Friday, May 21, 2010

We'll Take the Demi-Landau

Friday, May 21, 2010













Susan reporting:

Because it's such a splendid, sunny day, I thought we'd take our demi-landau out for ride in the park.

Well, okay, so it's not exactly ours. It's part of the Colonial Williamsburg carriage collection, and the oldest of the original (not replica) ones. Also known as a diligence or chariot, the demi-landau was a variety of private carriage popular well into the 19th c. With a single seat facing forward (an ordinary landau is larger, with two facing seats), they offered passengers an unobstructed view for traveling, particularly if driven by a postilion on horseback. According to our favorite CW driver Susan Cochrane (and our driver for today), postilion is also easier on the driver; it's much more comfortable to ride in as saddle for a day's journey than on a hard coach box.

The convertibles of their day, demi-landaus featured a folding leather top, or head, that could be folded back while the front part of the carriage was removed to make it open. Those S-shaped pieces on the top are part of the folding mechanism, and on a fancy carriage these might be silver-plated. (Those S-shaped bars can also be seen today on certain customized sedan automobiles, where they're called "landau irons.")

Demi-landaus were the most widely used form of personal carriage. Their smaller size made them useful for maneuvering narrow city streets as well as for country roads, and the smaller size also made them more economical. A nicely appointed demi-landau cost around £115. This was still out of the price range of the vast majority of 18th c. Englishmen, but for the rising middle class, a demi-landau was often the first prestigious step in "keeping" a carriage. Regency fans take note: Jane Austen and her characters would have been completely at home in a demi-landau, too. For more about carriages of all kinds, including up-to-date prices for 1794, check out William Fulton's Treatis on Carriages: Comprehending Coaches, Chariots, Phaetons, Curricles, Whiskeys, etc.

But enough talk. Here's another of my mini-videos to give you a short ride in the CW demi-landau. Take special note of how those folk of the middling sort, riding packed together in a public conveyance, will all gawk at you in envious wonder as you pass them in your solitary splendor.

video
For more about other carriages at Colonial Williamsburg, see here, here, and here.

8 comments:

Blair said...

I just got back from colonial williamsburg yesterday!
I really wanted to ride in one of those lovely carriages, but the day we signed up for it rained. Apparently they can't get wet? That's not historically accurate! ;) Ah, well.

Lady Burgley said...

The demi-landau was also called a landaulette. It's mentioned in Jane Austen's 'Persuasion', as one of the just rewards of the heroine Anne:

"...it was very agreeable that Captain Wentworth should be a richer man than either Captain Benwick or Charles Hayter. She had something to suffer, perhaps, when they came into contact again, in seeing Anne restored to the rights of seniority, and the mistress of a very pretty landaulette...."

Sarah said...

What fun! I can easily imagine Jane (and Anne Wentworth) in such a carriage. That yellow is smashing!

Joanna Waugh said...

This may be a stupid question but, was the postilion's horse in traces (I think that's the right word) or just riding along side? I assume it was in traces. But you know the old saying about assuming...

~Jo~

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Blair, I'm sorry you didn't get your carriage ride. They really are fun. Yes, 18th c. carriages were driven in bad weather (of course!) but the CW horses and drivers have kinder masters, who don't expect them to drive and stand in the rain. :)

Lady Burgley, thank you for the quote! I always liked Capt. Wentworth; good to know he treated Anne to a handsome equipage.

Sarah, I agree. I've always had the sense that Jane had a stylish streak...

Joanna, never too many questions to ask, esp. where horses and carraiges are concerned. Yes, the postilion rode on the back of one of the pair of horses drawing the carriage. Because the team was so close together, the postilion wore a thick leather covering over the leg to protect it from being crushed between the horses. I'll have to ask Susan Cochrane for the proper name of it. Stay tuned...

Marilyn said...

I love the color. I take my hat off to people who went on trips during that day! But with this beauty at least it would be in style!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Marilyn, it was actually very comfortable to ride in. This carriage has the best "springs" of any of the CW ones, so much so that it almost bounced me out on my face climbing down. So long as the weather was good and the roads relatively fine, I think it would have made for a pleasant enough journey.

ILoveVersailles said...

These photos are wonderful, as were the earlier ones of coaches. I've seen many of the line drawings of carriages from the various editions of Fulton as well as in other prints (Gillray, etc.), but to see a photo really brings the landau to life.A most elegant way to travel!

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