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Chatsworth House and the Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

Chatsworth House and the Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

It has been a pleasure to visit country houses this Diamond Jubilee Year, for most  I have visited have celebrated the Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by creating displays of their own Coronation memorabilia. I visited Chatsworth some weeks ago for my annual treat, and yes, as expected, their displays were the best I saw this season. Chatsworth is, as you are no doubt aware, the Derbyshire home of the Duke of Devonshire, whose family name is Cavendish. And of course, Chatsworth is one of the places Elizabeth Bennet visited with the Gardiners  in Pride and Prejudice, and some would contend that it was the model for “Pemberley ( not me,however!) and so it holds a special interest for Janeites .

The West and South façades of the house have now been stunningly restored, and it was simply breathtaking to see it glinting- with all the newly re-gilded windows and stone ornaments on the roof- in the summer sunshine, and to enjoy the refreshing (and very welcome!) spray from the fountains.

The Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

The Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

In addition to having a display of the clothes worn by the 10th Duchess, the 11th Duke and Duchess and their son,who is now the 12th Duke, at the 1953 Coronation, Chatsworth also put on show the carriage that the 11th Duke  his Duchess and their heir used to travel to Westminster Abbey.  Their State Chariot, plus liveried footmencoachman and a phantom horse were on display, to great effect, in the wonderfully large Painted Hall. You might remember this room from the “Pemberley ” scenes in Joe Wright’s production of Pride and Prejudice of 2005, which I discussed some time ago, here.

The Chariot in the Painted Hall ©Austenonly

The Chariot in the Painted Hall ©Austenonly

This is the view of the Chariot display from the top of the stairs seen in the phonograph, above. It is testament to its great size that  having a carriage and “horse” set out in the Hall did not make it feel at all crowded.

The view down onto the Chariot from the stairs in the Painted Hall

The view down onto the Chariot from the stairs in the Painted Hall

As, quite unexpectedly, we seem to have been covering the theme of Jane Austen, Livery and Heraldry this year, I thought you might like to see photographs of this display, as they help to reinforce and explain various points that we have discussed before.

The Devonshire State Chariot ©Austenonly

The Devonshire State Chariot ©Austenonly

Though this Chariot may have been made slightly later than our period, (it came into the Cavendish family upon the marriage of the  8th Duke to the Duchess of Manchester in 1892) you can see, by comparing it to William Felton’s engraving of a Neat Town Chariot, below

"A Neat Town Chariot" from Felton's "Treatise on Carriages etc." (1797)

“A Neat Town Chariot” from my copy of Felton’s “Treatise on Carriages etc.” (1797)

and his engraving of an Elegant Chariot

An "Elegant Chariot" from Felton's "Treatise on Carriages etc." (1797)

An “Elegant Chariot” from my copy of Felton’s “Treatise on Carriages etc.” (1797)

that this version would have been very familiar to Jane Austen. The Devonshire State Chariot is, as we have now come to expect, decorated with many details which would make the identity of its owners easy for those “in the know” to recognise.

Side View of the Chariot, showing the Cavendish Arms on the Door Panel ©Austenonly

Side View of the Chariot, showing the Cavendish Arms on the Door Panel ©Austenonly

The door and side panels are decorated with the Cavendish coat of arms

The Cavendish Coat of Arms painted on the Door of the Chariot

The Cavendish Coat of Arms painted on the internal side  of the door of the Chariot

and with emblems associated with the family…

Close-Up of the Cavendish Coat of Arms ©Austenonly

Close-Up of the Cavendish Coat of Arms ©Austenonly

You can compare the painted example, above, to the example of the newly restored and painted stone version of the Cavendish Arms on the West Front of the House, below:

The newly restored and coloured Cavendish coat of arms on the West Front of Chatsworth House ©Austenonly

The newly restored and coloured Cavendish coat of arms on the West Front of Chatsworth House ©Austenonly

The side panels of the Chariot were decorated with the Ducal coronet, with its strawberry leaves, and with the Order of the Garter (and its chain), the highest order of chivalry that can be awarded by the monarch in England and Wales. All the Dukes of Devonshire, with the exception of the current Duke, have been recipients of this very important Order .

The Cavendish Arms on the Side Panel ©Austenonly

Detail of the Side Panel: the Garter Badge and Chain ©Austenonly

Around the roof of the Chariot, silver versions of the Cavendish emblem, the coiled snake, can be seen…

The Cavendish emblem of the Snake in silver, adorning the Chariot side Panels ©Austenonly

The Cavendish emblem of the Snake in silver, adorning the Chariot side panels ©Austenonly

The Hammercloth, which you can see below, and which covers the coachman’s seat, is a  very extravagant affair and is made up in the colours to be found in  the Devonshire family’s coat of arms, that is, their heraldic colours. I must admit that I prefer these  to Sir Walter Elliot’s colour scheme:

 ”He is rear admiral of the white. He was in the Trafalgar action, and has been in the East Indies since; he has been stationed there, I believe, several years.”

   ”Then I take it for granted,” observed Sir Walter, “that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery.”

Persuasion, Chapter 3

Here is William Felton’s  plate showing the different styles of Hammercloths from his Treatise on Carriages,etc (1797)

Examples of Hammercloths from Felton's Treatise of Carriages etc (1797)

Examples of Hammercloths from Felton’s Treatise of Carriages etc (1797)

As you can see, the Devonshire Hammercloth was also adorned with the Ducal coronet and with a version of the Cavendish arms,  in silver:

The Cavendish Coat of Arms( in silver) on the Hammercloth

The Cavendish Coat of Arms( in silver) on the Hammercloth

The family’s heraldic colours were also used in the sumptuous interior decoration of the Chariot.

The Interior of the Chariot ©Austenonly

The Interior of the Chariot ©Austenonly

You can clearly see that the status of the family is reinforced at every point: the representations of their arms, emblems and heraldic colours advertise to the world exactly who  are its exalted and rich owners:

The Upholstered Interior of the Chariot

The Upholstered Interior of the Chariot

The Leather-covered Folding Steps

The Leather-covered Folding Steps

The heraldic theme is even continued on the horse’s harness and reigns. Only one example was on show- on a ” horse” armature which reminded me of the animated horses in the National Theatre’s production of  War Horse!

The Harness, embellished with silver mounts ©Austenonly

The Harness, embellished with silver mounts ©Austenonly

Made of leather, the harness set is embellished with silver mounts, some which depict the Cavendish arms…

The Harness, embellished with silver ornament

The Harness, embellished with silver ornament

and some the Ducal Coronet:

Detail of the silver embellishments on the reigns and harness ©Austenonly

Detail of the silver embellishments on the reigns and harness ©Austenonly

You will recall that if a family were possessed of the right to bear arms, their servants-  the footmen and coachmen-, could, in Jane Austen’ era, wear uniforms made of colours dictated by the heraldic colours used in the family’s coat of arms:

A gentleman may wear garments of any colour his fancy may dictate, but he is not permitted such license with regard to the uniforms of his servants: the colours of these depend entirely on the tinctures upon his Escutcheon. In both, the dominant colour should be the same: the subsidiary colour of the livery ( or, as a tailor would call it, the trimmings- that is, the collar, cuffs lining and buttons) should be the colour of the principal Charge.

(The Handbook of Heraldry etc., (1869,  John Cussans, Page 314.)

Do note however, that these liveries were made, IMHO, at a later date than the mid 19th century, as the colour yellow- to represent gold( or more correctly, Or) was used, and that was not thought strictly correct at that time. The colour of the Coachman’s uniform of great-coat and tricorn hat,  was derived from the Cavendish family’s heraldic colours: the black hat decorated with silver thread, and his coat made to match the blue of the hammercloth

The Coachman's Uniform

The Coachman’s Uniform

The footmen’s livery again complied with the rules we have previously learnt: their bicorn hats were decorated with silver thread as were their jackets and waistcoats:

The Cavendish Footmen's Livery ©Austenonly

The Cavendish Footmen’s Livery ©Austenonly

The livery  jackets were yellow, but the cuffs, waistcoats and breeches were blue, again to comply with the rules regarding the use of heraldic colours . The silver buttons on the livery were also embossed with the Cavendish arms,not the crest:

Buttons should always be of the dominant metal in the Arms and charged with the master’s Badge- not his crest. The latter belongs exclusively  to the bearers of the Arms; servants have no right whatever to them. 

(Cussans, as above, page 316)

You might care to note that, because he had admired them on visit to Chatsworth, the 11th Duchess sent a set of these 18th century silver livery buttons to President John F. Kennedy as his inauguration gift .

The rear view of the Chariot ©Austenonly

The rear view of the Chariot ©Austenonly

This rear view shows the step where the footmen stood while they travelled with the family, and also gives a good view of the detail of the back of their liveries. Here is a slightly closer view:

View of the Footmen's Livery

View of the Footmen’s Livery

This is, I hope you will agree, a wonderful example of the use of coaches and liveries to make a statement, according to the heraldic rules and regulations.

If you would like to see the clothes worn by the 11th Duke and Duchess ( and their son) at the Coronation, then do go here to my Pinterest Page on the Coronation of Elizabeth II. I won’t continue it here because it has precious little to do with Jane Austen, but you might like to know that the robe worn at the Coronation by Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire was thought originally to have been a set worn by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and they are  quite breath-taking and very beautiful.

The 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their son, The Marquess of Hartington on the way to the Coronation in 1953 ©Austenonly

The 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their son, The Marquess of Hartington on the way to the Coronation in 1953 ©Austenonly

I shall be writing more about Chatsworth next year…in my celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice and I do hope you will join me.

Chatsworth House from the south-east @Austenonly

Chatsworth House from the south-east @Austenonly

“There! you see!” cried Mary, in an ecstacy; “just as I said! Heir to Sir Walter Elliot! I was sure that would come out, if it was so. Depend upon it, that is a circumstance which his servants take care to publish, wherever he goes. But, Anne, only conceive how extraordinary! I wish I had looked at him more. I wish we had been aware in time who it was, that he might have been introduced to us. What a pity that we should not have been introduced to each other! Do you think he had the Elliot countenance? I hardly looked at him, I was looking at the horses; but I think he had something of the Elliot countenance. I wonder the arms did not strike me! Oh! the great-coat was hanging over the pannel, and hid the arms, so it did; otherwise, I am sure, I should have observed them, and the livery too; if the servant had not been in mourning, one should have known him by the livery.”

Persuasion, Chapter 12.

Last week I bored you all silly by my explanations of livery, the significance of livery colours and how they were worn in Jane Austen’s era by  certain servants of the rich. Today I’d like to consider livery and coaches, for it is an integral part of the livery story and we ought to discuss it for the sake of completeness.

The passage from Persuasion quoted above is so gloriously funny-I love the way this glimpse of William Walter sets Mary Musgrove on to long descriptions of  the Elliot Countenance –( shade of Mrs Austen and the Austen nose, perhaps?)but it draws our attention to how livery was used, and how significant it was. Because Mr Elliot’s servant is in mourning for Mr Elliot’s dead wife,  -he is wearing black, not the usual livery of a coachman-  Mary Musgrove is unable to recognise the orange cuffs and capes of the Elliot livery.  She was also frustrated in making a positive identification of her father’s errant heir by the fact that his Arms, painted onto the side panel of his curricle, are hidden from view by a great-coat.

If you were wealthy enough to afford a carriage and all its attendant expenses, and, of course, you were possessed of Arms, then you could have these painted on your coach to announce to the world just who was the owner of the vehicle.  Jane Austen’s father, George Austen, at one point owned a carriage when they lived at Steventon, and this was decorated with teh Austen crest. In Jane Austen : A Family Record by Deirdre le Faye, we find these comments:

It seems that by now Mr Austen’s income was reasonably good, because entries in his bank account suggest that in the summer of 1784 he brought a chariot- a small carriage drawn by two horses and carrying three passengers- for the benefit of his wife and daughters.

(Page 50)

Anna Austen, the daughter of  Jane’s eldest brother, James Austen, wrote about local rumours that spread about the carriage -which was either new or newly repainted-at the time of her uncle, Henry Austen’s marriage to Eliza de Feuillide in December 1797, and this is also quoted in Le Faye’s book:

About the time of  Mr Henry Austen’s marriage with his first Wife his father set up a carriage which not unnaturally, joe on its panels( pic) the family crest; namely a Stag on a Crown Mural. The latter circumstance was accounted for, in his own way, by a neighbouring Squire, who reported that “Mr Austen had put a coronet on his carriage because of his son’s being married to a French Countess”.

THis is one of George Austen’s bookplates, and it is decorated with the Austen crest,  quite as Anna Austen described it. This would have appeared on his coach, on the side door panel. The squire mentioned by Anna Austen- a Digweed?- obvious was not aware that Mr Austen was entitle to bear his own arms and crest. The glory of the Austen’s coach was short lived: in 1798 it was put away in storage for new taxes imposed on carriage owners made it far too expensive for George Austen to continue to maintain.

If we look at some images of carriage from the time, it will become clear as to where the Arms would have been on show. These images are all taken from my copy of William Felton’s Treaties on Carriagescomprehending coaches, chariots, phaetons, curricles, whiskeys, &c. : together with their proper harness (1794). Fenton was a London coachmaker and his book, in two volumes, gives us a mass of intricate detail as to how  carriages  in the late 18th century were made, complete with all their fittings.

The first we shall consider is a chariot, in this case a neat town chariot.

You can see, and do remember you can enlarge all these images by clicking on them, in order to examine the details, that the coat of arms of the owner and his crest are placed centrally on the door and side panel of the coach. You can appreciate  that the arms and crest of the owner are clearly visible and would be very noticeable to any passer-by.

And here, below, is  an image of an elegant Chariot, very elaborately decorated, but again with the arms of the owner clearly visible on the door panel.

Mr Elliot is riding from Lyme to Bath in a curricle, that smart gentleman-about-town’s vehicle so beloved of Charles Musgrove, who was eager to compare it with his own,

They had nearly done breakfast, when the sound of a carriage (almost the first they had heard since entering Lyme) drew half the party to the window. It was a gentleman’s carriage, a curricle, but only coming round from the stable-yard to the front door — somebody must be going away. It was driven by a servant in mourning.

Here is  Felton’s impression of a Proper Curricle:

The Arms of the owner are shown on the side panel.  These would of course be hidden from view if covered by a coat slung over the side as in Mr Elliott’s case at Lyme.

Here is Felton’s page illustrating the different ways in which Arms could be used to decorate a coach:

They range from the simple to the hideous in my very humble opinion.Here is his price list for adding such ornament to a vehicle :

So, that is why Mary Musgrove’s attempts to identify the owner of the curricle were stymied: in this case neither the arms nor the livery  of the servant could help her because neither were on show.

I ought to tell you, however that, had Mr Elliot been in a larger coach, and  had  he and his servant not been in mourning for his unlamented wife, there was another way to discern the identity of the owner. Hammer clothes, which covered the coachman’s seat and which could be very decorative items, were also another way to identify the family’s livery, as they were often made in livery colours and could be embroidered with representations of the family’s coat of arms. Here is Felton’s description of them:

Hammer-cloths are among the principal ornaments in a carriage; they are a cloth covering to the coachman’s seat, made to various patterns agreeable to the occupier’s fancy. The fullness of the plaiting of the cloth , its depth and the quality of the trimmings thereon proportions the expense (sic-jfw) to almost any amount…

And here are some very elaborate examples:

John Cussans , in The Handbook of Heraldry, tells us  that

The Colours of Hammercloths are regulated by the same laws as liveries.

Page 314.

Now, I have no reference for this but I doubt that a colourful hammer cloth covered in gold or silver lace and made in the heraldic colours of a family’s livery would be on show  at a time of full mourning. If the servant who normally would have worn  livery was dressed in black due to the custom of mourning, then I feel sure that a hammer cloth would also be subdued in hue. So if one had been on display it would still not have helped Mary Musgrove locate the owners identity in the inn- yard at Lyme. But as Mr Elliot was in a curricle and not a larger coach, no hammer cloth was to be seen. Poor Mary, therefore could only rely on her  interpretation of The Elliot Countenance, and the information supplied to them by the waiter.

The catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic sale ,which I wrote about previously here, and which is to be held at Sothebys in London on the 5th -7th October landed on my doormat with a satisfyingly heavy thump yesterday. And while I have only had  time to scan through its 512 pages(!), I thought you might like to see what I think are some of the more unusual items for sale. The scholarly catalogue is organised Duke by Duke time wise and my favourite items all hail from the times of the 5th Duke, husband to the famous Georgiana, and of the era of his son,The Bachelor Duke. Items from the now demolished  Devonshire House, the Cavendish family’s London mansion and Chiswick House are included in the sale and it will be an architectural antique dealers paradise, so many great architectural pieces included, having been saved from the houses when remodelling or demolition took place.

First,a lot to outrage Marianne Dashwood:  Lot 347, a George III mahogany, ebony and boxwood strung satinwood banded piano, which has been adapted to serve as a writing desk. Can you imagine the horror! Id quite like it,however…. It was made by the London piano makers, Broderip Wilkinson of 13 The Haymarket , and dates between1798-1807. it was included in the Chatsworth Inventory of 1818. There is also a Broadwood square piano circa 1815, Lot 568…. was it a gift from Frank Churchill?…No, it was brought by the 6th Duke and is estimated at £2000-3000.

Lot 365 is a delicious George III ebonised and parcel gilt work table circa 1800,probably owned by the Countess of Burlington at her home in Compton Place, Eastbourne. Estimate £500-1000. Below is a selection of lots of object of virtu-I  covet Lot 451, the seed pearl brooch in the shape of a lyre, circa 1820 which has an estimate of £250-350.

Lot 301 is a miraculous survivor: a collection of 14 18th century turned oak canon ramrods. Nine have their original canvas bags which protect the sheepskin covered heads,and four have wrought iron sprial finials.Estimate £2,000 to £3,000. I would love to bid for these for my military history obsessed husband….

Lot 303 is a set of eight triangular wooden carriage stops(essential in the hilly surroundings of the Peak  where Chatsworth is set).Estimate £30-50.

More quirky objects can be found in the ceramics that are for sale. Lot 765 is a collection of seven rare English creamware Bourdaloues, two marked “Wedgwood”. These were used by ladies in the 18th century to relieve themselves when in church  or at the theatre. Named rather unkindly after the French Jesuit preacher Louis Boudaloue who gave long interminable sermons. These are estimated at £400-600

This trout head stirrup cup made by the Derby porcelain factory is delicious and dates from 1800. It has an estimate of £800-£1200

If I coud buy something,then I’d like these: early 19th century theatre lights used, one presumes, in the Bachelor Duke’s theatre at Chatsworth. I adore them.

I’m sorry, I just lied to you. Barefacedly. Forgive me. What I’d really like from the sale is this magnificent sleigh, with wrought iron runners and upholstered in leather which was acquired by the 6th Duke possibly when he was ambassador to Russia in  1817 .It is only estimated at £20o0 -£3000

Im sure the Mitford, Cavendish,Chatsworth associations are, as in the Althrop sale, going to make these estimates look exceeding low…when the auction takes place I’ll report back to you.

It would appear that my expectations of the Country House Sale Effect  came true in the case of the Althorp Attic sale ,which I recently wrote about here.

The sale concluded  last week and the prices realised were much, much higher than the sale estimates.

For example, the  Spencer State Chariot, seen above, sold for £133,250 against an estimated price of £50,000-£80,000. The amount raised from the sale was a total of £21.1 million. That should secure the new roof…

Go here and here for some of the detailed prices from Christie’s website and go here to see a report of the sale from the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph and here from the Independent.

Did anyone place a bid? Do tell…..

…will take place next week.

I thought you might like to read a little about it  as the contents of the sale are fascinating and are especially so for people interested in the contents of country houses of Jane Austen’s era.

The sale of the contents of the attics of Althorp House, the home of the Earl Spencer and his family, together with another sale of some of the original contents of Spencer House in London, another family home but one which is now  let on a long lease, will take place next week at Christie’s Salerooms in Kensington. The object of the sale of these superfluous family items is to raise money for th £10 million restoration project at Althrop, which includes the rather expensive installation of a new roof.

Some of the most interesting articles on sale are the many carriages, including this wonderful George IV era livery painted State Chariot made by the celebrated firm of Baker and Son of Chandos Street, London. Its sale price is estimated at between  £50,000-80,000

The interior is lined in sumptuous ‘padua’ red watered silk, a family colour derived from the hunting field, and the roof is mounted with magnificent silvered coronets. As was customary, the coats-of-arms on the doors were updated over time and those on this chariot almost certainly date from its use for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.

These carriage are now very rare items. As Edward Clive, Director of Christie’s explains:

“The collection of Spencer carriages is the most impressive ancestral group to survive to this day, and we are thrilled to be able to present them at auction in July. A large number of carriages suffered as a result of bombing raids during World War II, particularly as so many were stored in mews stables in London. The Spencer carriages were moved to Althorp before they could suffer such a fate, and as such they are a rare and remarkable survival.”

But there are more modest items from our era included in the sale,  silver kitchen spoons and kitchenalia etc

Andrew Waters, who is the Director of Private Collections and House Sales at Christie’s London showroom has explained the process of clearing the attics of their treasure:

“We spent three months exploring the attics and storerooms at Althorp in order to prepare this sale, and it was one of the most interesting experiences of my twenty years at Christie’s. The auction will present a unique glimpse into the history of one of the country’s most important aristocratic families, and with estimates starting at £200, will also offer a very accessible opportunity to acquire works of art with a fascinating and distinguished provenance.”

I have to say I would have loved the opportunity of rooting around….

It will be very interesting to see if the Country House Sale Effect still holds sway over the prices; since the Mentmore sale in 1977, items associated with country houses have usually realised higher sale prices  then individual items put in normal sales.

The E-Catalogue is available to view here. I do hope you enjoy pouring over its pages,and like me, placing imaginary bids….and pondering the contents of its attics and how these items are at so much variance with the contents of mine…..

Yesterday we looked at the health benefits of asses milk. Today we shall look at the use Jane Austen made of donkeys towards the end of her life at Chawton.

After Jane Austen had visited Chetleham in May 1816  it was obvious that her health was beginning to fail and a cure had not been effected. Chetlenham was an inland  spa famed, as reported in The Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places etc (1803),  for its mineral waters which were especially noted for treating

all bilious complaints, obstructions of the liver and spleen, dyspepsia, lost of appetite, in habitual costiveness, and obstinate obstructions.

She retuned to Chawton on 11th June. She must have begun to find it difficult to walk, and began to use her mother’s  donkey cart and donkey, so that she could remain mobile. She was famous for being a desperate walker, and to find her energy levels so depleted that she could no longer go for walks around  Chawton must have been devastating.

This is a picture of the cart that I took on my last visit to Chawton :

But if you go here you can see a picture of the donkey cart, together with modern occupant and donkey , in a photograph taken in the garden at The Jane Austen House Museum which gives you a better idea of the size of the carriage.

The firt mention of it in her letters is in one written to her nephew, James Edward Austen,  dated 9th July 1816;

May Jane and I have been wet through once already today, we set off in the Donkey Carriage for Farringdon as I wanted to see the improvements Mr Woolis is making, but we were obliged to turn back  before we got there but not soon enough to avoid a Pelter all the way back home……

By March 1817 however,  Jane Austen was further weakened by her illness and this mention of the donkey appears in her letter of 13th March written to Fanny Knight. It would appear that Jane Austen did not like driving the carriage and preferred to ride the donkey:

I am got tolerably well again, quite equal to walking about and enjoying the Air; and by sitting down and resting a good while between my walks, I get exercise enough. I have a scheme however to accomplishing more as the weather grows  springlike. I mean to take to riding the Donkey. It will be more independent and less troublesome than  the use of the Carriage & I shall be able to go about with Aunt Cassandra in her walks to Alton and Wyards.

In her letter of the of the 23rd March 1817 again written to Fanny Knight, Jane Austen announced with some understandable  excitement of the forthcoming arrival of the saddle for the donkey and her desperation to be out and about in the countryside and open air:

We are going to have Rain and after that very pleasant genial weather ,which will exactly do for me, as my Saddle will then be completed and ari and exercise is what I want….

The final mention of the donkey is  in her letter to Caroline Austen of 26th Marcy 1817:

I have taken one ride on the Donkey and like it very much-and you must try to get me quiet mild days that I maybe able to get out pretty constantly….

For the financially-challenged Austen ladies- by this time Henry Austen’s bank had failed  and the financial depression consequent upon the ending of the Napoleonic wars was causing them much distress- a donkey was an ideal means of transport , basically because it was the cheapest available .

This picture shows donkeys being kept by the Spurling family from Diana Spurling wonderful collection of watercolours published in the book, Mrs Husrt Dancing and Other Scenes form Regency Life 1812-1823

Donkeys cost very little to purchase and were easily fed. But the biggest saving was that unlike horses, donkey were not subject to tax.

This is a picture of  three donkeys learning to draw a carriage again by Diana Spurling.

Horse used for riding for pleasure  and for driving carriages were subject to tax in England from 1784 (agricultural horses and horses used in industry were taxed at lower rates and this tax was introduced in 1796,) Donkeys were exempt from this tax. Pleasure carriages however were subject to tax, and this was first imposed in 1747, but the donkey carriage, though subject to the tax, was subject to  the lowest form of it.

The donkey cart was a two wheeled affair as you can see from the photograph of Mrs Austen carriage, and was the cheapest form of carriage one could buy at the time :the equivalent today of the tiniest cheapest car. Anna and Been Lefroy- who were also in financially straightened circumstances having  little income and  many children-  had a donkey carriage too. I suppose Jane’s donkey was the early 19th century equivalent of a mobility scooter for her.

Donkeys were thought of as excellent animals for drawing carriages. This is what the agricultural  “improver” and commentator Arthur Young had to say about them, reporting about the Earl of Egremont’s experiments with them:

The problem with donkeys is that they  can be stubborn beings. And they do not make for a very elegant figure while riding one.

Which is something of which the townie Mrs Elton does not appear to a be aware when she wants to cut a dash riding to  the Donwell  Abbey Strawberry picking party in Emma by donkey:

“I wish we had a donkey. The thing would be for us all to come on donkies, Jane, Miss Bates, and me — and my caro sposo walking by. I really must talk to him about purchasing a donkey. In a country life I conceive it to be a sort of necessary; for, let a woman have ever so many resources, it is not possible for her to be always shut up at home; and very long walks, you know — in summer there is dust, and in winter there is dirt.”


Jane Austen knew all about them I’m sure: and as we can see from those touching extracts from her last letters, was grateful for the opportunity her donkey gave to her for affording her  some of her last glimpses of the Hampshire countryside that she loved so well.

Of all the family, Mary was probably the one most immediately gratified by the circumstance. It was creditable to have a sister married, and she might flatter herself with having been greatly instrumental to the connexion, by keeping Anne with her in the autumn; and as her own sister must be better than her husband’s sisters, it was very agreeable that Captain Wentworth should be a richer man than either Captain Benwick or Charles Hayter. She had something to suffer, perhaps, when they came into contact again, in seeing Anne restored to the rights of seniority, and the mistress of a very pretty landaulette; but she had a future to look forward to, of powerful consolation.

Persuasion, Chapter 24

Typically, in one small passage, Jane Austen gives us a lot of information about Anne Wentworth (as  she now is), her husband’s essential nature  and that of her sister Mary.

Frederick Wentworth is shown to be a man of a generous and practical nature, but not without a certain  wicked style.

For he gives his wife  a very pretty Landaulette to enable her to be driven around the  country and be independent when it came to travel.

This is what William Felton, London coachmaker  has to say about this type of vehicle  in his Treatise on Carriages etc (1797):

A Landaulet or Demi-Landau.

This carriage has the same advantage as the landau only that the number of passengers are proportionally less; but, for convenience, where only one carriage is kept, none exceeds it for country use.

This was quite an expensive two-seater vehicle and a rather impressive gift on Captain Wentworth’s part.

(Do remember- to enlarge all these illustrations in order to make the detail easier to read, just click on them)

Mr Felton gives the cost of a new one, fitted out with all the top level furnishings and finishes, at £156, 10 shillings and 3 pence. In addition to the purchase cost, it also required the services of a coachman,

and perhaps also a groom( though the two  jobs could be combined) and a footman, if he was employed by the Wentworths, could also stand on the back to accompany his mistress on her journeys.

Note that this is also a rather grand gesture by Frederick Wentworth. Employing male servants at the time incurred an extra tax: they were therefore a ‘luxury’ for from 1777 onwards an annual tax of a guinea was imposed on households that employed one male servant. The rate increased with the number of make servants one kept. This tax remained in force( thought it was modified occasionally) until 1937.

And of course, in addition to the  cost of male employees, the Wentworths would have to factor in the  cost of  stabling the horses which would draw the carriage.

Sandy Lerner, the chatelaine of Chawton House, in her article in The Female Spectator Volume 4 number 1 has this to say about Wentworth’s gift:

This light four-wheeled conveyance gained popularity as it was well suited to England’s uncertain climate in that it could be converted from an open to a closed carriage with little trouble. The landaulette was a smaller version of the landau, a very formal postillion driven vehicle. The landaulette was also known as a demi-Landau with only a rear seat.  Again this is a lady’s vehicle, and its inclusion denotes Captain Wentworth’s extreme generosity to his wife as well as a remarkable concern for her independence

William Bridges Adams in his book English Pleasure Carriages (1837) remarks that these vehicle ,along with their close-cousins landaus, were rather expensive to maintain in good order:

This is an expensive carriage to build and very liable to get out of order as the leather and wood work of the head is affected by cold and heat, damp and dryness. The expense of repairs is considerable.

So, this gift on Wentworth’s part to his wife of a very pretty landaulette was one made with much consideration for her ability tot ravel independently, in safety, and in some considerable style at no little extra cost to himself.

A much more practical carriage than Charles Musgrove’s curricle, being an all weather vehicle. Small- only a two-seater- but very stylish,with its moveable roof, perfect for summer driving.

In effect, Wentworth has given Anne the equivalent of a luxury convertible sports car.

And it rankles with Mary because she (and we !) know that she only has the services of Charles’s rather masculine and impractical curricle to call upon. No wonder she sees Anne’s gift  through the  green eyes of jealousy.

And now to Extravagant Monsters. We know that Sir Walter Elliot has to retrench and leave Kellynch Hall, tenanted out to the far superior ( in every way)Admiral and Mrs Croft, but does he leave Kellynch for Bath in any penitent style?

Of course not.

The last office of the four carriage-horses was to draw Sir Walter, Miss Elliot, and Mrs. Clay to Bath. The party drove off in very good spirits; Sir Walter prepared with condescending bows for all the afflicted tenantry and cottagers who might have had a hint to shew themselves: and Anne walked up at the same time, in a sort of desolate tranquillity, to the Lodge, where she was to spend the first week.

Persuasion, Chapter 5


Four carriage horses draw Sir Walter’s coach, note. Not two…four.He could never be expected to retrench that far….And can you imagine what sort of coach it might be? Not a serviceable comfortable coach like the Musgrove’s might own, I fear, but one like this, again from William Felton’s Treatise.


An Elegant Crane Neck Coach

Which would cost at least £337 pounds (gasp!) fitted with every conceivable luxurious extra…

.
In addition no doubt the panels of the coach were emblazoned with Sir Walter’s arms and emblems, as garish as his servant’s livery…..

Oh, yes, I’m sure his tenants and cottagers were impressed as he rode away, in his grand extravagant coach  pulled by four horse with coachman and footmen galore, retrenching  like mad….Don’t you think?

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