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:
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:
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)…
…to this circa-1860 hearse, which does not lack for Victorian-era decoration:
Also among this exhibit was a nice 1780s 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!
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:
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.
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!
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:
It also had access to see a bit of the 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.