Report from Lester Dagge January 2020
Attelage de Tradition is fast making a positive impact in the world of carriage driving, from the sun drenched plains of Spain to the dramatic splendours of Scotland. The fast growing popularity is re-igniting interest right across the European continent for all manners of life and work.
The principle purpose of ‘Attelage’ is to reawaken the use of traditional carriages that have long being discarded as inappropriate for modern life. Quite the contrary, as people are soon discovering the charm and ambiance that these remarkable vehicles unearth. We are finding participants are involving more friends and family within an event, taking full advantage of the friendly welcoming atmosphere, the pleasurable road drive (Routier) and the now obligatory Saturday night soiree.
The carriages are of course the star attraction, and each season we welcome the sight of ‘new’ carriages being introduced by eager competitors. Included in their acquisition is a strong provenance and history of their vehicle. Competitors go to extraordinary lengths to research their vehicles, ensuring it is complemented with the right appointments, fittings, harness and their attire. For example, competitors will endeavour to use the right lamps for their vehicle, and profess with glee that they have sourced the original matching lamps for their vehicles. One of the most rewarding statements is when the judge may ask the competitors ‘tell me about your vehicle’ and a fascinating story is revealed.
One such story is by ‘Attelage’ stalwart Rosemary Neal who acquired her McMullens of Hertford Crescent Phaeton a few years ago. Similar to a four wheel Dog Cart, the McMullens featured distinctive arched mud guards over the wheels that gave way to the term Crescent. The carriage also featured a distinct colouring with Hertford Blue over varnished wood, a perfect combination for a formal Country Vehicle. McMullens was a largely unheard of name, so when Rosemary undertook some further research, she discovered that McMullens were still in existence trading from the centre of Hertford. McMullens are a long established brewery who also manufactured carriages at the turn of the last century. They were delighted that Rosemary got in touch to reintroduce her carriage back to the company, ‘I was like finding a long lost relative” states Rosemary. It was astonishing to discover a number of newspaper adverts from the time clearly showing the carriage maker and Rosemary’s Crescent Phaeton.
Traditional skills are being unearthed to help maintain or reinstate turnouts. Carriage builders, upholsterers, whip makers, lamp makers, harness makers, milliners, tailors, seamstresses, saddlers, basket makers and a whole host of other trades are being deployed in this new pursuit.
We are finding that competitors are improving their game each year sourcing the right appointments for their turnout and adding their own sense of flamboyance to the mix. We have seen some extraordinary turnouts being presented in Spain and France with various permutations of horses and carriages from rustic peasant carts to Gala coaches.
Keen competitors share stories of astonishing ‘barn finds’ from dispersed collections or auctions. James Jeffery embraced this phenomenon with his recent acquisition of a 1904 Estate Break by Wilson of Sheffield. Purchased from the Warrender sale, Jimmy used this remarkable estate vehicle to illustrate a perfect Country turnout picture featuring his unicorn of distinctive part bred Freisian Highland ponies. The eye-catching turnout featured an appropriately dressed shooting party with grooms in complementary keepers tweeds and Jimmy's now iconic Smokestack top hat. Jimmy managed to embrace the essence of Attelage entirely, combining a fascinating original vehicle, a correctly appointed equipage, impressive driver skills, his unusual unicorn of horses and a party of happy smiling passengers!
The lessons learnt each year from “Attelage’ is the variety and fortitude of competitors for embracing difference, the shock of the new and the excitement of a challenge.. It can become addictive and with a warm friendly welcome awaiting everyone, be warned, you will have fun!
The main competitors in the UK this year are CIAT Glamis, CIAT, Sandringham, CIAT Euston, CIAT Tismans and CIAT Ashfields with full details available online at www.attelagedetradition.co.uk or on Facebook.