Travelling in style

Interior of the Antrobus travelling chariot at the National Trust Carriage Museum at Arlington Court ©National Trust Images/Mark Bolton

I just spotted this image of the sumptuous and smart upholstery of an early-nineteenth-century travelling chariot in the collection of the Carriage Museum at Arlington Court.

The early-nineteenth-century Antrobus travelling chariot. ©National Trust Images/Mark Bolton

It is thought to have been used by Gibbs Crawfurd Antrobus (1793-1861) a scion of an old Cheshire gentry family who  attended the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 as a junior secretary under Lord Castlereagh. The carriage includes a special compartment for the young diplomat’s dress sword. It also still has its original imperials, the light wooden cases covered in leather to be placed on the roof. On long journeys such as the Vienna assignment the carriage would have been pulled by pairs or teams of post horses hired at inns along the way.

The sword case. ©National Trust Images/Mark Bolton

Antrobus was subsequently sent on diplomatic postings to Washington, Turin and Naples. He also had a career as Member of Parliament, in which he seems to have taken a reactionary stance, voting against the various reform bills in the early 1830s (his career is summarised on the History of Parliament website).

Door handle on the travelling chariot including the Antrobus armorial unicorn. ©National Trust Images/Mark Bolton

A photograph of Antrobus in later life – sporting a Regency-style collar which must by then have been slightly old-fashioned - can be seen on the British Library Images website.

The Antrobus family crest on the carriage door. ©National Trust Images/Mark Bolton

The travelling chariot was donated to the Arlington Carriage Museum in 1974 by Colonel Antrobus. More information about the carriages at Arlington can be found in the National Trust Carriage Museum online guide.

10 Responses to “Travelling in style”

  1. Mark D. Ruffner Says:

    I don’t know the condition of the roads that Mr. Antrobus traveled, but the chariot interior looks amazingly comfortable. Thanks for sharing this find.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Well, considering the section next to where the passengers’ heads would be has been copiously upholstered, they seem to have anticipated some fairly major bumps :)

  3. Jolie Beaumont (@JolieBeaumont) Says:

    Thanks so much for the link to the NT Carriage Museum online guide. I also wondered what the difference was between a chariot and a coach, and they explained it. But where was the food and drink stored? Under the cushions?

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Jolie, I will try to find out if these vehicles had ‘snack compartments’.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    According to Demelza Parker-Williams, the curator at Arlington Court, it often seems to have been a case of either ‘starving or stopping’ :) The challenges of keeping food and drink fresh in cramped and bumpy carriages would only have allowed for very small and simple snacks ‘on board’. When abroad travellers would often hire a local guide who would know the route and where the inns were situated where one could stop and refresh.

    This reminds me of the travelling scenes in Visconti’s wonderful film ‘The Leopard’, in which the Prince of Salina’s family makes it’s way in a group of carriages across the parched and dusty Sicilian landscape, en route from their house near Palermo to one of their other estates. At one point they stop to stretch their legs and have a picnic provided by a local innkeeper, who knows the family from previous occasions. Later they spend the night at another inn which is shown as picturesquely primitive and awful. The whole trip is presented more as an example of aristocratic duty, being seen to visit one’s estates, rather than as a ‘holiday’ in our sense of the word.

  6. ldm Says:

    Fascinating post. Thanks

    PS Small typo – 1830s not 1730s

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks for telling me – now corrected.

  8. Jolie Beaumont (@JolieBeaumont) Says:

    Thanks so much for checking out the food situation ‘on board.’ It seems our airlines have taken the cue from those earlier days, when they serve only peanuts and a soft drink in today’s “coach.”

  9. Jackie Says:

    Have always wanted to see one of these carriages so I could finally comprehend how much room was available for voluminous skirts and plumed hats. This is marvelous. I am thrilled to see this. I read a lot of Regency romance novels and live in that world while reading these tales of England as it was right before the world began to change so quickly. The coaches always play a huge part of the background descriptions. Thank you. Love your blog.

  10. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Jackie, yes it is so valuable to actually see the real thing, isn’t it? Speaking of change and carriages, the Regency-period critic William Hazlitt describes in one of his essays a London coaching inn as we would experience an airport or a high-speed rail hub today, as a thrilling place that seemed to embody the potential of modern transport and communication.

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