From Carriages to Cars


It seems obvious to us now that companies involved in the building and maintenance of horse drawn transport would have to adapt to the motor industry in order to ensure long term survival. Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing. While the car is ubiquitous in modern times, in 1902 there were barely a few thousand in the United Kingdom, a considerable rarity.

Some different cariage styles (2)
A drawing of a carriage built by Cockshoot


Many carriage-owners had different carriages for different uses, with 2 and 4 wheelers, gigs, broughams, carrying a variety of different passengers and cargoes. Similarly there were open top carriages for summer and closed cabs for winter. Early motor cars were unreliable and uncomfortable for many travel pursuits and were used mainly for weekend touring. Thus a carriage-owner would purchase a motor car while retaining their carriages for other uses.

Some different cariage styles (1)
Another example of Cockshoot’s carriages


Indeed as late as 1907 Rolls-Royce proudly advertised in the Autocar 20th April that: “A private owner of a R.R. writes: ‘I may say my car is a perfect dream. It is so reliable that I have done away with my carriages and horses.’” The implication being that even in 1907 it was rare for carriage-owners to replace their stock with motor cars.

The First Motor Car body built by Cockshoot
The first motor body built by Cockshoot in 1901. Note the similarity to the cart above. The chassis was built by a local engineering firm.


Moving into the motor trade was a difficult decision for coachbuilders to make at the turn of the 20th century. Roy Brooks, writing on the subject of Manchester coachbuilders, records that only 5 out of 35 coachbuilders listed in the Manchester area successfully adapted to the motor trade. They did this by building bodies for motor cars and actively selling, repairing and maintaining cars by converting to garages. Presumably many refused to change and others failed to adapt.

At the Museum of Science and Industry survive the records of Joseph Cockshoot and Co. coachbuilders who successfully made the transition. The picture below show the Cockshoot garage under the railway arches on Deansgate, opened in 1903. In the archive collection we are lucky to have the memories of staff who worked there. Due to its proximity to the Midland hotel Cockshoot offered garaging facilities for guests, this included accommodation for chauffeurs in the loft above the arches. I imagine sleeping right under a train track wasn’t ideal, but there are records of a billiards table in the room, so sleepless chauffeurs could always pass the time with a game!

The Knott Mill Garage, Deansgate. Opened in April 1903, closed after WW2

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