Gail Thornton
a pictorial archive of horse


The Donkey Cart

Very little has been written about the history of the donkey cart so one can only assume some of the reasons behind their use rather than that of a horse or pony.  Though often referred to as “Stubborn and Stupid” they are in fact highly intelligent and focused. This means that in dangerous situations they will stand their ground rather than be forced forward.  As a hardy animal, even in our cold winters, they are able to live out of doors. They also have tough hooves which only require regular trimming rather than having to be shod making them very low maintenance.  This very rustic cart with pneumatic tyres looks to be used for carrying the luggage and heavy goods required by the Atlantic Hotel in the Isles of Silly. The card has been sent by “Charlie” to his mum and starts off by saying “Needless to say we haven’t been for many bus rides as this is the only bus there is.” It was posted in 1939 to Mrs Doherty in Balham, London, SW12.

Donkeys are deceptively strong and can therefore pull quite heavy loads. They are also less flighty than horses and ponies so are a good choice for traders, the elderly and for use with children, particularly pulling Governess Carts. One can imagine how steady this little donkey needs to be as it walks along the road collecting the dust that has been swept up by its driver. Other than the title on the front which reads “ The Dust Cart Saltburn” nothing else has been written on it.   I would assume that it was a corporation cart and this was a daily job for the donkey as it is clipped out so as not to get overheated or making it too time consuming to groom out at the end of a long day.

Where this water is going once collected we do not know but the need for the animal to stand quietly whilst the container is being filled is essential.  Maybe this is why the donkey has been chosen to pull this vehicle. Apparently this pump was at the top of East Street near the Old Lodge Cottage. The only information on this card is the writing on the bottom which says “Titchfield Water Works” and the name of the Stationer on the back which is E.Walker of Titchfield.

Though the vehicle is carrying fruit and vegetables it looks like it is posing outside of a sweet shop, not only because of the board behind which seems to say chocolate, but also because the hat on the boy to the left reads “Eat Turners Toffee”.  I love the way that it looks like the donkey had mounted the pavement in order to get in on the photograph. It is such a shame that the card is not in good condition and there is nothing written on it to say who these people are or where they are located.

The gentleman proudly standing wth his donkey and advertising the Magnet Picture Theatre is Mr Boynton.  The theatre could be found in West Dock Avenue, Hessle Road, Hull around 1912.  The photographer for this postcard was W.A.Sharp of Hull.  Though the vehicle was pulled by a donkey rather than a horse it is good to see that the harness is not dull and boring but has style and detail in order to attract attention along with the advertising that was going on.  Interestingly whoever owned this vehcile appears to have many more as on the top it says "Advertising Vehicle No. 81".

This is not a real photographic postcard, mores the pity, but I could not resist buying it or putting it up on here.  The caption says it all as you cannot believe that this very rustic, cobbled together vehicle would be of any use never mind hold the gentlemans weight.  The original photographer is named as Anthony, Photographer and Publisher, Killarney.  The £2 that I had to pay for this card was well worth it.

A wonderful example of a basket weave Governess cart, with carriage lamps, being pulled by donkey. On the reverse some young sister has asked the reader "What do you think of my turnout?" so it would appear she was very pleased with it herself.  The postcard has been used to wish thier sister a "Very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. With love and a big kiss from your loving sister Mals".  A postcard dealer has written in pencil that it is from a collection from Market Drayton. 

Donkey's are wll known for being strong sturdy animals and in this case it certainly needs to be as it would appear that yet another adult is going to enter this Governess cart. Given the state of the donkey and cart this is a well used mode of transport and not just for show.

The children don't particularly look happy to be in charge of their own vehicle.  Once again there is nothing to show where this photograph has been taken and the postcard has not been postally used.

They look a bit too big to be driving this vehicle and the donkey doesn't look too happy either.