An impressive collection of carriages

An impressive collection of carriages

I’d thought I was done with posts from my travels when I finished up with my house posts, but then I recalled there was one more experience that I should certainly share with readers here: the wonderful Red House Carriage Museum, in Darley Dale (near Matlock). It’s a working carriage museum, where they actually take out many of the carriages and use them on a daily basis, and of particular interest to any Austen fans, because they’ve provided the carriages for a number of productions, including both the 1996 and 2005 Pride and Prejudices.

Part of the Red House carriage collection
Part of the Red House carriage collection

What’s impressive about the collection is the range they have in such a small space. I’ve had opportunity to see carriages in other places, but not greater rarities, like a stagecoach and a mail coach (they have one of very few of the latter still in existence!).

Mail coach
Mail coach
Stage coach
Stage coach

What made these rarities particularly wonderful is the informal nature of the museum. There were signs up not to touch the carriages, but otherwise you were allowed to wander in and amongst them and get up as close as you wished. I loved walking around and imagining the mail coach setting out at 8 p.m. sharp from London with all of its brethren, each of them eventually separating to distribute the mail across the country. Or the stage coach in a busy London yard, people clambering up to the top as baggage is loaded on. And I loved being able to view little details like this carriage lantern:

Lantern detail
Lantern detail

There were smaller rarities too, like this “siamese” phaeton (so called because it had two standard seats, front-and-back, rather than a seat and a servant’s seat), as well as more usual vehicles like a gig. As you can see, on this damp day they had towels and tarps down as backup protection for these rare old carriages.

Siamese phaeton
Siamese phaeton
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Gig

The museum, as a working museum, also sends out a carriage every day. I’d called in advance to book my place, and was disappointed to have my visit on a very wet English day. They still went out, though, although in a more regular modern, less rain-sensitive equipage. I got quite wet, but still enjoyed the ride!

Perhaps the highlight, though, was seeing some of the carriages that have been used in Austen productions. The traveling chariot from the 1996 miniseries is in such pristine condition, it’s easy to see why it was the perfect carriage for Lady Catherine to make her grand entrance in – it absolutely looks like the carriage of a rich woman, and certainly doesn’t appear to be several hundred years old!

Traveling chariot
Traveling chariot

My biggest fangirl moment came over the five-glass landau from the 1996 miniseries. Not only is it also in excellent condition, but getting up close to it gave me a better sense of how all of those glass panels actually worked to open up in fine weather. But mostly, I fangirled over it because it is the carriage from the end of the film!

Five-glass landau
Five-glass landau

In short, the museum was a wonderful stop, and one highly recommended for anyone wanting to do a Pride and Prejudice-heavy trip to Derbyshire. It’s not very large and perhaps not very well known (I believe I stumbled across it on TripAdvisor), but it packs quite a lot into a small space. And as an added bonus, on certain days of the week you can get to Darley Dale from Matlock by steam train on Peak rail.


I hope you’ve all enjoyed my little series from my travels!

If you’re considering making your own trip to Britain, you may find these two recent posts from my personal blog useful, too:

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19 Responses to An impressive collection of carriages

  1. I will have to add this to my places to go when I eventually make it over there!!!! To be able to sit in one and be taken around would be the icing on the cake!

  2. Lovely to see them as up close as I will ever be able to do so. Sounds like you have had quite the experience. Thanks for your time and efforts in sharing.

  3. Thanks for sharing. This made me think of the town I grew up in that had a buggy museum. Unfortunately there were no buggy rides though. If I ever make it to Matlock, I will be sure to check it out.

  4. Thank you for the post, Sophie. I’ve always been fascinated with the carriages from the Regency Era. Loved the pictures and wish I could see them in person. Perhaps, one day. Thanks again.

  5. How fascinating. I had never heard of this although I have been to Matlock but that was years ago (well before P&P 1995). I would love to drive out in one of those lovely carriages and who knows, one day I might. Thanks for sharing.

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