Leeds nostalgia: The age of the charabanc

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The advent of the motorcar has been a great liberator in terms of enabling ordinary working folk to indulge in the kinds of activities their ancestors probably only dreamed about.

So, before the rise of the car, what did people do with their weekends? While anyone who dares to venture out on a Sunday knows only too well how busy the roads can be, turn the clock back 100 years and Sunday was mostly a day for quiet family gatherings and - come rain or shine - long walks in the countryside, which at that time was mostly unspoiled.

In the afternoons, there would invariably be band concerts in some park or other and this was a chance for families to come together, exchange news and, perhaps even enable loving couples to court.

That is not to say the motorcar was not having an influence even then. Owning one might have been out of reach for ordinary people but travelling in one certainly wasn’t and regular charabanc trips to the coast took place. These open-topped, solid-tyred coaches averaged about 12mph and possibly a little more down hill and with a tail wind and were far from comfortable.

Still, it was a big occasion to have a trip in one and so people tended to grin and bare the discomfort in the knowledge there was sand and sea at the other end.

The picture above was taken some time between 1912 and 1916 and shows a new charabanc coach waiting outside the old Fountain Hotel, Beckett Street, Leeds. The speed of the car - 12mph - is written proudly on the side, while the car itself contains no fewer than 15 men and one dog. No wonder it only went 12mph.

There used to be a joke that at one time the only car in Leeds was Hunslet Carr and people were proud to own a horse or donkey, but of course all that changed with the advent of the cars. Possibly, it was the Tetley draymen who continued the tradition of delivering ale with horse and cart but now even that is but a memory.

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