A superb state coach – last used at the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – is to go on display at the National Trust’s Arlington Court in Devon.
The Speaker’s State Coach, a symbol of the power and status of the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been in use for state occasions since the early 18th century.
The loan of the coach by the House of Commons is the first in a series of exhibitions around the country where it can be seen and enjoyed by the public.
The coach will be the star attraction at Arlington Court’s Carriage Museum which houses a renowned collection of historic British carriages and coaches that were used for every occasion.
The spectacular painted and gilded Speaker’s Coach – the work of a number of highly skilled woodcarvers – is believed to have been made in 1698 for King William III. It was presented to the Speaker a few years later by Queen Anne. You can watch some historical British Pathé footage of the carriage here http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=60904
In the last three hundred years, the coach has been the subject of many repairs and refurbishments.
Last used by Speaker Thomas in 1981, the coach was then displayed at various venues in London before being removed for conservation work to begin.
The conservation now complete, the original and vibrant beauty and colours of the unique coach can be appreciated once more.
Ana Chylak, National Trust Property Manager said:
”Our historic carriages at Arlington range from those used every day to ones reserved for special occasions, so we are thrilled to be able to display the Speaker’s State Coach which is very special indeed. In its restored condition, its detail and decoration are absolutely breath-taking.
“I am sure that our visitors will be enthralled to see such a wonderful part of our country’s heritage in our collection.”
John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: “The state coach is a magnificent example of an early 18th century carriage and an important piece of the United Kingdom’s parliamentary heritage. Therefore I am delighted that now it no longer has any practical role in parliamentary life it can be passed into the care of the National Trust and viewed by as wide an audience as possible. The carriage museum at Arlington Court, with its extensive collection, was an obvious place for the coach and we hope it will be the first of a series of appropriate exhibition venues around the country where the coach might be seen and enjoyed by the public.”
The Speaker’s State Coach will go on display at Arlington Court, near Barnstaple, Devon, from Saturday 12 March. For opening times and further information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk or telephone 01271 850296.