Stable Servants

Owning and maintaining a carriage was a lot more involved than modern people realize, and it took quite a few members of staff to drive them, tend the horses, and keep the vehicles in working order.

Coachman

His main duty was driving the carriages, which included being able to drive all sorts of vehicles and horses (for example, a single horse handles differently than a pair or four and a two-wheeled carriage is different from a four-wheeled kind). Even though there were others who actually managed the day-to-day duties of the stables, the coachman had to be just as knowledgeable about how to care for and train the horses.

Most households had only one coachman, though the largest estates (like those of the nobility) might have multiple with one of them assigned as the Head Coachman.

Though wages varied throughout the 1800s, it ranged from 30-50 pounds a year and included lodging and their livery. The coachman lived in an apartment over the coach house with their family and were given one day off a week, but they were on call at all hours as required by the family.

Postilion

Also known as a Post Boy

This was a rider who sits on the front left-side horse and steers the carriage. By riding on the horse, they had greater control over the horses and steering than a coachman had. The postillion wore a false leg (an "iron guard") around his right leg to stop it from being crushed by the pole that separates the horses.

 

From what I've found, it seems as though postilion was not a full-time position in a household, but was more often a temporary position or a contracted servant used for long-distance travel. Horses couldn't be used for an entire journey and would be changed out at regular intervals, known as "stages" or "posts." The family would pull up to a coaching inn, and their tired horses would be changed out and the new set would come with a postilion who would travel to the next post and then ensure that the hired horses were returned. During the first leg of the journey, the family would use their own horses and would have one of their grooms act as postilion and ensure their horses were returned home once they'd had a proper rest.

As it wasn't a full-time household position and was only hired out, I couldn't find any solid information about their wages or perks, though I would guess that they were similar to a groom.

Postillion driven carriages could be drawn by two, four, six, or eight horses with one, two, three, or four postillions. Using multiple postilions wasn't a common practice as it would be expensive to use that many horses and servants at once. From what I've read, it seems like it's more common among the upper levels of nobility and not among the rest of society.

Groom

These servants were in charge of the day-to-day care of the horse and stables, including oiling and cleaning the harnesses. They were the all-around workers of the stables because they would clean and organize the stables and stalls, plus feed and water, exercise, and brush the horses. They were also in charge of keeping an eye out for any illness or injury among the horses.

Most households had multiple grooms, and in the larger stables, one would be designated as the Head Groom or Stablemaster. He would oversee the grooms and would deal with the ordering of supplies. If the household did not have a stablemaster, the coachman would take on those managerial duties.

Though wages varied throughout the 1800s, it ranged from 15-20 pounds a year and included lodging, meals, and livery; they slept either in servants quarters in the main house or in the stables. They were always on call and even traveled with the family on long journeys.

A tiger was a name for grooms that worked with cabriolets. The name came from the fact that they wore striped waistcoats when out and about. While I found many modern references that say that tigers were just grooms, all my primary source material says the term only applies to cabriolet grooms. Honestly, I’ve read a lot of modern books that reference tigers, but books from the era don’t really talk about them all that much. In Coaching, with Anecdotes of the Road, there is only a single reference to tigers, even though Lord Lennox said that cabriolets were very popular vehicles. So, I'm not sure that they were all that common to have, even if you had a cabriolet.

Stableboy

The lowest rung of the stable servants, these were the assistants to the grooms and the general grunts of the stables. Most grooms and coachmen started off as stableboys and worked their way up.

Though wages varied throughout the 1800s, it ranged from 6-12 pounds a year and included lodging and meals (they didn't wear livery); they slept in the haylofts to be on call at all times.

Additional Staff

Every stable had at least a coachman, groom, and stableboy, but there were still many more workers needed to keep the coaches running. Depending on the size and needs of the stables, they had additional staff that would be either kept on-site or contracted out from the local village. For those that were employed full-time, they were given one day off a week and lived in their own lodgings in the local village. Most households merely hired local workers on an as-needed basis.

  • Wheelwright and/or carpenter: Repaired wheels, carriages, and the stables themselves.

  • Blacksmith: Shoed horses and made repairs to the metal part of the wheels, springs, and brakes. They also repaired all tools as needed.

  • Farrier: Shoed horses. Where blacksmiths could shoe horses as well, farriers also specialized in all things pertaining to hoof care. They could make and repair horseshoes and heal injuries and illnesses to the feet and lower legs.

 
Livery

Grooms, coachmen, postilions had official uniforms they wore called livery. While footmen (indoor servants) wore livery at all times, coachmen, grooms, and postilions generally only wore them on formal occasions, though it varied from household to household. The more wealthy the family, the more likely they were to require livery whenever they went out, but it was not required during the everyday operations (imagine trying to muck out a stall in a powdered wig and silver-buckled shoes). For most households, stable staff only wore livery during formal occasions -- if at all.

While livery did vary somewhat from household to household, most of it was fairly standard and included a powdered wig, braided livery coat, white plush breeches, white silk stockings, and silver-buckled shoes. A coachman’s livery was different in that they wore a bicorn hat (while the others wore a tricorn hat). A postilion’s livery was slightly different in that they wore leather breeches, a short jacket, and leather boots, which was more suitable for riding. Basically, livery was the stereotypical outfit you see in period movies and was very 18th-century in style, even into the late 19th-century.