Gail Thornton
a pictorial archive of horse


Butchers Vehicles

High-class butchers prided themselves on their turnout and speed of delivery, often having two deliveries a day.  Such a vehicle, cutting a dash, with the driver in a stripped apron and straw hat could turn most heads and thereby advertise the butcher involved, all good for business.  Entering their vehicles in local yearly shows was also an excellent way to advertise their business.  The turnout of this vehicle suggests that Briggs Family Butchers are on their way to a show.  Though the postcard has not been postally used the business has been identified as belonging to John Briggs, 18 Middle Street North, Driffield, East Yorkshire.

For larger deliveries businesses would use a van such as this with sliding doors which could be opened to display the meats.  This van belonging to the Westhoughton Friendly Co-operative Society, which was first registered in April 1858, was delivering meat down the Wigan Road, 5 miles from Wigan, this can be clearly seen on the street corner.  The inside floor would probably be of slatted wood to allow it to be washed down and drain properly.  You can clearly see the hooks in the roof for hanging the large joints of meat.  In the warmer weather ice may have been carried on board to try and keep the meat cooler though it certainly wouldn’t meet the health and hygiene standards of today.

Another covered butchers van but with the serving area at the back of the vehicle.  This butcher is referred to as a ‘Hawking Butcher’ and once again leaves you questioning the freshness of the meat.  You can clearly see the meat being weighted on the scales and the three dogs waiting patiently for any scraps that might be coming their way. 

In the days before refrigiration, a fast horse was very important for quick deliveries as in hot weather the meat would soon go off. A "Flashy" horse would also attract attention and hopefully more trade.  Here is a "Flashy" looking horse and one which certainly gives the impression of being able to move fast.  It is also the winner of the International Show of 1907 but the wheel gets in the way of identifying who the butcher was.  It does however confirm the popularity of businesses entering their vehicles in shows and fetes.

Butcher’s carts usually had slats or perforations in the panels for ventilation and lined in zinc for insulation. Though this turnout has been prepared for a show and has been rewarded with second place, they were renowned for having the smartest turnout of all the trades. In fact there are stories of reckless driving at high speeds usually as a result of them being driven by the butcher’s boy.  It is not hard to imagine the urge to show off when you are driving such a smart cart with a spirited little pony without the boss breathing down your neck. This well turned out butcher’s cart belongs to “R.T.Bridge” but as there are no other details on the card it is not possible to know where he achieved the second place. 

Many carts have the driver sat on the roof of the vehicle so that it has the largest compartment possible for storing the meat.  However there were other designs used, particularly outside of London, were the vehicle is only partly roofed.  Though this gives less protection to the meat it is easier to load and cheaper to build. Unfortunately this postcard has become very faded but it is still possible to identify the vehicle as belonging to “Mark Mitchell, Butcher, Station Road” but does not say where this in. As it has not been postally used it is not even possible to guess where it may be.

The design of the butchers cart was very versatile and was used for delivering other types of food therefore it is difficult to know for sure that this postcard is of a butcher on his rounds. There is a name on the cart “J.H.Fry” but no other information to identify his trade. The only other writing is that of a date which is “21st March 1909”.

This postcard is a reproduction and the writing on the back states”Delivery carts outside Jones the Butchers, Wood St., Walthamstow, c.1905”.

Though not a postcard and not actually a butcher's van either I have included this real photograph as the vehicle is very similar in style.  As the photograph has faded it is not easy to see but we have been able to identify some of the writing which indicates that this vehicle was used to deliver Fish.