Listed in 1 collection

Listed at 1 museum

Listed for 1 maker

Quick Details

Carriage Type

Canoe Landau

Date of Production

late 19th century

Accession or Inventory Number

NT 433848

Materials used

Paint, Wood, Iron, Leather, Wool Box Cloth, Brass

Summary of Canoe Landau

Canoe Landau for a pair of horses. The canoe shaped body has a concave back panel which is unusual it is sprung on C and elliptic springs. The interior is upholstered with black morocco leather. Painted in a livery of yellow and black with black and yellow lining. Built by Thorn of Norwich, Norfolk.

At the start of the nineteenth century landaus were big heavy carriages, open versions of the contemporary coaches.  Later in the century, when many more people could afford to own carriages, everyday carriages became smaller and lighter.  A successful professional family who could afford to employ a coachman would very likely own a brougham, a closed carriage for bad weather and night-time use, and a victoria, an open carriage for use in fine weather.  This was an ideal combination but, if they owned a landau, they only needed one carriage for both uses because, with the head raised, it was a closed four seat carriage, but it could be quickly and easily converted to an open carriage simply by lowering the head. Several different styles of everyday landaus were developed.  The canoe landau was obviously so named because it has a canoe-shaped body.  If a canoe-bodied landau was so small that it could be pulled by one horse it was called a Sefton landau, after the Earl of Sefton for whom the first one was built, and it was considered a breakthrough for a landau to be so small at that time.  If the body had an angular profile and a deep foot well it was called a Shelburne landau, after the Earl of Shelburne who had the first of that pattern built.  Early landaus had head joints, the hinged stays visible outside the leather of the head, which kept it tightly stretched, but a servant had to get down to raise or lower the head.  Many types of head lifts were later developed, spring-assisted mechanisms that were fitted between the head leather and the fabric head cloth ‘which facilitate the closing and opening of the heads, almost as simple in action as the opening or closing of an umbrella or a parasol’ as the celebrated carriage builder G. N. Hooper wrote in 1890.


Height: 6ft 11 1/4"

Length: 12ft 7 1/2"

Width: 5ft 6 1/2"

Front wheel diameter: 3ft 1/2"

Rear wheel diameter: 3ft 8 1/4"

Full description

This is a good carriage by a well known provincial builder with some unusual and very interesting features. The canoe shaped body has a concave back panel which is an unusual feature. The boot has a curved profile with glued blocks, to stop the top board splitting, that can be seen from the inside providing an interesting example of this old technique. A foot board is fitted on plain brackets and the coachman’s seat has a single seat rail and a drop in heel board. The side and end panels of the head are enamelled leather and are possibly original. The top appears to be vinyl and is machine sewn to the panels. There is a hole for a communication cord in the top nearside corner of the front panel but there is no corresponding hole in the head cloth and the cord is missing

The doors are hung on one concealed hinge and one outrigger hinge, with nickel T handles. The offside door handle has broken off its spindle and is in the boot. There are lowering windows in the doors. The offside window is raised, but not enough to enable it to be lifted out, and it is jammed. The nearside window cannot be fitted into the door because, after recovering the frame in 1993, it is too wide. A fixed window is situated in the front leather head. Hinged double jagged plate steps are fitted at the doors, operated by stays to the doors so that they lower and unfold when the doors are opened. There are no steps to the coachman’s seat. Lamp brackets are bolted to the underside of the coachman’s seat board, but there are no lamps.

The Canoe Landau has 12 and 15 spoke English pattern wheels with rubber tyres in clincher channels on collinge patent axles. C springs are fitted above the cranes and elliptic springs beneath the axle beds, attached by spring clips on the top and bottom. The hind axle is mounted above the lower components of the elliptic springs which is another unusual feature on this carriage as it is more usual to fit it below. The fore carriage has straight beds, open futchells and a large diameter wheel plate, it is very plain and simply constructed. The only wooden component is the axle bed the rest is of iron and is simply made, with mostly round bars and few worked sections.  The fixed splinter bar has bolt holes through it for fittings that are no longer in place, possibly lugs to attach shafts. The pole has a crab fitting and is not the correct one for this carriage. 

It is difficult to fit brakes to a C spring carriage, because the operating lever or pedal is mounted on the body which moves relative to the carriage, making a mechanical linkage difficult.  In this case the brakes were almost certainly added after construction, because the attachment of their various components to the main structure is relatively crude. There is a rather modern looking ratchet hand lever bolted to the footboard and capable of exerting such strain that the footboard is badly distorted and split. This is connected by a wire to the lever arms it is crudely attached to the hind elliptic springs.  Price’s patent brake blocks are fitted.

The paintwork scheme consists of the wheels and body panels in pale yellow with black lining. All of the remaining structure is in black with yellow lines on springs and splinter bar. Blue cloth covers the box seat and the seat fall, and appears to be relatively recent. Inside are the back squabs and seat cushions are covered with black vinyl.  The seat falls, which do not fit, are similar. The quarter squabs are original black Morocco, as are the buttoned panels on the doors which have original broad lace surrounds. A fawn coloured head cloth is relatively modern as is the rather bright red carpet.



Condition report

The body appears to be sound except for the foot board which has been damaged by the application of the brake  There is also some damage where the body has chafed on the cranes each side beneath the boot neck, because it was hung too low, and there is more serious damage beneath the back of the body. The nearside door opens freely with no sag. the offside door could not be opened because the window is jammed and the door of a landau cannot be opened until the window had been lowered. One of the door handles is broken. The mechanism of the nearside folding steps is stiff and there is much play in the joints. It is essential that these are assisted manually when the door is opened or they will be strained.  The step plates slope downwards proving that the mechanism is strained.

The window glasses are all intact.

Although the paint is cracked at all structural joints on the wheels, their structure is tight. The front tyres show a little wear, but the back tyres are considerably worn due to contact with the brake blocks. All tyres are tight in their channels except the nearside front tyre which is loose. All the axles appear to be sound and the wheels turn freely. All springs appear to be sound except both front elliptic springs in which the main plates have straightened in the top components behind the axle bed, the cause of this damage is unknown. The brakes are intact but the ratchet leveris very stiff to operate.

The paint on the body is generally sound and secure but there is much local minor damage, paint is lost beneath the foot board due to structural damage and on the wheels where rust has broken through the paint layer.

This carriage has had new main braces which are sound but the body is hanging a little too low and should be lifted. Collar braces are very dry and cracked in places.  

With the leather work, the leather head is sound. There are short lengths of leather missing on the wings, outside the outer stitch lines, and some stitching has failed, allowing the two thicknesses to separate.

All the new internal trimmings, although incorrect, are in good condition, except a little moth damage to the headcloth. The old Morocco is slightly scuffed, and a number of buttons are missing, there is a little old insect damage. The old broad laces are faded and a little worn and frayed.

Access information

This Canoe Landau is currently at Belton House in the care of The National Trust. 

Belton House,



NG32 2LS

Picture credit

Belton House © National Trust / Jack Heath