Gail Thornton
a pictorial archive of horse


The Waggonette and Brakes

This is a four-wheeled country vehicle that was popular for transporting passengers and luggage due to the space that it provided.  It can be spelt either with one or two g’s.  It was driven from a high box seat either with a single horse, pair, unicorn (one in front, two behind) or team.  It has two longitudinal seats facing one another with the door at the back to enter.  Though there are no identifiable features on this postcard, given the building in the background, the uniform of the driver and the excellent condition of the horses it looks like it is for business not pleasure. 

The Waggonette Break is a larger version of the Waggonette and usually driven with no less than a pair due to the increase in weight, not only in the vehicle but the increased number of passengers.  Here the longitudinal inward-facing seats have been moved to become forward-facing bench seats.  By arranging the seating in this way more people could be accommodated.  One can only guess that this is a day out but to where we don’t know.  However it is standing outside what is probably a public house as the writing on the right hand side window says “Martells Brandy”, the left window “Hennessy’s”.

Most Waggonettes were usually pulled by a pair of horses, however in this instance it is being pulled by three,  a “unicorn”, that is one horse in front and two behind.  Sometimes a unicorn was used due to a young or inexperienced horse needing to learn the ropes, or reins in this case.  The vehicle is standing outside The Midland Hotel but whether it is arriving or leaving it is hard to tell.  What we can see is that it is a gentlemen’s trip as no ladies are on board the vehicle.  The vehicle is displaying carriage lamps, suggesting it was required to travel in the dark and the driver is in uniform so it maybe that this vehicle belongs to the hotel and it has just picked up the gentlemen from the train station. 

The term Troika is used to describe three horses harnessed abreast as in this postcard.  The vehicle is fairly crude and probably used for those lower down the social ladder.  It has a canopy on to protect the passengers from the inclement weather.  As you can see those at the front aren’t so lucky and have blankets over them and caps on to keep out the rain.  It would appear to have stopped raining as the gentleman just going out of shot has his umbrella down.  The seats are arranged facing forward and it would appear to be another trip out but with mixed company as behind the driver you can see a lady with a scarf over her bonnet.  This postcard has not been postally used.

This vehicle certainly needs the power of this team pulling it as it is well and truly a havy load.  The photograph has been taken outside of the Metropolitan but where is any bodies guess as nothing has been written on the back of this postcard.  It looks to be a working class gathering and the front horse appears to need a good meal inside it.

This is a photograph rather than a postcsard but I bought it as it shows a fine example of a waggonnette break.  It has two seats back to back at the front with a full load of men seated behind.  You can also clearly see the step at the back to allow passengers to get in and out.  Given the name of the pub "Race Horse" and the lack of ladies present you could assume that they were off to the races or some other local meet.