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Friday, 7 February 2020

All on Board the Charabanc - Sepia Saturday

This week's prompt photograph from Sepia Saturday features a group of happy folk posing in a studio by a cut-out of a car - date c.1920s 

I can match the  date, but with the real vehicle, and this group of  people aboard a crowded charabanc c.1920.


I know next to nothing about this photograph. It was in the collection of my Great Aunt Jennie Danson  of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, and judging by the style of dress e.g. cloche hats it must have been taken in the 1920's. There was no inscription on the reverse, but the photographer/publisher was identified as Arthur Hadley, Photographer, Ramsey, Isle of Man. This could be a clue, as one of Jennie's eight brothers, Albert, worked on the Isle of Man ferry between Fleetwood, Lancashire and the Isle of Man.  And on the side of the charabanc is the famous three legged man that became the island's badge.

I like the image  as a happy holiday photograph, (notice the little girl standing up to be photographed),   though  again I wonder how safe I would find the vehicle with so many people on board  I could imagine someone might need to get out and push, if going up hills! 


To go back some twenty years  to a horse-drawn charabanc. 


The date  is 1907 and  Earlston Parish Church Choir is setting   off from the Red Lion Hotel in the village  to drive to Yarrow Manse in Selkirkshire -  according to the Distances website a distance of some 29 miles over what would be a twisting  route.   

Hopefully it would be a dry day as there was no protection from the elements?   It is a bit surprising that they did not choose to take the train from Earlston to Selkirk for part of the route and and then by waggonette to Yarrow. 

The choir  enjoying their outing to Yarrow Manse. 

(Photographs courtesy of the

Today - a road through the Yarrow Valley, Selkirkshire


Further back still,  we have stagecoaches.

When we look at the pictures of stagecoaches on Christmas cards,   they look colourful, dashing and rather romantic, but what was the reality like for our ancestors traveling over 170 years ago?


A pub sign taken at at Greenwich, near London 

This image  of stagecoach travel has been   perpetuated by many writers including Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.  Charles Dickens in "David Copperfield" published in 1850 painted a rather different picture of the reality of a winter stagecoach journey. 

"How well I recollect the wintry ride! The frozen particles of ice brushed from the blades of grass by the wind and borne across the face; the hard clatter of the horses' hoofs beating a tune upon the ground;  the stiff-tilted soil,   the snowdrifts, lightly eddying in the chalk pit as the  breeze ruffled it;  the smoking team stopping to breathe on the hill top and shaking their bells musically,.........."
 Stagecoaches were public service vehicles designed specifically for passengers and running to a published schedule.  Eight passengers could be packed inside, with others sitting at the back of the coach and the poorest passengers atop along with the luggage. A newspaper report  of 1846 (below) refers to a heavy coach of 18 to 20 passengers.  

Contemporary newspaper reports of the time present a graphic picture of the perils facing passengers and  (and pedestrian) alike.
"The Border Watch" - 19 November 1846: 

“A SLOW COACH. – The Edinburgh and Hawick coach, which left Princes Street, Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon at 4pm  did not reach the Bridge Inn, Galashiels, until about 10pm; thus accomplishing the distance of thirty-two miles in the astonishing period of six hours!   

The pace was such that an ordinary pedestrian would have found little difficulty in keeping up with the coach. The road was by no means heavy, although in some places newly laid with metal. The coachman did his duty well with whip and voice, constantly urging forward his jaded steeds, and employing the box seat passenger to assist him with a spare thong.
But it was all of no avail. The animals would not move one foot faster than another. Up hill or down hill there was little perceptible difference, and several times the vehicle came to a dead halt, almost on a level.

The coach was full from Edinburgh, but a passenger having been let down on the road, another person was taken up. In spite of the loud remonstrances of the passengers, a second was buckled on behind, and a third was allowed standing room beside him. It appears there is now no restriction as to the number a stage coach may carry, and consequently three poor miserable horses were forced to drag, throughout a weary stage of fifteen miles, a heavy coach loaded with eighteen or twenty persons."


Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity 
to share their family history through photographs.


Click  HERE  to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers
have taken up this week's theme.



  1. Excellent entry! Some of those multi-passenger vehicles - motor coach or horse-drawn look a little iffy - especially if the vehicle hit a bump or deep rut in the road in which case I could imagine everyone hanging onto each other in desperation! :)

  2. Many thanks, Gail, for taking the time to comment.

  3. I'd like to try riding in the multi-passenger vehicles to see how iffy they are.

    1. I think you are more adventurous than me!

  4. The charabanc is a foreign vehicle to Americans. It looks a bit too cumbersome to manage tight turns in the mountains. As to the stagecoaches they were not the romantic transportation of Hollywood films. Poor horses!

  5. Thank you, Mike, for your comment. Yes, my findings showed that stagecoach was anything but romantic!

  6. Really great post. The photos are wonderful -- and the article at the end truly hilarious. No wonder drivers were thrilled when horseless carriages were invented. Much better control over the speed :-)

  7. Thank you, Molly, for your comment - much appreciated.

  8. I think of passengers of stage coaches, or even wagons of various kinds, as having a very bumpy ride over dirt or cobbled roads. Poor people!

  9. A charabanc was HUGE - look at the man standing next to it. Well done, Susan - interesting history to match the outstanding photos.


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