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Government House offers carriage for auction

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It is hoped history lovers will acquire this century-old carriage, a relic from the days before the motor car in Bermuda (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

It would have been frequently used back in the days when Government House had a full team of horses and grooms on call.

Now a Brewster Victoria horse-drawn carriage that has sat in storage at Government House at Langton Hill in Pembroke is headed for the auction block in the hope that a collector will restore a piece of the island’s history.

Carriages and horse-drawn carts were once the vehicle of choice on Bermuda’s roads, and persisted even after the advent of motor cars in the late 1940s.

Many carriage varieties could be seen, with the Surrey, a two-seater with a fringed cover that could be drawn by a single horse, standing out as the most popular.

Later popular as a tourist attraction — immortalised in songs such as Bermuda Buggy Ride by the Talbot Brothers — carriage numbers have dwindled in the past 20 years as tastes changed, costs rose and traffic congestion dominated the island’s roads.

The Royal seal on Government House’s Brewster Victoria carriage (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Captain Alexander Gibbs, aide-de-camp to Rena Lalgie, the Governor, said the carriage headed for sale should not be confused with the historically prominent Landau carriage — which has transported royalty and dignitaries including the late Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and President Harry Truman, and continues to be used by the Governor for ceremonial duties.

He said: “There is almost no written history on this particular carriage.

“Local carriage enthusiasts believe it to be manufactured by Brewster & Co, specifically a Victoria model carriage dating back at least 100 years.”

According to carriage historians, this model would have required an experienced driver.

Mr Gibbs said it was likely put to use for “general duties — exercising the horses and running errands around town in a time before motorised vehicles were introduced and regularly owned in Bermuda”.

The carriage is among a dozen items set to go under the hammer via the Ministry of Public Works as surplus equipment.

Mr Gibbs said it was headed for sale because Government House had not been home to a team of horses or had an operational use for the Victoria carriage in “a multitude of decades”.

“However, there has been an interest from Bermuda’s carriage community in buying the carriage and restoring it to a useable and roadworthy state.

“Effectively, authorisation has been granted for the public auction of the carriage and, in accordance with Financial Instructions, the proceeds from the sale will go directly to the Consolidated Fund.”

He added: “It is hoped that the carriage will become a showpiece that someone will use to once again exercise horses around Bermuda, perhaps even featuring in a future agricultural exhibition.”

Affection for the bygone mode of transport still runs deep in Bermuda.

St George’s was once home to the Carriage House Museum, a tourist attraction that shut after it was badly damaged by Hurricane Fabian in 2003.

According to the ministry notice, the items are to be sold as they are, without warranty.

Mr Gibbs can be reached on 444-2403.

Last bids must come in at the Ministry of Works and Engineering offices in Hamilton by 3pm on Wednesday.

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Published November 08, 2022 at 1:05 pm (Updated November 08, 2022 at 1:05 pm)

Government House offers carriage for auction

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