Over the years I have owned some weird, wonderful, or very often downright bizarre things, but what I’m going to show you in the photograph is probably the most pointless item I’ve ever owned.
You will no doubt recall from reading some of my previous postings to this blog, that in the mid 1970s I went to live and work at a children’s home in the south London area. My colleague there had told me about a large warehouse somewhere down the Kings Road in Chelsea that had a bargain basement with all sorts of vintage and antique miscellania for sale and I couldn’t resist going for a look. Sure enough, there was a bit of everything in the “junk” department and I spent an hour or so wandering around.
Later, once back at work, I couldn’t help thinking about the small four-wheeled pony carriage I had seen at the shop, it was cheap, well, relatively, it was £40. That may not sound a lot in today’s prices but my annual salary was just £2220, that’s just over £42 per week, so it would take about a week’s pay to purchase. I went back a few days later and decided I had to have it, I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but mine it had to be!
Just how I was going to get it back to the Putney Heath area though was unclear until my colleague suggested we just pull it ourselves. So one Saturday morning, my colleague and I, along with the two oldest lads in our care arrived at the shop to pull it home. I had brought grease for the turntable and oil for the bearings and after I was satisfied they were operating satisfactorily we sat my colleague’s four-year-old son in the seat and the four of us pulled the carriage home.
Putney Bridge was a bit of a challenge on a Saturday morning as we battled with the traffic and proceeding through Putney Hight Street brought cheers and clapping from the public as we passed by. All too soon the thrill and excitement of bringing the carriage home was over and I safely locked it in the garage of the children’s home, after taking one or two photos. There were also photographs taken by another member of staff as we climbed Putney Hill, but unfortunately I don’t have copies of them.
I did commence work on the carriage, but really coachwork was a little beyond my restoration capabilities at that time, I was more into the mechanics of things. After a while I reassembled the carriage, gave it a polish and covered it over until I could decide what was to become of it. I didn’t have to wait long, in May of 1977 I visited a steam rally and saw an item of machinery I wanted to run from one of my stationary engines, a winnower, a machine for separating wheat from chaff; it was for sale for £40. A deal was struck and they agreed a possible swop and later that day they visited me and we exchanged items; I wonder what became of it? I still own the winnower, but for the last twenty or more years it has been on permanent loan to the Gwent Museum of Rural Life in Usk.
I still have no idea why I purchased that carriage, I would never have been able to use it as intended, I barely know one end of a pony from another so acquisition was really pointless, wasn’t it? In the photograph we see two of the boys who lived at the children’s home, posing for the camera. Who the boy on the left is though, I have no idea, he certainly wasn’t one of ours!