Friday, May 10, 2013

Hat Box Optional--Making Choices for your new Carriage

We are accustomed these days, when we are fortunate enough to buy a new car, to choosing from a substantial list of options. Well, there was no less choice two hundred years ago, if you were fortunate enough to purchase a new carriage.

William Felton's book of 1794 laid out all the options for the prospective buyer.

He states that he wrote the book, in the main, to educate gentlemen about the construction of their coaches, and the costs involved, so that they would not be cheated by unscrupulous tradesmen. Certainly his work is comprehensive and completely understandable by the layman.

Mr. Felton includes all aspects of coach building, from frames and springs to hammer-cloths and trimmings. It was this last that I personally found most interesting. One of the main figures of the plates shows a coach interior wall--one half left is trimmed in a basic manner, the other right in a more opulent style.

 "Holders", that is straps to grasp over rough roads, etc. have two and a half pages devoted to them.
Windows were of prime importance. Mr. Felton asserts that " should always be of the best plate; but a great difficulty lies in procuring from bladders or veins..." There was a wide choice of window coverings, as this illustration left shows:

Fig 5 - is a spring curtain, which we might call a roller blind.

Fig 6 - is a festoon curtain, on the left plain and on the right ornamented. Felton states they are "of no utility".

Fig 8 - shows the Venetian blind which Mr. Felton highly approves.

Fig 9 - is the 'common shutter' which could be raised and lowered in the same way as the glass window, by a strap and loop.

There are chapters on lamps, wheels, and one on coach painting with wonderful details:
Of course, many carriages were used for long distance travel and as such they required storage, and lots of it. There were all kinds of storage compartments and containers that could be included with a new coach: trunks, imperials (designed to carry light objects--placed on the roof), and wells (fixed to the bottom of the carriage body). Of particular interest were hat boxes (made of leather to the shape of the hat, and generally carried on the roof):
and cap-boxes (of various materials, according to expenditure, and fastened "resembling a sword-case" to the back of the coach's body):
When I first began my Regency research, more than twenty years ago, I struggled to find information, of the period, on coaches. This book answers all my questions. It's available for download from Google Books. There is another book available, equally informative, titled "English Pleasure Carriages". But it is from 1837, and the changes to carriage design in the forty years between the books is worth studying. The 1837 book, unlike Felton's earlier work, has illustrations of complete carriages that are excellent.

Happy travelling!

'Til next time,



Unknown said...

I love Google Books so much. They've digitized so many primary sources I could /never/ have access to otherwise! Thanks for pointing this one out.

Elizabeth Bailey said...

Lesley, that's the most amazing piece of data. Like you, I've been researching for 20 years and have never come across this one. I shall download straight away. What a wonderful find!


Louise Allen said...

Great post, Lesley-Anne! Thanks so much

Charles Bazalgette said...

Well found! i shall certainly have a look at this book.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I'm so glad you are all as pleased as I was when I found this book! Thank you for stopping by, and come again soon.

Alycia said...

This is cool!