The magnificent Londonderry State Coach, now restored by the National Trust, is usually on display at Mount Stewart in County Down.
The colours of the coach are of significance, since the heraldic colours sable (black) and or (yellow or gold) feature in the Londonderry coat-of-arms.
This coach, which dates back to 1880s, was used by the Londonderry family to travel to the coronations of EDWARD VII, GEORGE V, GEORGE VI, as well as royal weddings and great state occasions in London.
Several years ago the National Trust approached the 9th Marquess, who owned the coach, with the aim of restoring and conserving this historically important artefact.
Now, after months of restoration by National Trust experts and with an project investment of around £100,000, the coach is displayed in all its grand glory at Mount Stewart.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Londonderry family had several homes across the UK, including Mount Stewart , travelling frequently between them with several carriages kept at each residence, suitable for a variety of uses.
This particular coach would have only ever been used for state occasions and is now in Northern Ireland for the first time where previously it remained at the family’s London home, Londonderry House, in Park Lane.
|Londonderry House, Park Lane|
Very few state coaches now survive and the National Trust have four examples of such carriages which can be seen at Powis Castle, Wales; Tatton Park, Cheshire; Arlington Court, Devon; and Mount Stewart, County Down.
Frances Bailey, the National Trust Curator, commented:
“As a conservation charity, we are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to invest in the restoration of the Londonderry State Coach. We have gathered really interesting stories, coronation footage, old images of the coach and the people associated with it; to give visitors a strong sense of what this grand vehicle would have been used for and of the important aristocratic family it belongs to."
The Lady Mairi Bury remembered the coach well, recalling the time when her parents, the 7th Marquess and Marchioness, attended the coronation of King George VI in 1937 whilst wearing their coronation robes and coronets.
This was also the last time the coach was ever used.
Lady Mairi was a keen photographer at that time and took some snaps of her parents on their procession to Westminster Abbey for the great event.
The images portray the excitement of the day and show the crowd that had gathered outside their London home to see the carriage set off.
These photographs, other stories and the splendid coach can be viewed at Mount Stewart.
Visitors can learn about the coach, the Londonderry family, as well as the staffing of stately homes.
First published in March, 2010.