28.05.23 Assistant Mark Broadbent

Coachmakers Bursary winners gain valuable insights at Fenix Carriages

Pictured above: students Rupert, Leigh and Eleanor receive their certificates from Assistant Mark Broadbent

In mid-April the three successful applicants for the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers’ Training Bursary gathered at Assistant Mark Broadbent’s Fenix Carriages in Devon for two days of intensive instruction and discussion.

The idea of the bursary was to inspire and encourage younger members of the driving community to the traditions, etiquette and sheer enjoyment of coaching, which in turn will necessitate the continuation of skills required for both operating coaches and the craftsmanship required for restoring and making coaches and harnesses in the future.

The original aim was that two people would be offered the chance of attending the training but as the response to the announcement was high in number and in quality, Mark decided that three could be included. The selectors made the offer to Eleanor Rose, Rupert Barnard and Leigh Phillips. All three are involved in driving, had pair experience, and showed great enthusiasm to learn more about four in hand coaching.

The training was led by Mark, currently the President of the Coaching Club and probably one of the most experienced teachers in today’s carriage driving world, with Bob Elliott in attendance to add his experience in particular fields. Josiah Rowlands, who often grooms for Mark at coaching meets, together with Joanna Broadbent were there to assist with the turnouts that were used.

The first day started with an insight into coaching history; through the early stagecoaches, the mails, the driving clubs and the coaching revival, to today’s requirements for safely and stylishly putting a coach on the road. The coach house at Fenix accommodates four road coaches and four private coaches, all with their own features and peculiarities, plus the famous 1827 ‘Quicksilver’ Mail coach. This extensive collection offers so much variety in one place that it makes a great coaching learning opportunity.

Mark shares his experience and insights with the students

Then followed detailed discussions covering the correct turnout of a road coach and a private coach, comparing the differences, and how they should be produced in today’s climate. This included practical demonstrations, and a chance to practice rein handling, whip handling, harnessing, putting to and taking out a team, use of the brake and the drag shoe, the role and turnout of grooms and of the guard, climbing up and down and loading passengers.

In the afternoon the students went through harnessing and driving a pair, as an assessment of their potential to drive a team on day two. The day finished with further coaching conversation over a meal in a local old coaching inn.

The Millennium Coach takes to the road

Day two involved harnessing and putting to a team, initially to an exercise vehicle for a four in hand driving opportunity and assessment before turning out the Millennium Coach for a road drive. After lunch a showing of the recently made History Hit channel mail coach documentary was followed by further discussion prior to the presentation of certificates to all three attendees together with a Coaching Club book, a 1950 Coaching Club turnout booklet, and an invitation to a Coachmakers’ Dinner in the summer.

I think it is fair to say that all those present regarded the event as a resounding success and are all keen to pursue the subject further. Mark and Bob were delighted with the enthusiasm and feedback from Rupert, Eleanor and Leigh.

“I am eternally grateful for this wonderful opportunity. The history of coaching is so vast, it is so important that the knowledge is passed down through generations and the passion is kept alive. Mark and Bob are so inspirational, I could listen to them for days on end. Their knowledge seems almost infinite, I feel that we only touched the surface and I’m very keen to learn more.

“I am looking forward to putting everything I have learnt to good use this coming season and hope to contribute as much as possible to the future of coaching for many years to come.” – Eleanor Rose.

“Dear Mark,
I am writing to express my sincere thanks to you, the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers, and the wider team at Fenix Carriages for giving me the opportunity to attend the Coaching Bursary course. It has been a brilliant way to get under the skin of the coaching world, and to really get into the detail of the discipline. Such experience can only be gained at centres of excellence, and I would like to thank you particularly for opening your collection to us and providing your horses to support our learning.” – Rupert Barnard.

“A fantastic opportunity and experience which will have a lasting impact on my coaching journey.” – Leigh Phillips.