|484 receiving attention in the SDRT Museum||Photo © RJElliott 2000|
Many visitors will have seen the old coach body that has been lurking in the museum at Buckfastleigh since the 1970's; many will not know much of its history. It has been much aligned and often considered a candidate for the lighting-up wood pile!
It was originally obtained for the Association by the Midlands Group and owes its name to having been rescued from a garden in the village of Littleworth. As far as can be ascertained it was made for the Monmouth Railway by Smith and Wylie in 1848. Although there seems to have been some discussion about the running number the carriage does still clearly show '484' on the inside of each of its doors. It was a composite coach with a third class compartment at each end and a first class compartment in the middle. Its stagecoach ancestry is clearly apparent. That the occupants were much shorter than todays well nourished race of human beings is also very evident. All but the shortest people have to stoop inside the coach.
Now, you may well ask, why should we waste our time and money on this woodworm riddled chicken shed? It is in a pretty pickle with the side that has been hidden from view for years against the museum wall falling off. The panelling is in a state, the doors are in a state etc etc. But you see, its believed to be the sixth oldest existing coach in the country. So its beholden on us to do something to preserve it and, therefore, we have hatched a 'cunning plan'.
The Littleworth Coach will now be exhibited on top of an old wagon chassis. The wagon chassis itself is pre 1900. This will at least mean the coach can be moved in the future if necessary without incurring more damage. In order to give the coach some structural strength it has had its two missing compartment partitions replaced as well as new bits of vertical framing and some new panelling. All existing old wood will be retained and new bits scarfed onto them. Until now it has only held up by some internal strengthening pieces put in when it was moved from Warwickshire.
When you are next at Buckfastleigh have a look and see what we have achieved with this small but significant piece of Railway history.
Oldest Coaches in the UK (excluding replicas) in date order:-
|c1834||not known||Bodmin & Wadebridge||NRM York|
|c1840||not known||Bodmin & Wadebridge||NRM York|
|1842||2||London & Birmingham||NRM York (Queen Adelaide’s Royal Coach)|
|1846||31||Stockton & Darlington||Darlington|
|1846||59||Stockton & Darlington||Swindon Museum|
If anyone knows of more then do let us know.