24.05.22 Hon Court Asst David Barrett

The Commodore Coach

When Hon Court Asst David Barrett joined the City Pickwick Club on a jolly jaunt to Rochester in May and photographed a model coach, little did he realise that the model was that of the very coach that is mentioned in Charles Dickens’s book, The Pickwick Papers.

The coach arrives in Rochester, 30 March 1935. Credit: Topfoto

In fact, research by Coachlines has found a picture of the actual coach taken on 30th March 1935, in Rochester, outside the famous Bull Coaching Inn, as it is welcomed from London by the Mayor of Rochester after a centenary drive.

The picture was used in newspapers around the world including the New York Times, which recorded: “LONDON, March 30. After a hundred years Mr. Pickwick today drove again behind a four-in-hand in the self-same Commodore coach 31 miles from London to Rochester, commemorating the centenary of the publication of the first part of the immortal Pickwick Papers. March 31st, 1936.”

David found the model coach on display in Restoration House in Rochester, where Charles II spent the night on his way home from exile in Paris, to London and the restoration of the monarchy.

David said: Displayed in the house was this fascinating 1860 model of a coach, no doubt used for the London to Rochester and Dover run. He quipped: “Apparently the cheap seats are on the roof!” Little did he realise that it was a model of the actual coach.”

The coach and the Bull Hotel are mentioned in various publications and below there is a passage from The Pickwick Papers:

“This coherent speech was interrupted by the entrance of the Rochester coachman, to announce that ‘the Commodore’ was on the point of starting.

“ ‘Commodore!’ said the stranger, starting up, ‘my coach – place booked, – one outside – leave you to pay for the brandy and water, want change for a five, bad silver – Brummagem buttons won’t do no go eh?’ and he shook his head most knowingly.

“Now it so happened that Mr. Pickwick and his three companions had resolved to make Rochester their first halting-place too; and having intimated to their new-found acquaintance that they were journeying to the same city, they agreed to occupy the seat at the back of the coach, where they could all sit together.”

David Barrett said: “It just goes to show what a little research can do. It was obvious that the coach was used on the London to Rochester and Dover run but we had no idea that it was a model of the actual coach.”

Editor: If anyone knows if the coach still exists, we would be grateful if they would let us know.

Restoration House, Rochester

The Restoration House was built as two in 1454 and 1502 then joined. Wikipedia has the full story on the overnight stay by Charles II in May 1660. It is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from June to Sept this year. The house is renaissance architecture, absolutely fascinating with a fabulous garden. It is privately owned by two gentlemen who have spent a fortune on it.