On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
PERSONAL MOBILITY was essential to Sherlock Holmes in his pursuit of evil doers. And, generally, in London and elsewhere, his travels had nothing to do with internal combustion. (See www.wp.me/p2ETap-dK for an exception to this, albeit late his career.)
Nevertheless, Holmes certainly had a variety of horse-drawn options.
This selection of Sherlockian carriage types comes from a look through William S. Baring-Gould’s The Annotated Sherlock Holmes; (see www.wp.me/p2ETap-3v) and two other references recently cited, Michael Harrison’s In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes and Charles Viney’s Sherlock Holmes in London (see www.wp.me/p2ETap-1fs).
Fortunately (for both you and me…), I make no claim here of completeness. The standard reference on carriages, Arthur Ingram’s Horse Drawn Vehicles Since 1790 in Colour, lists 325 different types.
A brougham, pronounced “brohm” or “broom,” was a 4-wheel carriage with an enclosed body. Its driver rode up front in a box. Typically its passengers had a front window; coach passengers did not.
The term carriage was used to describe a four-wheel conveyance with a soft folding top and opposed seating for four. It was typically pulled by a pair of horses.
Within Sherlockian context, a dogcart was pulled by a single horse, not a dog. It was two-wheeled with a pair of seats set back-to-back (dos-à-dos”). The Brit nickname “bounder” likely referred to ride quality.
A growler was a slang term for a four-wheel cab. By its tracks alone, Holmes could identify a cab as opposed to a wider-gauge private carriage. Harrison suggests two hypotheses for “growler,” the rumble and creak of its progress—or the cabbie’s habit of protesting an insufficient tip.
A hansom, named for its inventor Joseph Aloysius Hansom, 1803-1882, was London’s lightweight high-performance cab. Its driver sat high in back and wore a top hat (growler drivers wore bowlers). Passengers communicated through a trapdoor in the roof. The front of the hansom was open, except for two folding doors that reached up only half way.
When Watson encountered Stamford, his dresser at Barts in the old days, it was a hansom that took them to lunch at the Holborn—where the subject arose of a colleague seeking a roommate.
The omnibus, Latin “for all,” had another interesting name because of its Victorian approach to marketing: the “knife-board.” These four-wheel two-horse conveyances were typically two-story. The upper deck, partly protected by their advertising billboards, was reached by steps at the rear.
A trap typically had one horse, two high wheels and perhaps face-to-face or back-to-back longitudinal seating; the driver had a separate bench. As Holmes and Watson found in Leatherhead, Surrey, southwest of London, it was the transportation typically hired at a rail station in the country.
A wagonette was similar to a trap, but larger with a pair of horses. (Cob: bigger than a pony; a small sturdy horse.) Driven from a bench seat in front, a wagonette accommodated several passengers on a side, face-to-face, in its aft seating.
Though Watson doesn’t mention it, a wagonette fitted with guns, ammo and other hunting provisions evolved into the shooting brake. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013