Carriage Parts

Head

Box Seat

(or Coach Box)

Hammer  Cloth

Splinter Bar

Boot

Perch

Spring

  • Box Seat or Coach Box (or even Coachman's Box): the front seat where the coachman sits.

    • Hammer Cloth: decorative cover draped over the box seat (often fringed and bearing the family crest). Generally, only used in formal occasions.

  • Head: the roof. Some carriages have a permanent, fixed head (such as the coach or chariot), though most have foldable ones that can be pushed down during fine weather. There are some that have no head to them, but those are only meant to be used in fine weather. The style of head is one of the most distinguishing factors from carriage to carriage.

  • Footman’s Cushion: during ceremonial processions, this is where the footman would stand, holding onto a strap called a “Footman’s Holder”. You only find these on coaches, chariots, or other formal vehicles.

  • Boot: the back section of the carriage; some had an actual compartment, but most had a platform or seat that could be seating for servants or used to hold luggage. In America, this was known as a “Rumble Seat.” There was a special kind called the dormeuse boot that was available in traveling chariots that extended into the front of the carriage that attached to the body of the carriage, allowing the passengers to stretch out and sleep at night.​

  • Perch: the framework under the carriage that provides structure for the coach.

  • Spring: an essential part of the undercarriage. They were mostly metal, though older coaches were also supported by leather straps.

  • Splinter Bar: The bar that goes across the front of the carriage that attaches to the horses. The horses then are attached to it by poles, shaftes, swingletrees, and leather traces that attach to their harnesses.

Suspension

The earliest form of suspension involved hanging the carriage body on leather braces between two frames (called the fore and hind standards). Advances in the manufacture of steel springs changed the appearance of carriages, allowing bodies to be slung lower, more compact, and cheaper to produce. The passengers got a more comfortable and safer ride.

Cee-Spring Effect

One of the older styles of suspension. It allows the body of the carriage to swing and move freely. State carriages all use cee-springs, and it can cause motion sickness. At the National Trust Museum, they had a seat fitted with this suspension to give you the feel of what it was like to ride with it, and it was super bouncy! It felt really delicate, and frankly, I couldn't put my full weight on it because it sunk so far down that it felt like it wouldn't hold me. It would make for a very bouncy ride and had a very limited amount of weight it could carry.

Elliptic Spring Effect

These made carriages lighter and less expensive. It made the suspension more solid and giving a more comfortable ride. The museum had a seat with this type as well, and it wasn't bad to sit on, though I can imagine that it still would be difficult to handle a long trip with how terrible roads were back them.

Brakes

The first braking systems were primitive. Originally, there wasn't really anything to slow the carriage. Basically, stopping the horses and letting the carriage roll to a stop on its own was the only option.

 

Then, they created "drag shoe" (or sometimes spelled "dragshoe"). It came in a variety of designs, but it was pushed against the back wheel to give some friction, kind of like an antique brake pad. Earlier versions had to be manually used and the groom or guard would jump down and attach it to the wheel at the crest of a hill, and then remove it when they reached the bottom. Eventually, handbrakes were introduced that allowed the driver to operate the drag shoe.