30.10.23 Renter Warden David Barrett

Uncovering the Earl of Powis’s State Coach

One of the fascinating things about visiting National Trust, English Heritage and other historic properties is one often finds wonderful samples of preserved horse drawn coaches; usually in pristine condition.

Your Renter Warden visited Powis Castle in September, which is near Welshpool in Wales. There I found a State Coach used by the Earls of Powis since the mid 1800s and now displayed at the coach house at Powis Castle. The coach house was officially opened by the 8th Earl of Powis in 2003; the coach itself is believed to have been built by the 3rd Earl of Powis who succeeded to the title in 1848. It is believed to be built by London’s leading coachbuilders Wyburn and Co.

Uniforms for the coach’s staff were commissioned by the 4th Earl in 1898 so it is probable that the vehicle was built sometime between 1848 and 1898. According to the National Trust property manager, the coach is exceptionally well preserved and an excellent example of a 19th century nobleman’s State Coach

It is the only sample of this type of coach in the ownership of the National Trust and was bought by the Trust from the Powis family for £70,000. During the Victorian and Edwardian periods all aristocratic families had a distinctive uniform, or livery, for their servants and on formal occasions the coach was manned by a coachman and two footmen, it was used for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.

The coachman wore a white wig, three cornered hat, a heavily braided and silver corded coat, silk breaches and silver buckled shoes. The coach returned to Powis Castle in 1937 and has not been used for state occasions since. Sadly the carriage doors are kept closed because the silk upholstery interior is vulnerable to light damage.

The interior of the coach is trimmed in buttercup yellow corded silk and tan morocco leather. The doors are each fitted with a glass window which can be pulled up manually by a silk tassel strap. A panel designed to imitate a Venetian blind rests on the rail alongside the ornate door handle. A further spring blind is fitted on the inside above each door in crimson taffeta. A single silk tassel hanging from the roof of the coach links to a silk cord, this was attached to the Coachman’s finger and was the sole means of communication between passengers and driver.