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Horse-drawn farm cart interiors


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My first thought was that the traditional, horse-drawn farm cart would be like the equally traditional railway open wagon in that it would be painted on the outside and left as raw timber on the inside.

Then it occurred to me that that the traditional railway open wagon was a mass-produced, corporate product that was built down to a profit-margin, while the massive majority of farm carts were quality products built by local craftsmen.

 

Photographic evidence is inconclusive.  The black-and-white pictures that form the bulk of the contemporary records provide few clues, while the majority of colour pictures are of either restorations or modern replicas so unlikely to be authentic.

My gut feeling is that the insides of the sides would have been painted while the much harder life endured by the floors and the probable need to replace them on a regular basis anyway meant they would have been left as raw timber.  This is, however, no more than a hunch.

 

I'm 56 and was brought up in West London but even I can just about remember the horse-drawn wagons of rag-and-bone men.

Hopefully someone older than me who has a better memory and was brought up somewhere less metropolitan can provide more reliable information about a greater variety of carts and wagons.

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As a teenager I used to hang out at the local stables which were formerly a farm and there were several old wagons and carts, some still  in use including a tumbril, which I drove occasionally. They were very weathered and faded but the insides of the sides were definitely painted. However the floors were well worn wood.

 

Pete

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 I'm 65 (in a few days) and can remember some horse dawn wagons.

 

The coal merchant in the village I lived in during the mid 1950s had a flat wagon, dark blue woodwork on the single plank of the "body", wheels and frames red.  The floor and inside of the single plank were  "coal" colour.

 

The nurseryman we bought plants from in Nottingham in the early 1960s had a cart which was painted a nondescript brown, from memory the inside was unpainted.

 

Shipstones still delivered a lot of beer in horse drawn wagons then.  They were painted red, if I remember correctly they were flat beds but with boards front and back, also red, I think that the inside part of these were also painted.  Beer barrels were held in a framework, I seem to remember a mix of varnish and unpainted wood.

 

Some old photos appear to show existence of colour, others are clearly unpainted, just by looking at the condition of the wood.

 

I think it probably depended on the owner, how much money they could spend on their wagons and, remember that for long periods farmers were not rich.  Older wagons probably got painted now and then, rather like present day farm machinery, painting the inside would be a low priority as long as the timber remained sound.

 

The colour and wagon designs were often specific to individual counties/regions.  The small books in the "Shire" series can be useful - I have "Discovering Carts and Wagons ISBN 0 85263 885 X, pub 1987 (3rd edition).   From the photos in it it looks as though some may have been painted inside when new, others not.

 

It might also be worth asking at a museum such as Beamish who may know if there were traces of paint on the inside when they acquired items, however they may have been restored.

 

David

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My grandfather had a couple of horse drawn carts - preserved with love from his father's farm (he was born in 1900) I can just about remember his museum of old days in one of the barns. As a young boy in the 50's I played on them. IIRC they were painted inside and out - however remember they were out of use museum pieces and they may have been painted to look good or simply to stop us kids getting splinters. :D

 

My guess would also be bare wood well worn and weathered. The wood on all the tractor drawn carts used for collecting hay/straw bales certainly was during the 60's - paint would not last long before it chipped off or became damaged and weathered. Farmers have/had enough to do without prettying everything up.

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Hi Mike

 

Bung a load of straw and manure in it so no one can see if it is painted or not. :imsohappy:

 

I have a feeling this is now going to turn into a debate about the colour of the manure and the ratio of staw to manure. :fie: :fie:

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I have a feeling this is now going to turn into a debate about the colour of the manure

 

Surely that would depend on whether the manure was produced by, say, a cow reared on the grasslands of the South Downs or, say, a sheep raised in the bracken of Merionethshire?  Would there be seasonal variations in colour and texture?  Would evolving farming practices result in further differences - i.e Do post-BSE sheep and cattle produce different manure to their pre-BSE ancestors?

 

Aarrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

 

I'll attempt to head off Clive's anticipated debate by going off at a tangent with a serious observation: 

In pre-Foot-and-Mouth days most of the cows occupying the fields of Britain were black and white.

In these post-Foot-and-Mouth days there is hardly a Fresian to be seen.

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