Ex-Royal British Mews, ex-James Coson Collection, Fastidiously Restored ,c.1835 Traveling Landau

Horse power


Bonhams Motoring Magazine - Spring 2015

Page 4

Would Charles Dickens have achieved the same memorable effect he did in A Tale of Two Cities if his Dover mail-coach passengers had been waiting on a station platform instead of trudging up Shooters Hill to relieve the horses? "There was a steaming mist in all the hollows," wrote Dickens, "and it had roamed in its forlornness up the hill, like an evil spirit."

Fair makes you want to tug your muffler tighter round your neck, don't it? And where would Sherlock Holmes be without a trusty Hansom cab to evade the clutches of his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty?

Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived in the age of steam, but banked on the atmospherics and romance of the horse-drawn carriage at its apotheosis for their novels. But the carriage is more than an evocation of a snow-dusted stage pulling into a warm coaching inn. It's a missing link between horses and automobiles and overlaps the development of the motor car.

Long before carriages begat their name in shortened form as 'car', those earliest motors were known as 'horseless carriages'. What's more, the names; cabriolet, landau, boot, dashboard, shooting brake and limousine, not to mention coupé, hearse, volante and brougham, all owe their lineage to the carriage trades.

Not convinced? Well, have a look at Bonhams sale of a Private European Collection of Victorian Carriages and Coaches in March. The sale allows us to imagine what life must have been like when horse power was a literal term. There's a gem from the Royal Mews, an 1835 Traveling Landau built for King William IV. It was restored by Stolk of Holland, and the paint, burnished with pumice powder, is said to be as deep as glass. Again, this quality of coachwork was seen on the very first motor cars as carriage workers found new trades. The Landau also comes with the irresistible extra of a postilion harness so your coachman cannot overhear your private conversations.

Or what about the 1870 barouche originally commissioned by champagne house, Veuve Clicquot? This is a favorite of Rob Hubbard, Bonhams Senior Specialist, who cataloged this extraordinary Dutch collection of carriages for the Oxford saleroom.

He acknowledges that this is a specialist sale with highly esoteric appeal. "You don't have to own horses to enjoy these," he notes. "I suppose the closest links are with veteran cars, especially in the style of the early models. These are the sort of things you buy for the person who has everything - the ultimate accessory."

Andrew English writes about motoring for The Daily Telegraph.

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