Carriages and charabancs

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Early horse-drawn charabancs could carry a significant number of passengers, always properly dressed in suits for the men, long dresses for the ladies, and hats for everyone
An excursion car prepares to leave from the Weighbridge

Excursions

The charabanc - literally translated as carriage with benches, and its pronunciation gradually Anglicised from 'car-a-baw' to 'sharabang' - was the forerunner of today's tourist coach. In the 19th century holidaymakers in Jersey and Guernsey were taken on excursions in horse-drawn carriages and enclosed coaches, and as these coaches got larger, the initial layout of bench seats facing forwards and backwards switched to a continuous bench around the outside of the carriage. Then even longer vehicles had three or more rows of bench seats and the charabanc was born.

Works outings

The name is by no means unique to the Islands, because charabancs were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries for works outings in England, but it was as a means of carrying a number of passengers to the popular tourist locations in the holiday islands that they were in their element. They were often also known as excursion cars.

The arrival of the motor car brought motorised charabancs, with special open bodies commissioned from coachbuilders. In some parts of the world exceptionally long versions were constructed, but these were not suitable for the islands' narrow roads.

Enclosed bodywork

Gradually charabancs with enclosed bodywork were produced and the modern bus and motor coach were born.

Picture gallery

We have now divided this gallery into three sections

  • Horse-drawn carriages
  • Horse-drawn charabancs, including stage coaches and early omnibuses
  • Motorised vehicles

Where dates for the photographs are known we have sorted these images in chronological order. It will be seen that motorised charabancs were very slow to take over from horse-drawn vehicles, which were still in use up to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, and for a while afterwards.

Pictures of charabanc outings are widely available as postcards, because they were frequently taken by photographers for sale to visitors the following day, printed as postcards to send home. It was also common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for employers to organise outings for their staff, with transport varying between carriages, coaches and charabancs according to the size of the enterprise. We have attempted to arrange this gallery, as far as possible, into chronological order. Later images will be found in our Coaches gallery and you should also visit our Picture gallery of buses for further pictures of public transport vehicles - Click on image to see larger picture

Horse-drawn carriages

This early 20th century photograph shows a well-to-do family out for a drive, probably in their own carriage, driven by their own chauffeur. On a sunny day in a quiet country lane the opportunity was presented to stop and take a photograph. Perhaps there had been another gentlemen in the carriage with the two ladies, and it was he who took the picture. We suspect that the photograph dates from around 1905, perhaps a little later

Horse-drawn charabancs

This picture of a horse-drawn charabanc was taken in 1918, nearly 20 years after the first motor car arrived in an island which was very slow to adapt to the major 19th century inventions, including electric light, the telephone and motorised road transport
One of our earliest photographs of a carriage excursion - a Paragon outing in 1868
A very smartly dressed Edwardian group. Tour guide Harry Baker can be seen standing at the front on the right
A large group of carriages about to depart on an outing from the Esplanade
Harry the guide (third from right at front) has lent his bag and sash to the lady standing next to him

Motorised charabancs

A Gordon Bennett Paragon Cars charabanc in 1921. The vehicle was undoubtedly several years old at the time
The Mascot fleet in 1938 or 1939. The Germans shipped the vehicles to France before June 1944
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