Coachlines - September 2023

29.09.23 Junior Warden Mark Broadbent

Restoration of a private town coach

The latest coach to be completely restored by Junior Warden Mark Broadbent and his colleagues at Fenix Carriages, has a rather interesting history.

The work, which required almost a complete rebuild and repaint, was finished earlier this year for its owner Peter Cordrey, a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Carmen.

When a coach arrives at the Fenix workshops for restoration, Mark likes to research as much of the history of the vehicle as possible, which makes the restoration work more enjoyable, bringing the whole project to life, and adds provenance value. Mark soon noticed a No2 brass plaque fitted to the coach’s front futchells, confirming it was once No. 2 Town Coach from the Royal Mews.

This elegant C sprung town coach was made by Woburn and Company of Oxford Street, London, in the 1880s for the Royal Mews. The Mews had a number of such coaches, used for transporting important people in and around town, from railway stations and embassies to Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. Edward VIII was King from 20th January 1936 to 11th December 1936. He sold a lot of carriages from the Royal Mews collection during this period, probably to make room for the new motor cars at that time.

In August 1936, Joachim Von Ribbentrop was appointed German Ambassador to Great Britain with orders to negotiate an Anglo-German alliance. Ribbentrop arrived to take up his post in October 1936. He travelled from the German Embassy at No. 9 Carlton Terrace to Buckingham Palace in November 1936 to present his letters of credence to the uncrowned King Edward VIII. On this occasion, he was transported in No.2 Town Coach, and is thought to be the last person to have travelled in the coach, as shown in the photograph.

After it was sold, the coach spent much of its life being used in the film business, which caused much damage and considerable alterations over the years; which had to be restored back to how it would have been originally. The first job was to remove and re build the wheels. After this was done the coach was re-assembled and made correct as regard levels etc, before being completely stripped for its thorough restoration. Some areas were so rotted, they just crumbled away when dismantled, and required completely re-making. This involved matching the original carving and such areas of quality work and finish that the coach enjoyed when first made. The heavy leather straps that attached the body to the suspension and other leatherwork were re-made by John McDonald and Kate Hetherington, past award winner of the Coachmakers Company.


After more than 2,000 hours’ work involving totally rebuilding some completly rotten parts, matching intricate carving, 22 coats of paint and re-trimming, the coach was finished in April 2023.

The work took two years, and when finished, Mark asked Past Master Graham Cole CBE, who initiated the unveiling of the Quicksilver at his Coachmakers’ banquet in 2019, to do the honours again, and present it to its owner, Peter Cordrey. It currently resides in the collection at Fenix Carriages, but will be moved to new premises next year when Peter has completed a purpose-built building for his car and carriage collection.