Jun 212012

Regency Glossary by Donna Hatch (Part 2)



Donna Hatch says…..

People in Regency England depended upon either horseback or carriage to get around. Many of them traveled extensively from their country homes to London for the Season, which was both a social and political time of year while the House of Lords was in session.

Roads were terrible, and weather and highwaymen often made travel uncomfortable as well as dangerous. To accommodate the Regency gentry or nobility, the styles, paint design and features of carriages were as varied as today’s automobiles.

Image, status, and money, as well as personal taste, were all factors in choosing a carriage. Nobility had their family coat of arms painted on the side of their family coach.

A reader may come across a number of different names for carriages, and unless one is willing to do some research, these names may mean nothing.

Here are some of the more commonly used carriages:

Barouche by Pearson Scott Foresman via Wikimedia Commons

Barouche by Pearson Scott Foresman via Wikimedia Commons


a very expensive and large, four passenger carriage pulled by four horses. Its folding hood could be raised but it only covered two of the passengers. This was viewed as a status symbol to own.


Couple in curricle Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1798

Couple in curricle Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1798

Curricle: a vehicle meant for two horses, but was extremely small and only had two wheels. It had a hood that folded down, like a convertible. It was lightweight and very fast, often used in racing, but tipped over easily, so it was also dangerous.


Dog cart: named so because owners often used it for taking fox hounds to a hunt. It had a seat in front for one driver, and a seat facing the rear of the carriage that could fold down for two passengers. It was best for transporting cargo.


Family coach: a closed carriage that comfortably seated four passengers and was driven by a driver who sat up front, way up high. It had windows, curtains, lanterns and usually storage compartments for refreshments. They also normally featured small desks for writing the many extensive letters Regency people were so mad about sending and receiving.


Gig: much like the dog cart, often popular with country doctors.


Governess cart: also called a “jaunting cart,” was sometimes driven by ladies but most often by children. It was very small and light, and pulled by one pony or donkey.


Hackney: like the modern day taxi cab, these could be carriages of any kind, but typically those that were closed, and driven by the cab driver, called a jarvey. They were used in London. One could hail them from the street, or go to a hackney stand where the jarveys hung out until they found a passenger.


Landau: an open carriage with folding hoods that could be raised to protect the passengers. It was the carriage to use when one wanted to see and be seen. It, too, had a driver up front and was pulled by four horses.


Phaeton: a smaller two-seater used by owners who drove themselves. It had a roof, but the front and sides were open, although some pictures show it as having a folding hood.

The front two wheels were smaller than the back wheels. Often the seat was very high, in which case it was referred to as the high-perch phaeton. It was considered stylish and rakish.


Line art drawing of a phaeton with permission of Pearson Scott Foresman

Line art drawing of a phaeton with permission of Pearson Scott Foresman Wikimeida Commons


Post Chaise: 

a small carriage which could be pulled by two or four horses. Often painted yellow, it could be hired out by someone who wished to travel privately and not with a group of strangers such as a stage coach or mail coach.

Generally it only had room for one seat, which seated two, but it also had an outside, rear facing seat for servants and a platform in front for luggage. The driver, called a postillion, rode on the backs of the horses instead of on a bench on the chariot.

There were also stage coaches and mail coaches, which were public transportation for the person who didn’t mind (or were forced by the size of their purse) to travel with other passengers.

They followed select routes and stopped at inns for food and for changing out the team of horses.

The mail coach was the cheapest way to travel, and the most uncomfortable because it’s primary function is to carry mail rather than passengers. Sometimes, passengers were obliged to ride on top and there are stories of that proving a fatal way to travel.


Posted with permission from Donna Hatch, member of The Beau Monde chapter of Romance Writers of America.

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