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British Industrial History

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1824 Barnstaple-London Carriage

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1824 January. Letter. 'Sir - On my return from Barnstaple to London yesterday, I met on the road a newly-invented mechanical carriage, travelling without horses at the same rate as the mail, and carrying two persons, one of which propelled it in a very easy manner. I was induced, from the novelty of the machine, and the ease with which it travelled up hill, to inquire the inventor's name, and was informed it was a foreigner, who was driving it for a considerable wager to London. It arrived at Hammersmith at five o'clock this morning, gaining the wager. It will be in London to-morrow. Signed: Charing-cross Coffee-house, Jan. 29, 1824.[1] (Same letter but signed A. V.)[2]

1824 February. 'A carriage of a very ingenious construction, similar in appearance to a gig, but having a seat somewhat larger, being capable of holding three persons, passed over Waterloo-bridge, on Saturday evening, being propelled in its movements by a person sitting inside, and going with as much ease and quick a rate if it were drawn by horse. It had come through Holborn, the Blackfriars-road, and past the Obelisk. It is the same that arrived the other day from Barnstaple, an account which lately appeared in the London papers.'[3]

1824 March. 'Now exhibiting at 26 St. James Street, the newly invented carriage which ran with the mail from Barnstaple to London propelled without the help of horses or steam. This carriage unlike all others that have preceded it has overcome the hitherto insurmountable difficulty of ascending hills, and travelled at the rate of eight miles an hour.' [4]

1824 March. 'The carriage which was lately conducted to London from Barnstaple, by a Frenchman, at the rate of eight miles per hour, and by means of which hills may be ascended with comparatively little labour, is on the principle the turning lathe, only worked by the hands and arms, and guided by the feet: a cord passes over two wheels before the operator moves the two hind wheels; with a third before it is guided; and to make the cord act, knots are made in it, which answer to knobs on the surface of the wheels above, and on the pulleys attached to the fellies of the two hind wheels. The simplicity of the invention its greatest merit; it is now exhibiting in London.'[5][6]

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Sources of Information

  1. Morning Post - Friday 30 January 1824
  2. Westmorland Gazette - Saturday 07 February 1824
  3. Hereford Journal - Wednesday 11 February 1824
  4. The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Monday, March 15, 1824
  5. Coventry Herald - Friday 19 March 1824
  6. Hampshire Chronicle - Monday 22 March 1824