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Written by JulieW
(4/8/2006 2:05 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, I like this one (ch.10), and a question about travelling chairs, penned by Line
I thought you might appreciate some information on sedan chairs, or as they were called during Jas era, simply, chairs.
In the chapters before us for consideration this week we have this lovely vision of an excited Catherine going home after being slightly complimented, in her sedan chair…..
She was looked at, however, and with some admiration; for, in her own hearing, two gentlemen pronounced her to be a pretty girl. Such words had their due effect; she immediately thought the evening pleasanter than she had found it before — her humble vanity was contented — she felt more obliged to the two young men for this simple praise than a true–quality heroine would have been for fifteen sonnets in celebration of her charms, and went to her chair in good humour with everybody, and perfectly satisfied with her share of public attention.
Sedan chairs had been in use throughout Europe since the 17th century, and were particularly useful in Bath
The need for a sedan chair service in Bath stemmed from its growing fashionableness set against the restrictions of its cramped site, surrounded by the river Avon to one side and hills on the others( anyone who has been there knows it set among the hills rather like a pudding basin, no offence intended!)
As William Stuckley, the Lincolnshire antiquarian, wrote after a visit to Bath, the city’s small compass, still largely within the medieval walls, had forced its inhabitants to
croud up the streets to an unseemly and inconvenient narrowness.
SeeItinerarium Curiosum(1776) p 146.
The Bath terrain was difficult for carts and wagons to attempt,, let alone coaches. Bath’s tight thoroughfares were really more suited to chair traffic than to horse-drawn vehicles, and so during the 18th century the need for chairs led to the growth in their use
When Queen Anne visited Bath in 1703 twenty porters stood by at the top of Lansdown to meet her and her retinue just in case she and her party preferred to make the dangerous descent into the city by sedan instead of coach !
In the early days of the invention they were somewhat restricting and were not the solid, and , I consider, cosy conveyance they eventually became.
This picture shows some French chairs crica 1680.
They look rather claustrophobic to me, but however , they sound similar to the type of chair described by Celia Feinnes ( yes, gentle reader,an ancestrees of the Divine Ralph), from her account of her tour through England. She is describing the earliest type of chairs used at Bath to transport people to the Baths( all her own spellings , note)
Ye Charies you go in( to the Abths-JW) are a low seate and with frames round and over yr head, and all cover’d inside and without with red bayes and a Curtaine drawn before ye of the same which makes it close and warme; then a couple of men with staves takes and Carryes you to your lodging and sets you at your bedside where you go to bed and lay and sweate some tyme as you please
See:Through England on a Side-saddle in the Times of William and Mary pp13-14
In her writings about Bath in the late 17th century, Celia Feinnes also wrote of the true sedan chairs(as we imagine them) which were for hire as in London:
Ye town and all its accommodations is adapted to ye bathing and drinking of the waters and to nothing else, the streets are well pitched and Cleane kept and there are Chaires as in London to Carry ye Better sort of people in visits, or if sick and infirme and is only in the town for it is so Emcompassed with high hills few care to take the aire in them.
This picture above shows the more common type of sedan chair( or glass chair, for they had glass windows to protect the passenger for the elements.) The picture above is of Covent Garden in London circa 1780. You will note the collonade : this was built especially to house chairs waiting for hire.
As the number of chairs rose on the streets of Bath, the Corporation sought to control and regulate the chairs and ,of course ,the chairmen.
They had acts of parliament passed to this effect. Now, anyone who has read the terms of hire for taxis will be familiar with this next part of my post…..
The Corporation was given the power by various acts of parliament to issue licenses to Chairmen and to restrict the number of license issued. It also set the fees the chairmen could properly charge.
The following form my copy of the New Bath Guide for 1769 will sound familiar to anyone who has read the notices in the back of modern taxis, I am sure.
The mayor and Aldermen of this city, or any five of them ,whereof the Mayor for the Time being to be one, shall license all or any persons or persons who shall carry or keep any Glass Chair… within the said City of Bath or the Liberties or Precincts thereof, the Charge of every such license is not to exceed the Sum of Three shillings , which is to be paid by every successive chairman besides the duty of stamps; and that the Number of class and Bath chairs so licensed shall not be under 70 if so many be requested by any Person or Persons fitly qualified; the said License shall b e granted for the Term of one Year from the date of each respective license, and no longer.
The Chairs thus licensed are to have a mark of distinction by figure or otherwise as the Mayor and Aldermen shall think proper ; and the said Mark shall be placed on the back of every Chair in the most conspicuous and convenient manner to be taken notice of.
And if any Person or Persons presume to carry any glass chair within the city of bath the liberties or the Precincts thereof without such leave or License; for every such Offence shall forfeit the Sum of Thirteen shillings and fourpence; And the Chairmen shall keep to such stands or places with the chairs and the mayor and Justices of the said City for the time being shall by any writing under their stands to be affixed to the Guildhall and on the Pump Room, order, direct and appoint ; and if any Chairman refuse obeying such orders or directions as aforesaid for every such offence shall forfeit the sum of ten shillings and upon complaint the Justices of the said city may suspend any of the said chairmen form working for any time not exceeding 40 days.
No chairman can demand for any one Fare from any part of the Walls of the said city more than the sum of six-pence; or to any place not exceeding the distance of more than 500 yards, more then six-pence;and for any greater length not exceeding one measured mile or 1760 yards the sum of one shilling; and no more than the sum of six=pence for every half hours waiting and so proportionally for any longer space of time. No chairman shall be required or obliged to carry any chair out of the liberties of the said city on the north and west side thereof no father down than the foot of Beechen-Cliffe ,Widecombe Hill ,Claverton Down and Bathwick Down on the south and East side of the City.
Any person the said Chairmen shall at any time carry may cause the chairman to stop as often as he or she shall require so as such persons do not detain the chairman above the space of ten minutes in every six penny fare or twenty minutes in every twelve pence fare; and in such case any chairman shall refuse to carry any such fare of shall exact demand or take more for his fare than the several acts of parliament or hall utter any abusive language or offer any other insult to the persons he so carried ; such Chairmen so offending and being convicted thereof by the Oath of one or more creditable Witness or Witnesses before the Mayor and Aldermen , shall for every such Offence forfeit the sum of ten shillings one Moiety of which is to go to the Informer and the other to the Poor of the City……,
The New Bath Guides also gave correct tables of distances form various points in Bath so that visitors could check that the fares they were charged by chairmen were correct and not exorbitant, and did not exceed those set down by the Corporation.
Trevor Fawcett has made a very exact study of the Chairmen in Bath and the following might be interesting to you:
Occasionally there were accidents: a chairman stumbled or ran into something, windows shattered, the whole contraption overturned. Sedan men often showed scant respect for pedestrians even on pavements, demanding precedence and the near side of buildings, taking corners too fast, and jostling through constricted areas like the notorious narrow passage between Orange Grove and Terrace Walk.
And although pedestrians were expected to give way when a chair bore down on them, at least the men shouted warnings of ‘Have care!’ or ‘By your leave, sir!’.
After dark a travelling sedan chair had to carry a lighted lamp or be accompanied by a link boy holding a flambeau: just as well, for chairs had the right to the pavement provided they did not ‘stop, jostle, or rub against any Person walking singly close to Houses or Walls."
Ordinary pedestrians had good cause to walk warily when fast-moving chairs were in the offing, with nightfall simply adding to the dangers. Chairs parked at their regular stands, which normally occupied part of the pavements, constituted a hazard at any time, especially if their long carrying poles had not been removed. ….
CHAIR TRANSPORT IN BATH: THE SEDAN ERA
There were of course private chairs, not just those for hire. Below is a particularly sumptuous one made for Queen Charlotte in 1763 by the firm of Samuel Vaughn ,Coventry Street Piccadilly , London which cost the astronomical sum of £185. 5s. 4 1/2 d(!).She employed four chairmen to carry the chair and their annual salary at this time was £39 7 s 6d per annum each.(see Partonage Collecting and Court Taste, exhibition catalogue pp268-9).
Below is a caricature showing someone very much, I imagine, like Mrs Allen; a fashion victim who was willing to put up with discomfort for the sake of her appearance .You can also see the chairmen’s very distinctive uniform( again like the one worn by the chairmen in London)The Bath chairmen wore a uniform, varying slightly over the decades and between winter and summer but comprising essentially a blue kersey coat or greatcoat, black knee-breeches, white stockings or gaiters, buckled shoes, and large cocked hat.
So, Line, to answer the questions you posed more directly, the hilly and confined terrain of Bath made travelling by chair a safer prospect than carriages, which is why the Allens and Catherine used them in NA; they were the 18th century equivalent of the taxi( the regulations to which they had to comform have been adapted through the years to apply to horse driven hackney carriages and the modern taxi!).Men and women would both have used the chairs.
Does that help?
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