The chariot featured below has journeyed even further afield. Mr Gibbs Crawfurd Antrobus of Eaton Hall, Cheshire, used it when he attended the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) as a junior secretary under Lord Castlereagh. So that’s a round trip of some 2300 miles, and it’s still in excellent condition (no mean feat, given the state of the roads at that time).
Whenever I wrote scenes involving travel, all sorts of questions popped to mind. Just how large were the carriages, for instance, and how far off the ground? Could a lively, spirited and impatient young lady leap out without waiting for the step to be lowered? (Actually, yes, at a push, but she’d have to be as active and agile as Elizabeth Bennet). How many attendants could be taken along? And last but not least, how on earth did they find enough room for the luggage? After all, one could not be seen wearing the same attire time after time, and Regency gowns and tailcoats would have taken up an awful lot more space than a pile of rolled-up T-shirts. Elizabeth and Maria went to Hunsford with a few small trunks tied to the back of Sir William’s carriage, but what about Mr Darcy, Mr Bingley and the Hursts, who would travel with a couple of footmen in attendance?
I read somewhere that most of the trunks could be sent ahead on waggons in preparation for a lengthy stay in town or when the family returned to the country. But the Antrobus chariot showed me that there were other options: the imperials (wooden suitcases covered in leather and strapped to the roof) and two luggage compartments at the front of the vehicle. The bulge at the back is a sword case.
Some carriages meant for long-distance travel such as the Grand Tour could be equipped with a dormeuse boot (an extension that allowed the occupants to stretch out at full length and sleep while travelling).
You can find out more on the National Trust Carriage Museum website, and if you’d like to have a look at the other vehicles in the collection, most of them are available here.
Which one is your favourite?
Have fun exploring, and thanks for reading.
Sources: Information boards at The National Trust Carriage Museum and https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/arlington-court-and-the-national-trust-carriage-museum/lists/the-national-trust-carriage-museum
Photos: J. Starnes