Carriages and Coaches of Kilwaughter Castle

Carriages and Coaches of Kilwaughter Castle

Born in 1863, Elizabeth “Bessie” Shipley Bringhurst was the oldest child of Edward Jr and Anna Bringhurst. In June 1886, Bessie married John Galt Smith, a linen merchant from Belfast County, Ireland. Bessie and J.G. Smith resided at Kilwaughter Castle near Larne, Ireland. Kilwaughter Castle maintained a variety of carts, carriages, and coaches – no less than eight. While several of the carts were more practical, used for transportation and carrying goods, many of the carriages at Kilwaughter Castle also represented a shift towards driving as a social and leisure activity.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, improvements in the roads meant lighter carriages were less likely to become stuck in muddy and uneven roads. Alice Newlin from the Metropolitan Museum of Art comments, “…the established types of carriage were gradually refined in a tendency towards clean elegance of line….Many open pleasure carriages…were built so that people could enjoy driving in open air and show themselves as well”. Mr. and Mrs. J.G. Smith possessed several pleasure carriages including the phaeton and the landau, which Bessie referred to as the “Victoria”.
Introduced in the 1750’s, the phaeton style carriage was an open top, doorless carriage with four wheels. Early phaetons had small bodies, high off the ground with enough space for one or two passengers. Generally unstable, phaetons were popular for sporting. The phaeton owned by the Smiths represented a later style of phaeton which was more stable due to its lowset body and popular among ladies and gentlemen in the mid-19th century.
Another style of pleasure carriage, which developed from the phaeton, was the Victoria. The Victoria was a semi enclosed carriage with a low floor meant to be driven by a coachman. The Victoria was a favorite of Bessie’s. In letters to the Bringhurst family, she describes frequent outings and social visits in the Victoria and laments her inability to use the Victoria due to Ireland weather. She writes, “Just now it is raining. I am afraid I must go in the closed carriage which I don’t like as much as the Victoria!”
Despite Bessie’s affinity for the Victoria, the carriage calls “Victoria” more closely resembles a landau style carriage. Like the Victoria, the landau is meant to be driven by a coachman and had folding hood roofs. However, the landau had doors and enough seating for four passengers who sat facing each other, two on each side.
As a fundamental form of transportation, carriages played an important role in the lives of the Smiths and the Bringhursts until 1905 when the two families began to replace their carriages with automobiles. Carriages were used to transport goods from the Kilwaughter Castle to the nearby town of Larne, to go on social visit, and to accommodate long distance travel around Europe and Ireland. More than just a mode of transportation, carriages allowed for social visibility and public display of wealth.

[Rockwood Archives; Box 119]

-Mollie Armstrong


Works Cited

“Carriage Tour.” The Carriage Association of America. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2011.<>.

“Lady’s Phaeton .” Cobb and Co Museum Events+and+Exhibitions/Exhibitions/Permanent/National+Carriage+Collection/Carriages/Ladys+Phaeton.

Bringhurst Edward V. Letter to Edward Bringhurst Jr. 2 Sept. 1904. MS. Rockwood Archives. U of Delaware.

Bringhurst, Edward Jr. Letter to Mrs. E Bringhurst. 16 Aug. 1899. MS. Rockwood Archives. U of Delaware.

Bringhurst, Edward Jr. Letter to Mrs. E Bringhurst. 8 Aug. 1899. MS. Rockwood Archives. U of Delaware.

Newlin, Alice. “An Exhibition of Carriage Designs.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 35, no. 10 (October 1940): 185 – 191.

Schanes, Nancy E. “Genealogical Summary of Joseph Shipley and the Bringhurst Family of Rockwood.” MA thesis. U of Delaware, 2000. Print.

Smith, Elizabeth Shipley Bringhurst Galt. “Letter 116.” Letter to Mrs. E Bringhurst. Mar.-Apr. 1904. MS. Rockwood Archives. U of Delaware.

Smith, Elizabeth Shipley Bringhurst Galt. Letter to Mrs. E Bringhurst. 7 Sept. 1904. MS. Rockwood Archives. U of Delaware.

Sparkes, Ivan. Stagecoaches and Carriages. Great Britain: Spurbooks , 1975. Print.

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