Gail Thornton
a pictorial archive of horse


The Landau

The landau is said to have originated in West Germany around 1790 and were similar to coaches in shape. Initially they were heavy and drawn by a pair of horses or possibly four-in-hand. The seats facing inwards make it a very sociable carriage. The soft folding top is divided into two sections, front and rear, latched at the center. These ordinarily lie perfectly flat, but the back section can be let down or thrown back while the front section can be removed or left stationary. The vehicle in this postcard is commonly referred to as a Canoe or Sefton landau and was lighter in design so could be pulled by a single horse if required. Unfortunately nothing is written on the postcard to identify location however someone has written on the date Sept. 1927.

Initially the landau’s had dropped footwells as can be seen in this postcard and were referred to as a Shelburne Landau. The top here is fully opened and will completely cover the passengers. The door can be a half-door or in some cases a full-height glazed door. It is hard to tell in this postcard whether it is glazed or not. When the hood is up the style and grace of the vehicle is somewhat lost. There are no means of identification on the back of the card but someone has written on that they think the vehicle is outside Raynes Park Station, South London.

Landau’s were popular as they combined the roles of a summer and winter carriage due to the folding hood and therefore were cost effective. Owning vehicles was a costly business as not only did you have the cost of the horses you also had to maintain and tax the vehicle. Therefore only having one vehicle meant you only had to pay one tax. The tax for a landau in 1888 was £2 2s per annum. Once again there is nothing written on the back of this postcard to identify the location.

Landaus usually held four people but later a carriage was designed to seat two people and was referred to as a Landaulet. However looking at the vehicle in this postcard I don’t think this is what they meant. The board reads “For Hire. The smallest four wheeler in England”. On the side of the vehicle is written “Harrison Bros”. But once again there are no other indications of where this vehicle is, who the children are and if this was a genuine business enterprise situated in some park.

The carriage on this postcard is not easy to see but what is very clear is the immaculate turnout and the beautiful dappled horse.  There is nothing on the card to indicate what the gentlemen are up to but the card has been postally used.  It was sent to Miss M.Howe, 5 Newby Terrace, Wiggington Road, York and reads “Dear Mabel. Just a line to let you know I am still in the land of the living hope you are all well at home. Love from Alice”. 

Though the postcard has not been postally used it has been written on with the words “William at a Wedding”, which confirms the reason for the line up though the button holes are a bit of a give away. With all the hoods up it suggests to me that the weather is not particularly good, as surely at a wedding the bride and groom would want to be seen weather permitting. 

Another example of a Canoe Landau which allows you to see the shape of the vehicle and therefore the reason for the name. You can also see the driver with what looks like a rug over his knees as sitting for any length of time on the driving seat can get very cold.  Again the hood is up so it would suggest an inclement day.

It is hard to make out in this postcard whether the vehicle is a Canoe Landau or a Single Launaulette.  However what is clear is that the pair of Greys are a beautifully matched pair and quite a head tuner. Whether this turnout is privately owned by some very wealthy person or a hire vehicle it is impossible to tell and there is nothing on the card at all that could suggest an answer.

Laundau’s were a very popular choice of vehicle for a wedding.  Just like we book taxis today to take transport the bride and groom so these vehicles could be hired from the local Jobmaster. A jobmaster is someone who hires out horses and/or vehicles along with coachman and groom if required and this could be on a yearly, monthly or daily basis. Once again there is nothing written on this card to indicate where or when this wedding took place, or even who the happy couple are.

As it says on the postcard this is a miniature Landau and it is being pulled by a pair of ponies.  Given the tents in the background and the wording at the back it would appear to be at a show ground, particularly as all concerned are well turned out.  Nothing has been written on the back to give any further clues but it does give a good idea of what landaus look like.