Recently, Sophia Turner did this wonderful post on Austen Authors regarding the Red House Carriage Museum she discovered on one of her journeys to England. I have asked her to share it with you.
The wonderful Red House Carriage Museum is located in Darley Dale (near Matlock). It’s a working carriage museum, where they actually take out many of the carriages and use them on a daily basis, and of particular interest to any Austen fans, because they’ve provided the carriages for a number of productions, including both the 1996 and 2005 Pride and Prejudices.
What’s impressive about the collection is the range they have in such a small space. I’ve had opportunity to see carriages in other places, but not greater rarities, like a stagecoach and a mail coach (they have one of very few of the latter still in existence!).
What made these rarities particularly wonderful is the informal nature of the museum. There were signs up not to touch the carriages, but otherwise you were allowed to wander in and amongst them and get up as close as you wished. I loved walking around and imagining the mail coach setting out at 8 p.m. sharp from London with all of its brethren, each of them eventually separating to distribute the mail across the country. Or the stage coach in a busy London yard, people clambering up to the top as baggage is loaded on. And I loved being able to view little details like this carriage lantern:
There were smaller rarities too, like this “siamese” phaeton (so called because it had two standard seats, front-and-back, rather than a seat and a servant’s seat), as well as more usual vehicles like a gig. As you can see, on this damp day they had towels and tarps down as backup protection for these rare old carriages.
The museum, as a working museum, also sends out a carriage every day. I’d called in advance to book my place, and was disappointed to have my visit on a very wet English day. They still went out, though, although in a more regular modern, less rain-sensitive equipage. I got quite wet, but still enjoyed the ride!
Perhaps the highlight, though, was seeing some of the carriages that have been used in Austen productions. The traveling chariot from the 1996 miniseries is in such pristine condition, it’s easy to see why it was the perfect carriage for Lady Catherine to make her grand entrance in – it absolutely looks like the carriage of a rich woman, and certainly doesn’t appear to be several hundred years old!
My biggest fangirl moment came over the five-glass landau from the 1996 miniseries. Not only is it also in excellent condition, but getting up close to it gave me a better sense of how all of those glass panels actually worked to open up in fine weather. But mostly, I fan girled over it because it is the carriage from the end of the film!
In short, the museum was a wonderful stop, and one highly recommended for anyone wanting to do a Pride and Prejudice-heavy trip to Derbyshire. It’s not very large and perhaps not very well known (I believe I stumbled across it on TripAdvisor), but it packs quite a lot into a small space. And as an added bonus, on certain days of the week you can get to Darley Dale from Matlock by steam train on Peak rail.