Gail Thornton
a pictorial archive of horse


The Van

Vans derived from trucks, which were two or four wheeled heavy freight vehicles which were covered.  The name truck comes from the latin ‘trochus’ which means ‘hoop’ as the canvas cover was supported by semicircular hoops.  Vans are smaller and lighter usually with a canopy overhead to shield the driver.  They were used for delivering or collecting goods and luggage and usually drawn by a single horse. This van’s advertising states “By Royal Letters Paten. Digestive Bread. B.Goodhead” and over the canopy it appears to say “The Vital Question”? Again this has not been postally used therefore does not give us a location

This is a four wheeled vehicle advertising itself as a removal van under the name of “Hailwood & Sons”.  One can only assume that it was for smaller removals rather than the whole house as, even though it is larger than the previous van, it is only pulled by one horse therefore weight could be an issue.  However I would also assume that the amount of furniture to be moved would not be as it is today as they would not have had the luxury items, such as fridge freezer, washer and three piece suites that we have today. 

Another four-wheeled van but squarer in shape with sliding doors for easy access to the goods on sale.  In this instance tinned salmon and pickles if the advert is anything to go by.  As the doors are closed we are not able to tell if the inside has been equipped with shelves in order to display the goods for sale.  At present I have not been able to find out any information with regards to the agent A.Sedgwick or Black Prince Salmon.  The only information written on the back of the postcard is “Coachbuilders: Mercea Bros. Builders. New Wortley (Leeds).  Whether this refers to the coachbuilders for this vehicle I do not know.

Before the advent of our automatic washers doing the laundry was a very labour intensive job.  Therefore in the early 20th century providing laundry services to households who could afford to send their washing out was a flourishing business.  Collection and delivery would be done by vans such as the one here from the Lilywhite laundry based in Bolton and Bury. Yet again the card has not been postally used the only information that we have is the photographer, which was J. Halliwell Radcliffe, Dalton Street, Bury.

Unfortunately the sun on the day and deterioration over time makes this photograph difficult to make out.  However it is a van belonging to J.A. Samson, on which is advertised Alexandra & Royal Daylight Lamp Oils. On top of the van you can just make out a rail, which is keeping the small barrels, presumably of oil, from rolling of the roof. The card has not been sent in the post but does read “With love from your affec. Brother George” and dated Februaruy 1908.

Another card that has seen better days and in better condition would command a high price due to the popularity of Lyons Tea.  The van advertises that it has ‘Agents Everywhere’ and that it is ‘By Appointment to HRH the Prince of Wales’ and has the emblem of his feathers transferred on to the paintwork.  On the board over the head of the driver it is also advertising ‘Lyons Cocoa’ which is not as familiar to me as the tea. This vehicle is registered as 82 but I have been unable to establish how many vehicles the company had at any one time.  The card has not been postally used and in such condition is a miracle it has survived at all. Having just received information from a family member, here is what they say "The owner of this van worked his way up to owning Racey's Arcade from humble beginnings as a carpenter in the saw pit (known as the underdog), to a coffin maker and wheelwright, a licenced hawker and eventually a grocer and oil man. Racey's Arcade was demolished in the late 1920s and a cinema was built in it's place and opened in 1932".

On the side of this van you can clearly see the name ‘Tucker & Sons’ and hopefully make out that they are Fruiterers and Greengrocers.  This van is serviceable rather than used to display the goods.  It has an open back to make loading and unloading easier.  It may have been used more for carrying the goods to the retail outlet than selling to customers from the back of the van. Again there is no further information to enable us to identify where it is.

The horse in this photograph is noticeable by its front leg stance.  It maybe that it has been taught to stand in this way to stop it from moving away too easily.  ‘Parking Out’, which is the term used, usually involves the back legs being stretched out with the front legs perpendicular to ensure the stability of the horse whilst goods are being delivered and the driver is getting in to and out of the vehicle.  In order for the horse to move it has to alter its body weight, which means that once in this stance it can’t just move off at a whim.  On the advertising board it gives the name ‘A.Edwards’ however on the reverse of the postcard somebody has written 139 Holton Road but where this address comes from I don’t know.

With their smart attire and flowers in their button holes who wouldn’t purchase something from these merchants? Their van appears to carry a wide range of household goods including wicker baskets and even a carpet. The term ‘Hawker’ is sometimes used for traders selling easily transported goods from house to house and area to area, but in their suits and ties it doesn’t seem right to give them this name.

Could this vehicle be something to do with the McVities associated with the digestive biscuit? Due to the vents that can be seen set in to the lower panels of the vehicle it would appear that this van is used for delivering fresh baked goods, as they would probably still be warm and if the heat was not able to escape it would leave the goods soggy.  However the name is spelt differently ‘Macvitties’ and it has the additional ‘Guest & Co Ltd’.  A search on the internet locates this Macvitties to an eating and drinking establishment in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1900 and also to the more familiar McVities.  Therefore this postcard could be showing the beginnings of the McVities empire. 

Before the First World War German-made underwear flooded every market of the world.  Therefore the British developed their own market under the name of Rameses to fill the gap left by these German goods. Though it was the name of an Egyptian Pharoah it was a British product which used material chosen for their hard wear and reasonable price. The slogan often used to advertise these products was ‘Ask for Rameses underwear if comfort, economy, value and patriotism weigh with you’.  This van is also advertising the firm of Wolsey which is still going strong today. On first sight of this postcard you would be forgiven for thinking that candidates for an upcoming election are being advertised. The only information on the back of the card is the photographer who was: J.W.Neal, 79 High Street, Skelton-In-Cleveland.

A very substantial Van despite the condition of the card, it has certainly seen better days. On the side of the vehicle it is not possible to make out all of the writing but you can read the words ‘Raceys’ and ‘Arcade Supply Van’. What this actually means I don’t know but given all the equipment stored both at the sides and on top it would appear to be an Ironmongers vehicle,  Given the carriage lamps it would appear that it often travelled at night, probably from town to town and village to village. Though it has not been postally used somebody has written on the back ‘Outwell, Nr Wisbech’ and ‘Gwynne Photographer’.

Yet again time has not been kind to this card and it is very faded.  It is possible to just make out the owner of the van, which is William Whiteley Ltd, and easier to see is the advertisement for a ‘Summer Clearance Sale, Monday July 3rd though I cannot see the year. This could refer to William Whiteley described as an ‘English Entrepreneur’ and founder of Whiteleys department store. Whteley dubbed himself ‘The Universal Provider’ and claimed that he could provide anything from a pin to an elephant. He died in 1907 when he was shot dead by his supposed illegitimate son.  It would appear that this van was being driven by an employee of the firm with his family along for the ride.

Another van advertising and delivering tea, and also coffe, the merchant being ‘Thos Handley. On the top of the vehicle, just above the carriage lamp is the No.1.  This may indicate that this merchant had several delivery vans or alternatively just a way of suggesting he is grander that he really is.  It maybe vehicle 1 of 1, who knows? The turnout is certainly smart, it is just a shame that the postcard has not been looked after as it is very faded. It has not been postally used though there is a date written on the card which reads Sept 09.

Here is a van of a very different kind as it is on pneumatic tyres and appears to be carrying pigeons. Though there are no identification marks someone has written on the back of the postcard April 1949 Bournemouth.

Unfortunately this postcard has seen better days.  It is badly creased and faded however you can make out a fine example of a bakers van.  The writing on the side of the van says "J.Watts, Baker, Ullesthorpe".  It has been written on but has no stamp or postmark and the gentleman's surname is hard to identify but the address is 9 Dover Road, Horninglow, Burton On Trent.  The message reads "Good morning Harry we thought we would come and have a look at you. With love." 

Here the Caroline Martyn Clarion Van gives the date as 1904 and is in Rotherham. Caroline Martyn was a Socialist pioneer, who died in 1896 aged 29 in Dundee. The Clarion newspaper put forward the idea for women to volunteer to tour the country in these vans to hold meetings, hand out leaflets  and sell Socialist literature. Caroline was intending to travel in one of these vans but unfrotunately she died before she could carry this plan out. The first Clarion Van was located in Liverpool and used as a soup kitchen, selling bowls of soup for a farthing to the poor and unemployed, as well as advertising the Clarion.  After her death money was collected to build a second van and by 1907 there were six vans covering the contry. This postcard has not been postally used or written on but where the stamp should go it says 'Knapton & Co. Rotherham'.

It would appear that this caravan was being used for camping in the Bournemouth area in 1911 as this information has been written, very faintly in pencil on the reverse. If all of those on the postcard are expecting to sleep in there it would be very cosy in deed.  The weather doesn't look too good either as the ground looks very wet.