Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hackney Cab vs. Hackney Coach

Thursday, January 7, 2016
Cruikshank, “The Last Cabdriver"

Loretta reports:

My characters in Dukes Prefer Blondes spend time in hackney coaches and hackney cabs. You will often find the terms used interchangeably, as though they were the same thing. However, a hackney cab was quite a different article from a hackney coach. The cab was a two-wheeled, one-horse vehicle. It held only two passengers, and seemed to be generally regarded as a mode of transportation for those who liked to live dangerously.

Leigh’s New Picture of London for 1834 briefly explains the difference here. You can read about them here in Omnibuses and Cabs, Their Origin and History, which includes excerpts from Dickens’s lively descriptions.

I’ve written a bit more about hackney coaches here, and you can read Dickens’s full version (which originally appeared in Bell’s Life in London in November 1835) here in Sketches by Boz.
1823 Hackney Cab
Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Anonymous said...

There is also another 'Hackney', whether or not it has anything to do with your post is another thing.
According to Wikipedia, The Hackney pony is a breed of pony closely related to the Hackney horse. Originally bred to pull carriages, they are used today primarily as show ponies. The breed does not have its own stud book, but shares one with the Hackney horse in all countries that have an official Hackney Stud Book Registry. The Hackney Pony was originally developed by Christopher Wilson. He used Sir George, a Hackney stallion foaled in 1866, to breed with Fell Pony mares, and then interbred the offspring to make a fixed type of pony. He desired to create not a miniaturized horse, but rather a true pony with such characteristics. Extracting the large trot and other characteristics of the hackney horse and applying them to this true type of pony, he was successful in creating the form which was desired. This is one case of an entire type of breed that is formed in a controlled, private environment. In addition to the mixing of Fell ponies and Hackney horses, the Hackney Pony probably also has much Welsh Pony blood.
Perhaps these are ponies that pulled the hackney coaches back in the day? :)
First known as Wilson Ponies, they were usually kept out all year, wintering in the inhospitable Fells with little food or care. This developed the breed's great toughness and endurance. By the 1880s the breed was established, and was very much liked for its great trotting ability and class.

The breed was used in Great Britain as carriage horses and were also imported into the United States. They were considered to be very stylish to drive during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when automobiles were still uncommon. After horses were replaced by cars as a primary means of transportation, Hackney ponies, along with many other horse breeds, were deemed unable to contribute to society and declined considerably. After World War II, however, the Hackney pony developed into primarily a show pony, and remain being bred for that purpose today. Thus their drastic decline in numbers and plight toward extinction came to an end, and the breed was popularized once again.

Susanne Lord said...

Thank you for posting the link to this wonderful resource. And I love the comment about the hackney ponies. Thanks for sharing!

Jolene Rae Harrington said...

Thank you for clarifying, Loretta. I have been one of those who mistakenly used the terms interchangeably. I will now need to update the reference use in my book from hackney cab to hackney COACH--since with a driver plus 2 passengers, it must have been a coach not a cab after all. My source material up on which I based my fictional recreation referenced "hiring a hackney". Isn't it great to know that this nerdy little tidbit is helping another nerdy history girl writer? :-)

MaryJeanAdams said...

The link you gave is an awesome resource for writers who need to know how their characters might get from one place to another.

LorettaChase said...

Jolene, just to clarify: The Cruikshank caricature exaggerates the coffin shape. The cab held two people, with the driver outside, so your characters could travel in a cab. The lower picture is closer to reality. The coaches would hold more than two. They tended to be more antiquated vehicles. For images of (privately driven) cabriolets, please check out my Pinterest page for Dukes Prefer Blondes:
I'm glad readers are finding this useful! I love finding this stuff.

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