Gail Thornton
a pictorial archive of horse


The Charabanc

King Louis Philippe of France presented the Char-a-Banc, which translates as ‘Car with Benches’, to Queen Victoria in the early 1840s.  It was initially a country vehicle used to transport large numbers of people and luggage from one location to another, such as a shooting party.  It had four forward-facing seats that could hold three people each and could be reached by steps that folded and slid into the boot though others had doors and the steps were not completely hidden.  On some, as in this postcard, canopies were erected to give protection to the passengers from the weather.  The postcard is a real photogragh by ‘The Bournemouth View Co. Ltd St Pauls Lane, Bournemouth.  On the photograph itself is written Aug 11, 1913 and on the vehicle is says ‘10 Mile Branksome Cine & Canford Cliffs, Fare 1/-’, which is in Poole.

Though the Char-a-banc was initially a vehicle for the wealthy it was later enlarged with extra seating to convey the general public on outings and sightseeing trips and painted in more gaudy colours to attract attention and therefore business.  As can be seen in this postcard some had a rear staircase that led to high seats at the back of the vehicle.  With the amount of people on board this vehicle is being pulled by a team of horses due to the weight.  It has not been postally used and there are no indications of who the photograph is or where these people are going.  However it looks like it will be a good trip out.

It is hard to tell in this postcard whether there are steps at the back for mounting the vehicle.  However you can clearly see a wooden ladder has been used to allow the front passengers to take their seats.  Once again there are no clues as to where this photograph has been taken or who the passengers are.

This Sunbeam Char-a-banc has a rail and curtain around the vehicle to protect the passengers.  You can clearly see the folding steps at the back of the vehicle to allow access.  Though it has not been postally used and therefore no clues as to whom these people are the photographer’s name is printed on the back.  It reads ‘Arthur Hadley. Photographer, Promenade, Ramsey, I.of M.’.

Given the full load of ladies and gentlemen that are seated here it requires a team of horses pull this "Dartmoor Coach" (the name is written on the side of the vehicle).  Where they are going on their trip out is unfortunately not known but given the turnout of the groom standing at the back and the driver I think it is safe to assume that this is a commercial operation.  The photograph has been taken by "Photo Visick 76, For HL.RD.

Given the clothes that are being worn, and the fact that the chap on the left is holding an umbrella, one can assume that the weather on this day out is not too good.  As it has not been postally used it is difficult to say where the photograph has been taken however there are a few clues.  It is outside the Railway Hotel and on the side of the vehicle the lettering reads "Freshfields Fornby".  In addition the postcard dealer has written on the back "Nelson Lancs", which could relate to where it was first purchased.

As you can see this is an extended Char-a-banc as it has an additinal row of seats at the back, rather than the original four behind the driver.  It would also appear that there is a seat behind the steps at the back as you can just make out a person's leg.  As in many photographs of this type it would appear to be a 'boy's day out' as there are no ladies present and they look like they are off to some sporting event.  The gentleman in the scarf looks rather a dandy. Disappointingly there is nothing written to say who they are or where this photograph has been taken though someone has written on the date as June 1905.

Another gentlemen's trip out thought this time with a team of beautiful coloured horses.  It would appear that there were a lot of men going to this event as there is another vehicle loaded up behing this one, again it looks like it is all men.