B1499 Horsedrawn carriage, barouche, timber / metal / glass / leather / textile, made by Shanks and Co, London, England, used by John Brown Watt in Sydney before 1888. Click to enlarge.

Horse-drawn barouch carriage owned by John Brown Watt, late 1800s

Made by Shanks & Co, England in London, England, c 1888.

This barouche was a luxury vehicle owned by the prominent Sydney businessman and politician, John Brown Watt, in the late 1800s. In addition to being a convenient means of personal transport, they served to show off their owners and occupants to other members of society. Often the owner’s coat of arms or monogram would appear on the coachwork, to display their wealth and rank in the world.

Such vehicles were described in Sydney as early as the 1840s. The Australian artist S T Gill depicted a ba...

Summary

Object No.

B1499

Object Statement

Horsedrawn carriage, barouche, timber / metal / glass / leather / textile, made by Shanks and Co, London, England, used by John Brown Watt in Sydney before 1888

Physical Description

Horse-drawn carriage, barouche, timber / metal / glass / leather / textile, made by Shanks and Co, London, England, used by John Brown Watt in Sydney before 1888.

The barouche is a four wheeled, open-topped, carriage drawn by two horses. It features a superior finish and is designed to carry four passengers on two seats. The shallow body of the carriage is made from wood and is painted burgundy. A door with elaborate silver handles is fitted to the centre of each side of the carriage, and a step is provided on each side to assist entry and exit. The carriage has a collapsible black leather hood over the rear seat. The seats are made from black buttoned leather, and the floor and inside door panels are covered in blue fabric. The driver's seat is positioned high at the front of the carriage and will accommodate two people. There is a lamp on either side of the driver's seat. The lamps are metal (gold in colour) with glass panels. The carriage is constructed from wood and reinforced by steel forged members that have been bolted to the timber body. The chassis and wheels of the carriage are painted black with a red trim.

Marks

Text engraved on the surface of each of the wheel hubs reads 'SHANKS LONDON'.

Dimensions

Height

1880 mm

Width

1800 mm

Production

Notes

The origin of the barouche lies in France in the late eighteenth century, and it soon became popular in Britain and Germany. At that time it was built so close to the ground that no steps were necessary to board. Over time, the construction changed from a heavy vehicle with deep panels on wooden perches to a lighter vehicle with a shallow canoe-shaped body which was hung from leather braces on 'C' springs, on single iron perches. The barouche was made lighter with the introduction of elliptical steel springs, which were invented by Obadiah Elliot in 1804. This made it possible to build the carriage without the perch.

The barouche was a very impressive vehicle and demanded big, upstanding horses, which were either driven from the box or ridden postilion; a pair, four or six horses were used. The body and frame of the barouche were usually painted in dark colours and the lining was usually satin.

Unlike most carriages of this kind, the barouche was sometimes owner-driven. In 1808 one such owner, Charles Buxton, founded the Four-Horse Club, which was often called the barouche or whip club as its members drove barouches instead of drags.

The only reference to a coachbuilder appears on the wheel hubs and bears the name Shanks. Shanks and Co. of Great Queen Street, London, was a notable carriage builder of the day.

Made

Shanks & Co, England c 1888

History

Notes

Luxury vehicles like the barouche were described in Sydney as early as the 1840s. These were used to show off their owners and occupants to other members of society. Often the owner's coat of arms or monogram would appear on the coachwork, to display their wealth and rank in the world.

It would appear that most luxury carriages such as this barouche were imported, although some local coach builders did specialise in the fine carriage trade. In general, the higher the quality of the carriage work, the more traditional the vehicle appeared and the better it was appreciated.

This barouche was owned in Sydney by the Honourable J.B. Watt MLC of the company Gilchrist, Watt and Sanderson Pty Ltd. John Brown Watt was a merchant, businessman and politician who was born in Edinburgh in 1826. A severe pulmonary illness led him to migrate to Australia and upon arrival in Sydney in 1842 he became a clerk in the mercantile and shipping firm of Gilchrist and Alexander. In 1852 Watt became a partner of the firm, which then changed its name to Gilchrist, Alexander and Co. In 1854, after the retirement of Alexander, it became Gilchrist, Watt and Co. The firm flourished and opened a London branch in 1860. Watt began to rise in society and gained respect for his probity and judgement. In 1861 he was appointed to the Legislative Council, later followed by appointments as director of various companies including insurance companies, steam navigation companies, the Gaslight Company, Meat Preserving Company and CSR.

In 1876, while visiting England, Watt became involved in an experiment with chartered steamers via the Cape of Good Hope, which led to the formation of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. In 1901, the Sydney maritime business was converted into a public company under the style of Gilchrist, Watt and Sanderson Ltd, while pastoral and financial aspects were carried out by the firm of Gilchrist, Watt and Co both in Sydney and London.

Watt was described as being independent, broadminded, kind and generous as well as being a man of cultured taste. He apparently used the barouche to undertake the firm's business in Sydney and for transport to and from his home. In 1888, he returned to England for the education of his sons and marriage of his daughter. He died at Bournemouth, Hampshire in 1897 and was buried in St Jude's churchyard, Randwick, Sydney.

The barouche was not used by John Brown Watt after his return to England in 1888. Up until 1912 it was apparently stored in the Old Central Wharf building in Sydney. In July 1962 the Museum was notified of the barouche's existence, located on the first floor of the Central Wharf Building No.8, at Walsh Bay. Officers from the Museum, Norm Harwood and Harry Brown, inspected it in August 1962. Negotiations for the acquisition of the carriage were made through Captain R.A. Shannon to the manager of the Central Wharf Stevedoring Company at Millers Point. The principals of the company were approached and they gave their permission for the carriage to be presented to the Museum.

In October 1962 the Museum took delivery of the barouche and it was put into storage until 17 September 1981, when it was removed from the Arncliffe store and sent out for restoration. The contractor undertaking the work turned out to be slow and gradually lost interest in the project despite encouragement and assistance from the Museum's Contract Restoration Supervisor. The contract was eventually terminated, the carriage returned to the Arncliffe store and a new restoration specification written. Three quotations were received for the remaining work, which was duly completed.

Margaret Simpson

Reference
Australian Dictionary of Biography

Used

Watt, John Brown

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Principals, Gilchrist, Watt & Sanderson, 1962

Acquisition Date

16 October 1962

Cite this Object

Harvard

Horse-drawn barouch carriage owned by John Brown Watt, late 1800s 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 13 December 2018, <https://ma.as/207923>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/207923 |title=Horse-drawn barouch carriage owned by John Brown Watt, late 1800s |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=13 December 2018 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Store 3 at the Museums Discovery Centre.

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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