Carriage Collection at Stockwood Discovery Centre

Carriage Collection at Stockwood Discovery Centre

Now that my series on the evolution of fashion has wrapped up, I’ve got loads to share from my latest trip to England. I visited five different great houses and also spent some time becoming an accomplished walker in the Lake District. But I thought I’d start at the earlier part of my trip, chronologically, and share the carriage collection at the Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton.

Rather than staying in the less-interesting larger town of Luton, I opted to stay in nearby Leighton Buzzard and take the bus over, which got me more in the mood for a carriage museum with views like this:

Swan Hotel and Posting House

The carriages at the Discovery Centre are the result of more than 50 years of collecting by George Mossman, who kept these carriages as a working collection. They include both historic vehicles (the larger proportion of the collection) and replicas. Many have been used in movies. When you come in, there are a few carriages in the hallway, including this 1860 town coach:

1860 town coach

Then another room off to the side has an exhibit, Life’s Journey, which features vehicles and other artifacts from birth to death, from this governess cart, which would have been driven by a governess sitting at the front (she’d have to twist at a rather awkward angle to drive it)…

governness cart

…to this circa-1860 hearse, which does not lack for Victorian-era decoration:

horse-drawn hearse

Also among this exhibit was a nice 1780s barouche:

Circa 1780 barouche

This was all the appetizer, though, for the room in which a large portion of the extensive collection is shown. It is quite literally stacks upon stacks of carriages!

stack of two-wheel carriages

Of the many many carriages there, I was particularly interested in the post-chaise at the bottom of this stack. Its yellow color indicates it would have been a hired post-chaise such as many of Austen’s characters who cannot afford long-distance travel in a carriage of their own would have used:

stack of carriages with yellow post-chaise at bottom

You can see the key qualities of the post-chaise from the front here: the front windows which made for better travelling as one could see where one was going, and the lack of a driver’s box, as the chaise would be steered by a postillion on one of the horses.

front of post-chaise

And I was particularly glad that the window was open so you could get a good look inside. They’re usually closed in carriage museums and this makes it difficult to get a sense of what it was like to actually be inside, which is the part the characters spend the most time in, in most period novels!

post chaise interior

There was even a third room of carriages (although not stacked) beyond this one, including this mail coach:

And at the tail end, this nice circa 1770 landau:

circa 1770 landau

It also had access to see a bit of the interior:

landau interior

If there’s one criticism I have for the museum, it’s that this collection really deserved a space twice as large as what it was given. It was difficult to really see the details of many of the carriages because they were either parked really close together, or in those stacks so you could hardly see the top ones. While it made for an impressive sight, I really would have liked to get up close to ALL of them.

I’ve got lots more for coming blog posts — indeed, so much I decided to blog about the JASNA AGM at my personal author blog — including multimedia from some really wonderful great houses. Little hint, one of them was a filming location for the 1996 Pride and Prejudice miniseries, so I hope you’ll all watch this space for more.


16 Responses to Carriage Collection at Stockwood Discovery Centre

  1. Wonderful post and fantastic carriages. I do hope you’re enjoying your trip. I was born in Luton many moons ago now. I’m sure it’s completely changed since then. I had a little nostalgic trip down memory lane when you mentioned it here!

    • Thank you, Teresa! I’m back not but it was a fantastic trip. Luton does definitely look like it’s undergone a lot of change but the area with the discovery centre was really nice!

  2. That yellow post chase looks familiar. I think I saw it or one like it in the 1987 version of NA as it drove around the circle when John Thorpe was telling Catherine he had rearranged her schedule so she could go out with them instead of Tilney. I also think I saw it in Persuasion (1971) when Mr. Elliot absconded with Mrs. Clay. I think they were using a yellow coach. I am trying to decide if it was used in any of those other early movies in that grouping. When Mrs. Norris went for Fanny Price, I think that chase was maroon in color. I’ll have to watch it again to see. I enjoy these posts and I appreciate the pictures. That panorama was amazing. Even through that… I could see that they had crowded a lot of carriages in a small space. Yeah, they need a larger building and should never go more than two high. What is the point. No one can see anything from that height and angle. Thanks for sharing. Now my question… how on earth did Mr. Bennet get his entire family in a carriage and go to the Netherfield Ball? He must have ridden on his horse? Or… those girls were a lot smaller than I am.

    • Thanks for your comment, J.W.! It’s very possible it was used in those films – they had a photo of it from a movie called “Carry on Dick” from 1974 which was a comedy series…this installment was about highwayman Dick Turpin. So it definitely could have been used in those movies too.

      Glad you liked the panorama – I think it’s the only way to get a real sense of just how many carriages they had in that one big room!

      As for your question…the town coach is probably the size that the Bennets had, but yeah it only would have seated six inside so probably Mrs. Bennet and her daughters. Somebody could have sat on the box with the driver and some coaches do have a rear seat that was usually for servants but Mr. Collins could have been relegated there. I wonder if that’s why Mr. Bennet didn’t attend the Meryton assembly?

    • Me too! If I come across one I will definitely include it in a post…I’ve only got one more carriage museum in the UK to go to, though, so odds are low. Thanks for your comment, Ginna!

  3. Cool pictures! Really beautiful carriages! I agree though the collection should have been given more space, but still nice.

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