history of the carriage
Three Hares Carriage was built by the London & South Western Railway in 1887, It is a 'five compartment Third Class carriage'. The assigned number is 0205 and cost the railway £419 4s 4d. The 0 before the 205 shows that it remained in service on the line but was cyphered off and it was removed from service in 1912.
We believe it was purchased in 1912 for £13. The carriage was then incorporated into a bungalow at its current site in Longdown near Exeter. Using railway carriages as accommodation was a relatively common occurrance before and after the wars as it provided a quick and cheap solution to the increasing housing needs.
The carriage is registered with the Vintage Carriage Trust:
a family affair
The carriage came into the current owners, Kate's family in 1912 and her grandfather was born in the carriage in 1913. The following pictures show her family assembled outside the carriage in the 1930s,
As well as the carriage you can make out the brackets on the verandah which have been renovated and reused, and the crossing pattern on the balustrading were included on the new verandah.
The Jilbert family lived for many years in the carriage, and kept dairy cows on the land.
However by 2012 the bungalow had fallen into disrepair and the decision was taken to rebuild the house but keep the carriage for future restoration.
"It was, you must understand, the custom of the steam-railway companies to sell their carriages after they had been obsolete for a sufficient length of years, and some genius had hit upon the possibility of turning these into little habitable cabins... The thing had become a fashion with a certain Bohemian-spirited class; they added cabin to cabin, and these little improvised homes, gaily painted and with broad verandas and supplementary leantos added to their accommodation."
H G Wells, 1906
In the Days of the Comet
the restoration project
The carriage sat under tarpaulins for six years and we contacted the National Rail Museum in York to see if they could help with identifying what type of carriage it was.
They pointed us in the direction of the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) and the South Western Circle, which is a group of dedicated enthusiasts of the line, who were exceptionally helpful. The late Gordon Weddel was the author of the 'bible' of L&SWR Carriages and he suggested it was a Third Class carriage of approximately 1886 origins. He suggested we keep an eye out for the 'magic' number that would be on the inside of the carriage door that would tell us its exact history.
.... and so the restoration began.....
where to start?...
Once the carriage was unveiled it was felt that the inside should be stripped of the thick oil paint and the woodwork could then be assessed.
The exterior woodwork was inspected and the parts that were damaged beyond repair were removed for templating with new wood panels.
We were so fortunate to work with Lois Raine who revealed the original 3rd marking and found the unique number: 0205. Lois was able to source the exact paint originally used from T & R Williamson Ltd, the specialist railway paint manufacturer. The salmon pink and dark brown were applied and the Bluebell Railway kindly advised on the magenta and black lining.
The wonderful sign writer, Mark Hill was then commissioned to complete the finer details and gold leaf writing.
Meanwhile, Mike Taylor and Paul Vanstone and their team were completing the surrounding structure, with many of the original buildings features being replicated. Having a strong environmental ethos was important to us, so we used locally sourced cedar from sustainable sources. With a high specification of insulation to make sure the carriage is cosy at all times of year.