To see photographs of the Grimston carriage please clickhere.
The Grimston / Verulam carriage was in full display at Flora and Pete Letanka's wedding on 1 June. It could be seen crossing the road from the Gorhambury drive into St. Michael's Street where it waited until the service was over and then it crossed back again taking the bride and groom up to Gorhambury. It last came into service when Marjorie and John Grimston returned home from their honeymoon in 1938. In the intervening years it languished, was given some care and attention, and then languished again. In the latter years it was stored in a garage at Gorhambury where it looked a sad shadow of its former self. The prospect of Flora's wedding was a spur to get something done. Rosie and Jamie Grimston very generously rose to the challenge and arranged for it to go to Kent to be restored by Fairbourne. This took months and the carriage only returned on the Thursday before the wedding. Duncan at Fairbourne tells us that what we have here is a town chariot which was built by Barker and Co in Longacre, London sometime between 1880 and 1900. The key to the theory of the date is that the spring system is composed of eight springs, which was only a feature of chariots after 1840. Also there is no sword box so the chariot probably post dates the last time that men carried swords as a matter of course. A feature of town chariots is that they have no brakes, so the hill down from Gorhambury poses something of a challenge for the coachman who uses the back pair of horses, his wheelers, as the brake. As soon as the chariot comes to a halt, the footman jumps down and puts a chock under a back wheel. From around 1820 it was fashionable to have a hammer cloth draping the coachman's seat. The Grimston chariot has one and the decoration on it and the internal upholstery is based on a Grimston heraldic motif, the star. The fittings on the exterior are made from close plated brass. Duncan considers that this is a lost art which is a pity as the detailing is exquisite. Brass foil would have been soldered on to the cast iron or cast steel fittings. When Fairbourne stripped the chariot down for repair they found that wood worm had all but destroyed it so Flora and Pete's marriage came in the nick of time. The restoration has been done extremely sensitively so that repair, rather than renovation, has been the method. When the bare bones were revealed, "Earl of Verulam" was written in chalk beneath the upholstery. At the end of the nineteenth century Barker and Co might have had several chariots on the go at any one time. Johnny and Flora and then Pete and Flora reported that the chariot was extremely comfortable and they loved their rides in the chariot so ably driven by Haydn Webb and his two magnificent matching pairs of coach horses. When Pete asked his page Merlin Grimston, aged two, where he thought Aunt Flora and Uncle Pete lived, although Merlin had visited their flat in Peckham, he replied with alacrity, "in a chariot".