Having a lovely Saturday in front of us and no plans, I decided to look on the map and pick a town in which we hadn’t been before. And my choice was Maidstone. The family was thrilled. Well, not at first, but after pulling the ace in my sleeve: the Museum of Carriages (official website here)! Actually, they were more excited when I told them about the lovely large park that is in Maidstone (Mote Park) but they were curious enough about the museum too, and they really enjoyed the visit once we got there.
The museum is housed in the 14th-century stables of the medieval Archbishop’s Palace complex and is home to a unique collection of horse-drawn vehicles and transport curiosities.
When you enter the museum, the ticket office is on your left and that’s where you can also borrow (for free) a torchlight that you can use to see inside the carriages, like this:
The museum has a ground floor and a first floor. On the ground floor there are the big carriages and each of them has a stand with information about it and a small shelf on which are “Did you know” facts and “Look closer” hints (sort of a “I spy” for the kids).
The next photo is of a travelling chariot (carriage of the wealthy) from 1817 from London. Back then, one had to pay around £344 for a construction of this type of carriage.
The photo below is of a travelling coach (also called “carriage of the wealthy”) from around 1830. It was built for John, 12th Earl of Moray, to be used for his honeymoon as six horses were supposed to take him and his bride on their Grand Tour of Europe. The wedding never took place so this coach hasn’t been to Europe.
Below is a photo of a Lonsdale Wagonette from around 1890 from Leicester and is the only type of wagonette that can be used as either an open or as a closed vehicle. It would have been used for shooting trips and attending country races.
At the Museum of Carriages you can also see Queen Victoria’s 5th State landau from late 19th century from London. You will have to visit the museum to see it as it is quite impressive and couldn’t fit in a photo, but below are the facts written on its information stand.
After studying and looking inside every carriage on the ground floor, we climbed up the stairs to the first floor (I am not sure there is a lift or ramp, didn’t see one). And on the first floor we could see smaller carriages, sledges, carriages for kids which were pulled by dogs, and horse harnesses. It’s an interesting collection of vehicles.
So this was our visit to Museum of Carriages in Maidstone, with 2 small kids which enjoyed the visit in their own way: my son was very curious about the vehicles and enjoyed looking with the torchlight inside them and imagine how it would have been to travel with those carriages, and my daughter enjoyed playing with the torchlight and the leaflets and studying the big wheels of the carriages.
If you decide to go and visit the place, let me know what you liked the most. Meanwhile, in the end of this post, I’d like to offer you some useful information:
- the car park is behind the museum, it costs around 1£/hour
- there is no toilet or baby change facility available inside the museum
- we paid £5.00 per ticket for 2 adults and 2 children
- opening times are 2 May – 2 Sep – Wed – Sun, 12 noon – 4pm
- behind the museum is a small park with a great tree, perfect for kids to climb in (my kids loved the park, couldn’t get them back to the car!)