World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article
 

Charabanc

A horse-drawn charabanc at Windsor Castle in 1844.
Charabancs on the "Grand Tour" connecting the Corris Railway to the Talyllyn Railway, passing Tal-y-llyn Lake around 1900

A charabanc or "char-à-banc" [1] is a type of French char à bancs ("carriage with wooden benches"),[2] the vehicle having originated in France in the early 19th century.[3]

Although the vehicle has not been common on the roads since the 1920s, a few signs survive from the era; a notable example at Wookey Hole in Somerset warns that the road to the neighbouring village of Easton is unsuitable for charabancs.[4] The word 'charabanc' was in common usage until the middle of the 20th century but was deleted as obsolete from the pocket edition of the Collins Dictionary in 2011.[5]

Contents

  • History 1
  • Cultural references 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

History

Introduced in the 1840s as a French sporting vehicle, the char à bancs was popular at race meetings and for hunting or shooting parties. It could be pulled by a four-in-hand team of horses or a pair in pole gear. It had two or more rows of crosswise bench seats, plus a slightly lower rear seat for a groom, and most also had a slatted trunk for luggage. Initially used by the wealthy, they were later enlarged with more seats for school or works excursions and tourist transport, as a cheaper version of the tourist coach. The first charabanc in Britain was presented to Queen Victoria by Louis Philippe of France and is preserved in the Royal Mews.[6]

Before the First World War, motor charabancs were used mainly for day trips, as they were not comfortable enough for longer journeys, and were largely replaced by motor buses in the 1920s.

Motorised charabanc, early 1920s.

The charabanc of the 1920s tended to last only a few years. It was normal at the time for the body to be built separately to the motor chassis and some were fitted in summer only; a second goods body would be fitted in its place in winter to keep the vehicle occupied.

Charabancs normally were open, with a large canvas folding hood stowed at the rear in case of rain, like a convertible motor car. If rain started, this had to be pulled into position, a very heavy task, and it was considered honourable for the male members of the touring party to assist in getting it into position. The side windows would be of mica (a thin layer of quartz-like stone).

The charabanc offered little or no protection to the passengers in the event of an overturning accident, they had a high centre of gravity when loaded (and particularly if overloaded), and they often traversed the steep and winding roads leading to the coastal villages popular with tourists. These factors led to fatal accidents which contributed to their early demise.

Factory day outings (annual works trips) in the 19th and early 20th century were quite common for workers, especially for those from the northern weaving mill towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire during the wakes weeks. The 1940s and '50s were relatively hard times due to national recovery being slow after the Second World War; rationing was still evident and annual holidays had not really become established for poorer workers such as weavers and spinners, so a day's outing to the seaside was a rare treat and all that some workers with large families could afford. "Charabanc trips" were usually only for adults, again due to finance. Occasionally the mill owner would help to pay for these outings, but this was not always the case.

The charabancs, or coaches, were pretty basic vehicles; noisy, uncomfortable and often poorly upholstered with low-backed seats and used mainly for short journeys to the nearest resort town or the smog and grime of the busy mill towns.

Later, in the late 1960s and 1970s, as the mills prospered and things improved financially, the annual "wakes week" took over and a one-week mass exodus from northern mill towns during the summer months took precedence over the charabanc trips, and a full week's holiday at a holiday camp or in a seaside boarding house for the full family became the norm, instead of a single day out.

Cultural references

The charabanc is notably mentioned in Dylan Thomas's short story "A Story", also known as "The Outing".[7] In this piece the young Thomas unintentionally finds himself on the annual men's charabanc outing to Porthcawl. Within the story the charabanc is referred to as a 'chara' in colloquial Welsh English.

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee features a 1917 charabanc outing from rural Gloucestershire to Weston-super-Mare.[8]

Vince Hill's A Day at the Seaside begins with the line "Climb up little darling, into the charabanc".[9] The song, written by Les Vandyke, came fifth in the 1963 Song for Europe competition.[10]

A char-a-banc also figures prominently in Rudyard Kipling's short story "The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat"[11]

Char-a-bancs are mentioned in Dorothy Edwards' book The Witches and the Grinnygog in the chapter entitled "Mrs. Umphrey's Ghost Story". In it, Mrs. Umphrey tries to reassure the ghost of Margaret that the char-a-bancs are not the chariots of devils.

"Peaches", a single by the Stranglers makes reference to a charabanc, with vocalist Hugh Cornwell explaining to the listener how he will be stuck on a beach "the whole summer" after missing a charabanc.

In Agatha Christie's "The Dead Harlequin", from The Mysterious Mr Quin series, the young artist Frank Bristow reacts angrily to the older Colonel Monkton's dismissive (and presumably snobbish) attitude towards charabancs and their use in tourism.

Charabancs appeared several times in John Le Carre's The Little Drummer Girl.

The Jethro Tull song "Wond'ring Again" by Ian Anderson uses the term: "Incestuous ancestry's charabanc ride..." [12]

References

  1. ^ "char-à-banc".   (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ World Wide Words: Charabanc
  3. ^ charabanc - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Bates, Claire (22 August 2011). "Use them or lose them! Aerodrome and charabanc become obsolete as they are scrapped from dictionaries". The Daily mail (Associated Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Smith, D. J. (1994). Discovering Horse-drawn Vehicles. Osprey Publishing. pp. 85–86.  
  7. ^ , by Dylan Thomas.The Collected Stories New Directions Publishing, 1984.
  8. ^ Stage adaptation of Cider with Rosie at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.
  9. ^ Vince Hill replies to correspondence
  10. ^ All Music biography of Vince Hill, by Dave Thompson
  11. ^ http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/8324
  12. ^ http://www.metrolyrics.com/wondring-again-lyrics-jethro-tull.html

External links

  • Charabancs, coaches and carriages on Jersey
  • Rockin' Down the Highway with Paul Grushkin: April 2007.
  • Seabrook Coaching Stable Dispersal Auction: Roof-seat Break. The Carriage Association of America, Inc.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.