Open Carriages in the 19th Century

I am writing a new book where I have had to do additional research on early 19th Century carriages. I cannot imagine traveling during this time period. Seven to ten miles per hour was the average speed. Just think how long it would take to go from London to Edinburgh, Scotland. Most books agree with two weeks being the norm for this trip. These types of facts are very important when writing an historically accurate novel. It drove me crazy in A Touch of Cashémere, which I just finished. I wanted to bring the characters together in a speedier fashion, but I had to allow several days of travel because of the locations. Railroads, as a form of transportation for people traveling great distances, did not appear until the latter part of the 19th Century. In the early 1800s, which is the focus of much of my writing, the horse and carriage was the norm.

So, what type of carriages would one find during this time period?
A Barouche was a four-wheeled carriage, with two inside seats facing each other. It was a favorite among the aristocracy who liked to put on airs. Lady Catherine, in Pride and Prejudice, tells Elizabeth Bennet and Maria Lucas that she could take them part of the way from Kent to Hertfordshire in her Barouche. The carriage had a fold-up hood, which could protect the delicate skin of the ladies at that time.

Likewise, a Landau was also a “fancy” carriage. It too had four wheels and two opposite facing seats, but it had a hood a each end. Two horses were necessary to pull a landau.

A Victoria became popular at mid century. Up until then, a woman driving her own carriage was frowned upon. The Victoria, however, was popular with women drivers. It was an open carriage with four wheels, and it sat lower to the ground than some carriages. It was made for only one to two occupants.

A Berlin was a four wheeled carriage with a hood. It was quite large in comparison to the others available at the time. It could seat four “comfortably.”

The Phaeton was a lightweight carriage with open sides. Again, in Pride and Prejudice, in her letter explaining Darcy’s involvement in Lydia Bennet’s and George Wickham’s speedy marriage, Elizabeth’s Aunt Gardiner asks for a Phaeton ride about the estate grounds once Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy. A Phaeton could be drawn by one or two horses. It sat higher than many of the other carriages.

A Gig was a two-wheeled carriage. It was lightweight and designed for a single horse. It sat 1-2 people. Young “rakes” during the Regency period often owned a gig or a curricle.

A Curricle was also a two-wheeled carriage. It was considered essential for driving out in Hyde Park during the “fashionable hour.” Two horses pulled a curricle, and most young nobles at the time found it necessary for their masculine image to own one.

About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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