NotesLuxury 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.
Australian Dictionary of Biography
UsedWatt, John Brown