Esoteric London

No. 105: Basil Street, SW3

Posted in London Types, Transport by esotericlondon on July 23, 2010

Bugatti Veyron, Basil Street, Knightsbridge, London, SW3. Photo © Roger Dean 2010

Curiosities of London – John Timbs, 1867:

The Four–in-Hand Club originated some seventy years ago, when the Hon. Charles Finch, brother to the Earl of Aylesford, used to drive his own coach-and-four, disguised in a livery great-coat. Soon after, “ Tommy Onslow,” Sir John Lade, and others, mounted the box in their own characters. The Four-in-Hand combined gastronomy with equestrianism and charioteering: they always drove out of town to dinner. The vehicles of the Club which were formerly used, are described as of a hybrid class, quite as elegant as private carriages, and lighter than even the mails. They were horsed with the finest animals that money could secure. In general, the whole four in each carriage were admirably matched; grey and chestnut were the favourite colours, but occasionally very black horses, or such as were freely flecked with white, were preferred. The master generally drove the team, often a nobleman of high rank, who commonly copied the dress of a mail-coachman. The company usually rode outside, but two footmen in rich liveries were indispensable on the back seat; nor was it at all uncommon to see some splendidly-attired female on the box. A rule of the Club was, that all members should turn out three times a week; and the start was made at mid-day, from the neighbourhood of Piccadilly, through which they passed to the Windsor-road – the attendants of each carriage playing on their silver bugles. From twelve t twenty of these handsome vehicles often left London together.  Forty years back there were from thirty-four to forty four-in-hand equipages  to be seen constantly about town. Their number is now considerably less.

[A little corner of Knightsbridge has become the place for the young Middle Eastern super rich to gather with their cars during July and August. Simon Mills’ article in the Evening Standard provides further reading. R.D.]

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