to classify a carriage during that 18th and early 19th century period in France when it was so fashionable to use classical pseudonyms. Usage of the term spread quickly to England and America. There are few distinguishing characteristics that can restrict the use of the term -- perhaps only that it is an owner driven vehicle with no coachman's seat and that it nearly always includes some sort of top that would shelter, at least, the driver.

The picture shows a variation referred to as a Crane Necked Phaeton

This style, a "High Perch" phaeton, cornered well for such a tall carriage, being well sprung, and was popular with sporting drivers, or those interested in fast driving.
George IV Phaeton:
Various phaetons, termed George IV Phaetons were manufactured by many builders in both England and America. The basic design was copied from a carriage that was originally made for King George IV of England in 1824. The King was then elderly and grown very heavy. He still wanted to drive his own carriage on occasion and asked that one be built that would allow him easy entry. As ladies began to drive more commonly this design appealed to them because of this ease of access. After a time, carriages of this design-type were often referred to as Ladies Phaetons.
Postillion:
-A man who rides the left or lead horse of a pair, especially the lead pair drawing a vehicle, in order to better control the lead pair of horses. The postillion may aid a coachman with six-horse teams as shown in the illustration. In the case of a post-chaise he guides the team in place of a coachman by riding the leader. From Travel in England by Thomas Burke, London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd., p. 104: He [Prince Puckler-Muskau, who toured England in 1826] found our postillions smart and accomplished, and noted that they were all men of small stature and light weight (like a jockey). Postillions (or post-boys, as they were called, though many of them were grey-haired) had a livery of their own. This was a short single-color jacket, a shiny white hat, white cord breeches, top-boots, white stock [neckcloth], and yellow waistcoat with pearl buttons. At all the posting-houses, horses in pairs were kept ready in harness day and night, and the post-boys themselves had to be fully dressed during the day if they were the 'next turn-out.' Most houses kept ten or a dozen post-boys, who went out in rotation. Stanley Harris, in his Old Coaching Days, quotes a set of printed rules that hung in the yard of a famous posting-house. One of them was 'That the first and second turn post-boy shall be always booted and spurred, with their horses ready harnessed, from eight o'clock in the morning until seven o'clock at night.'
rig:
-colloq. a vehicle with a horse or horses, refers to the ropes used in nautical rigging.
tiger:
-A boy employed as a cute groom to ride on the back of a curricle or other small carriage. The name tiger derives from the yellow and black striped waist coat worn by these grooms.
tilbury:
-after the inventor, a London coach builder; A kind of gig, or two-wheeled vehicle without a top or cover.
wagon:
-Danish wagen; A four wheeled-vehicle, especially, one built for carrying heavy loads, usually wood banded and reinforced with metal.
Whiskey:
An early form of chaise. A light two wheeled vehicle without a top. Named for its ability to move smartly or to "whisk" along.

Vehicle Parts and terms

Axle:
The shaft which supports the body of the carriage, including arms or spindle which carries the wheels.
Box/Boot:
The part of the carriage supporting the driver's seat. Later carriages had the boot framed into the body proper and the term became associated with a leather covered box placed under the drivers seat.
elliptical springs:
Steel carriage springs invented by Obadiah Elliott in 1804. They made the ride much smoother and the carriages more stable, thus safer.
felloe:
A part, usually separate wooden part, of a wheel, in which the spokes fit, and is surrounded by a metal tire.
Imperials:
Large flat trunks fitted to the top of coaches.
lancewood:
is a tough, elastic wood useful for shafts and bows
linchpin:
An important locking pin inserted crosswise through the shaft.
Out-to-out:
Process of measuring the track of a vehicle where the dimension is taken to the outsides of the two wheels on the same axle. Other procedures were in-to-in, or out-to-in, all giving different values.
thill
The shaft of a vehicle, the wooden part connecting it to the horse.
thoroughbrace:
A leather brace used as a spring to help support a carriage.
whippletree or whiffletree:
The pivoted, swinging bar, to which the traces of the horse's harness are fastened, and which hangs in front of the wheels and pulls the vehicle.

In the 18th century the landau was developed. It was a four-wheeled carriage with a hood that could be opened and thrown back to allow the passengers to ride in the open air. After mid-century, the sporting carriage was the phaeton, which was very high and renowned for its ability to negotiate sharp turns. Its reputation as a dangerous vehicle only added to its popularity with reckless drivers.

The 19th century brought two revolutionary developments that did more to advance long-distance overland travel than any previous inventions. One was the invention of elliptical steel springs by Obadiah Elliott in 1804. Because these springs made it possible to build vehicles without a perch, or lower framework, safe and sturdy carriages could now be made lightweight as well. The second development was the building of the macadamized roads beginning in 1815. The roads designed by John McAdam and his associates beginning in 1815 had a coefficient of friction less than one-third of that of common dirt roads.

In 1375, the King of Scotland's ransom was brought "with all speed" to London, at the rate of only 30 miles per day, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. In its hey day the Royal Mail Coach traveled at ten miles per hour.


Some carriage prints from Prints George. See this site for more on coaching.
Line drawing, Lady with Tiara, logo
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