Horse Drawn Mourners’ Coach

Barry Dibb, March 2014

The horse drawn mourners’ coach featured was acquired by the present owner’s father approximately 70 years ago. I am told by the owner that the coach was brought to its present location from Ilkeston Junction. At one time Sheldon’s were builders and undertakers of Wentworth Street, Ilkeston Jct. However it cannot be confirmed that at one time it belonged to Sheldon’s.

The current situation

Only the body part of the coach remains, the undercarriage and running gear being removed prior to it being brought to its present site. The coach was used as an allotment tool shed but over the years the allotment it stands on has become overgrown and uncultivated and the coach now stands full of rubbish and is in a very dilapidated condition.

Some years ago Peter Leech of the Working Carriage Museum, Darley Dale inspected the coach with a view to removing it and possibly renovating it at his works, however, he considered that this was not feasible because of the condition it was in. He did manage to be able to identify the coach builder as John Marston, Bradford St., Birmingham. Marston’s manufactured coaches from 1855 to 1940 when they were wound up as a company.

Engraved glass

Detail of engraving to the side windows

The owner informs me that as a small child she can remember that the coach had black silk roller window blinds and that the bench seats either side of the coach were covered in black leatherette as were the inside walls. No sign of the silk blinds remain though the rollers are still fixed in position. Some traces of the black leatherette can still be found. The two glass windows either side of the coach are still intact and the glass is engraved with columbines.

The rear of the coach

The rear of the coach showing the small access
door which was originally half glazed

The entry to the coach for the mourners was through a door at the rear of the coach. The door was originally half glazed and the window could be raised or lowered by means of a leather strap as was once used in railway carriages. No doubt there would have been a small window at the front for the coachman to be able to communicate with those inside.

Because the door is curved in towards the bottom the lower hinge projects from the door to allow it to be vertically aligned with the top hinge thus facilitating opening and closing the door.

The top hingeThe bottom hinge

The top and bottom hinges

The front elevation

The front elevation of the coach

The land which the coach stands on is possibly going to be developed for housing in the not too distant future and very obviously the coach will be cleared away with the rest of the site clearance. In the meantime the owner has asked me to remove the engraved glass windows which she is keen to save.

This photograph shows clearly the poor condition of the coach and how one side has come away from the rest of the body.

John Marston & Co., the coach builders were in their day one of the leading funeral coach builders in the country. In 1887 they advertised in the Undertakers & Funeral Directors Journal: “Funeral cars and glass sided hearses, brakes and landaus etc. from £100, new and used on easy terms.” Interestingly they supplied Derby Corporation with two, 22 seat single deck, horse drawn charabanc in 1901.

Sixty years ago

This photograph was taken approximately 60 years ago. The girl standing is the daughter of the man who originally acquired the coach, possibly from Sheldon’s. The engraving to the windows is clearly visible.

Unfortunately, the year that the coach was built is not known. Someone might be able to throw some light on this.


The dimensions are in imperial as the coach would have built to imperial dimensions.