Monday, July 13, 2009

Facts about Sedan Chairs and Litters

Varying modes of transportation have been used over the centuries. In pagan times, gods and deities were transported through the streets of Egypt and the orient, and later, in ancient Rome, litters (lectica) were used to carry the elite, and the Vestal Virgins. Gradually, litters evolved to something more fancy, and in the 1600s sedan chairs, a box-like contraption for one person, became a common mode of public transportation, and a familiar sight in London.
Sedan chairs were carried by chairmen, and after dark, the chair was preceded by link-boys, torch bearers who lit the way through the darkened streets. Upon arrival at the passenger’s house, the torches were snuffed out in link extinguishers, an ornament that looked like a giant candle snuffer attached to the house or gatepost.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, chairs stood in the main hall of well-to-do families, so the lady could be taken in and out with her feet never touching the dirty street.
In Bath, sedan chairs had the right-of-way. Chairmen would call out to pedestrians, "By your leave", in order to clear the way. People backed against the wall to allow free passage. A trip inside the city cost approximately six pence, and to rent a chair for the day would cost the passenger four shillings.
Benjamin Franklin used a sedan chair until the late 1700s. When hackneys came into general use, sedan chairs gradually faded from history, but some richly appointed examples have been preserved in museums. The one that belonged to Queen Charlotte now resides in Buckingham Palace, a testimony to the grandeur of yesteryear.


Mary Ricksen said...

Boy could I use one of those!
Interesting post I love blogs that teach me something I didn't know.

P.L. Parker said...

That was a cool bit of information.


Linda Banche said...

Great post. I write historical, too, (Regency) and I'm glad I found your blog.

Joyce Moore said...

Hi Mary: Glad you know how to find me now! Please come back and visit.

Joyce Moore said...

P.L. Glad you liked it. I love to blog about historical tidbits I uncover from time to time.

Joyce Moore said...

Hi Patsy: Ah, Regency. DonnaHatch recently posted here about writing in the Regency era (scroll down to read her post). Her pictures are always so genteel. Makes me want to read Regency. Thanks for stopping by.