This Travelling Chariot is a rare and interesting example of English coach-building practice of the early to mid nineteenth century. The Chariot was widely seen as a symbol of wealth or rank in England, Europe and the United States. The term Chariot is believed to have been applied about the middle of the seventeenth century to the French Coupe and they were much admired for their looks, their airiness due to the number of windows, cheapness relative to a coach and greater manoeuvrability. Only requiriing one horse or two small horses, the Chariot could be driven by a coachman unaccompanied by any other servant, without attracting social scorn. Although made in England until the 1890s with modifications and improvements, the Chariot, having been generally superseded by the Brougham, continued to be used as a court or dress carriage in adherence to its aristocratic heritage.
The stamp on the front axle "THRUPP 1822 B" suggests that the coach was made by the London coachbuilders Messrs Thrupp while the '1822' could indicate that the coach was built in the first half of the nineteenth century. This assumption may be supported by the evidence that Thrupp's made their first Brougham style of carriage in 1840. The Brougham seems to have displaced the Chariot in England and was the most admired middle-class gentleman's town carriage in Britain and probably Australia. The Brougham was, stylistically, very similar to the Chariot but featured elliptical springs between the axles and the underframe to provide ride comfort rather than the "C" springs that suspended the body of the Chariot which provided the ride comfort on that style of coach. A "C" spring Brougham was manufactured by Messrs G Hooper and Co. for the Marquis of Donegal (then Earl of Belfast) in 1845. The Chariot features seating for two people inside while the driver sat outside in front of the low-slung straight-fronted (coupe) body. It has a single perch undercarriage with regular "C" springs, a sword case in the back panel for weapons and is finished in dark green with cream and yellow striping.
This coach is thought to have been owned by the Sydney merchant and settler, Alexander Berry (1781-1873) who was granted considerable land on the Shoalhaven which he developed into an estates called Coolangatta. In 1836 Berry's brother David took charge of the estates and after Alexander's wife died in 1845 he lived quietly at his mansion at North Sydney called Crows Nest House. It is thought that Berry used the coach to travel around North Sydney to visit his friends such as the geologist, the Rev. W.B. Clarke and the artist Conrad Martens.
After Alexander's death in 1873 the coach passed to his brother, David, then to his first cousin, John Hay (later Sir John) (1816-1892) who was one of the Trustees of the Berry Estates. After Sir John's death the coach probably remained with the family until the death of Sir John's widow Lady Jessie in 1930. In 1932 the legatees of Sir John Hay presented the coach to the Trustees of Vaucluse House and it was displayed in the coach house there. By 1958 it had been acquired by the New South Wales Government and in 1961 considerable restoration work was undertaken on the body of the coach by the students and lecturers in the School of Building at Sydney Technical College. It remained on display at Vaucluse House for over thirty years until 1996 when it was transferred to the museum by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales who now manage Vaucluse House.
Assistant Curator, Transport