6. Normanby Hall Stable Yard: Researching the objects (3): Bad surprise?

Humber Museums Partnership - 6. Normanby Hall Stable Yard: Researching the objects (3): Bad surprise?

About the project

One of the objects in the Coach House was thought to be our grandest. A beautiful town chariot.

The Town Chariot in the Coach House at Normanby

Interior of the Town Chariot

It belonged to the Dixon family of Holton-le-Moor in Lincolnshire. It is in a very good condition, most of its bright yellow paint still intact and it is beautifully upholstered. The only thing missing was the undercarriage! It was a chariot without wheels. So we started thinking of getting a new undercarriage made for the chariot, to make it look its very best. But first I wanted to know a bit more about it, like who made it and how old is it.

Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, as someone else has done it for you. In 2017 I was contacted by Dr Richard Olney and Dr Nicholas Bennett. They were wanting to see any wagons that were related to the Dixon Family as Dr Olney was writing a book about them. The book was published in 2018 with the title “Farming and Society in North Lincolnshire: The Dixons of Holton-le-Moor, 1741-1906”. Dr Olney had mentioned some of the wagons but not the chariot so I contacted him. And there was the surprise: Dr Olney found out that the chariot was bought in 1908 purely for the Dixon children to play with! It most likely never even had an undercarriage while it belonged to the Dixons.

So the grand chariot was now a children’s playhouse. At first I was disappointed that we no longer had a chariot that beautiful ladies and smart gentleman rode out in to go to parties or casual drives into the country side. But in the end we do have a chariot with a good and slightly funny story. It is still a beautiful object and now with a different interesting history. We have decided to leave it as it was, no undercarriage.

Parts of a chariot

Town Chariot with undercarriage (Credit – Science Museum Group Collection)