Tuesday, 17 June 2008

A charabanc excursion in the early 1920s

This large format photograph - it measures 153 x 108 mm - is another from my own family collection.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

My grandparents Dirk Smit (1895-1985) and Hendrika Louisa Schipper (1894-1981), otherwise known, at least to me, as Opa and Oma, were married in Amsterdam in December 1920. She is standing at the right, facing the driver, while he is sitting in the front seat, next to her, wearing a flat cap and with his face partly obscured by the steering wheel and horn. I assume that this photograph was taken some time between then and the birth of their first child in March 1926.

I have no idea what kind of group this was, but presumably they are on an outing somewhere. Charabanc outings were particularly popular in the period between the wars. As the vehicle appears to have solid rubber tyres, I can't believe that the ride would have been particularly comfortable, even on the smoothest of roads.

The Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society web site shows similar vehicles from the post-Great War period, and there are many images of similar charabancs on the net but I have found none that appears identical to this one. Bozi Mohacek, webmaster and vehicle registrar for the SVVS, very promptly responded to my enquiry with an informative analysis of the photo:

We note your comments about Holland but our experts in Holland tell us that the registration could not be Dutch because they only used one letter during this period. Suggestions on the plate included Denmark but they did not start registration until 1924; but even then the registration plate was not of the pattern shown. We can therefore relatively safely assume the registration is British. The registration refers to the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately the year records for the DL plate seem to no longer be available. Details are only available after 1929 by which time DL 6039 had been reached. On the assumption of even distribution of numbers over this period (very unlikely), DL 2362 would have been reached by about 1914/15. The vehicle shown is a Daimler Charabanc and is very much of the WW1 period with solid tyres. Getting the model number may be a little more difficult. Dating the vehicle does not of course help in dating the photo. Vehicles made in 1914/15 would have been put away or lightly used during WW1 and would still be 'as new' and fully usable in the 20s. An item concerning your enquiry will shortly be put up on our website on the Help Page. Hope this proves of interest.
Dik T. Winter's web page describes the system used for number plates in the Netherlands at this time:
In 1905 a new system was introduced. The new registrations consisted of a single letter followed by up to five digits. The letter indicated the province of issue. When this got exhausted a second letter was added, first Z and X next, still with up to five digits. These additional letters were only needed in the provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland and in Noord-Holland only very few GX registrations have been issued (the highest GX I know is 140, but there must have been more).
This appears to agree with the SVVS sources that the vehicle could not have been registered in the Netherlands. My own research on the net discovered that the format is very similar to that used in Great Britain at the time. The plates had silver letters on black until the 1960s, when black leters on yellow (rear) and white (front) became optional, and later compulsory. They had two letters followed by three, and later four, numbers. The two letters signify the issuing office, and DL would have been from Portsmouth or the Isle of Wight (Source: UK Registration Letters).

Image © & courtesy of Wickham Parish Council

The charabanc in this image, from the Wickham Parish Council's web site is not the same make or model (actually, it's a little bigger, six doors down each side, instead of five) but it has very similar styling, and the number plate HO 2880 indicates that it was registered in Hampshire, possibly only a short ferry ride away from the Isle of Wight. The Francis Frith collection of old photos includes at least one of a charabanc outing dated 1918 in Seaview on the Isle of Wight.


This postcard image shows another charabanc outing, dated 1930, by an Isle of Wight photographer ...


... while this multi-view postcard illustrates that it was a popular way to visit the island's tourist attractions.

If the identification of the location is correct, then it is likely that my grandparents would have taken a train from Amsterdam to the Hoek van Holland (Hook of Holland), where they would have caught a ferry to Harwich on the English coast, then a train to London, and another to Portsmouth ... not a brief excursion! Presumably their luggage was back at the hotel. I knew that my maternal grandparents were adventurous; I have seen photographs that they took all over Holland, and in Belgium, France, Andorra and Norway, but wasn't aware that they had visited England prior to a trip made in July 1962 to stay with their daughter's parents-in-law, i.e. my paternal grandparents, in Chellaston, Derbyshire.

Image © & collection of Rie Payne

That later trip is documented by at least two snapshots, the first of which is in my mother's collection, and shows Oma Smit with Grandma and Grandpa Payne in a churchyard, presumably somewhere in Derbyshire. I have a feeling that it was at Bakewell, but don't know where I got that idea from.

Image © & collection of Barbara Ellison

The second was scanned from my paternal aunt Bunnie's photographic collection last year. The inscription on the reverse reads, "July 1962" in my grandmother's handwriting, and then in my aunt's writing below that, "Mum & Dad with Mr. & Mrs. Smit on a Trent Bus outing to Scotland. Mum wearing hat. Mrs. Smit to her left. Dad top left in front of tree. Mr. Smit - taking photo?

Image © & collection of Barbara Ellison Image © & collection of Barbara Ellison

The charabancs, and presumably much else, had changed considerably since their previous visit to England some four decades earlier!

Many thanks to Nigel for his input on this one.

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