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Sleds, Carts and Waggons

  • Cyril Fox (a1)

While engaged in field work near Llanbister in Radnorshire, the writer saw by the roadside, near a country wheelwright’s shop, a remarkable vehicle the like of which he had never imagined. On being questioned, the wheelwright said that it was a ‘wheel-car ’ and was of a standard type used throughout the Radnor forest area (and indeed, as was afterwards learned, throughout the central moorland of Wales). It had been made entirely by himself and his smith. He drew attention to a second example, half completed, in the shop. This was purchased for the Welsh Folk Collection of the National Museum of Wales.

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1 Sturt, , The Wheelwright’s Shop (Camb. Univ. Press, 1923), p. 146, notes that hoop tyres had replaced strakes in rural Surrey sixty years ago. It is of the highest interest to find an elaborate technique of high antiquity the obituary notice of which, in a home county of England, has been written, still flourishing in Wales, and, it may be added, in the Welsh Marches. Large nailheads are a medieval survival. Cart-wheels with triangular headed nails may be seen in an illustration in the Louterell Psalter, f. 162A. Mr G.J. Abell, moreover, in a letter to the Editor of ANTIQUITY, says that in Devon the cart–wheels were formerly ‘studded with triangular pointed nails … so destructive to macadamized roads that their use was prohibited in 1822’.

2 I gratefully acknowledge the help I have received from Mr Peate in working out the history of cart types in Wales.

3 ‘Ground–car’, in Monmouthshire. Information from Sir Joseph Bradney, F.S.A.

4 Vol. I, p. 205. ‘Its forepart slides along the ground, and under its middle is a pair of low wheels. It has a long body …’

5 Vol. I, p. 207.

6 Small block wheels, on an iron axle, are to be seen on a mid-igth century Welsh cart in the National Museum of Wales.

7 It is not suggested that the evolutionary changes discussed in this paper (apart from the final specialization of the wheel–car) took place exclusively in Wales—or even in Britain. For example, Sigurd Grieg (Oseberg Fundet II, figs. 13, 14) figures solid–wheeled cars structurally identical with the ‘Truckle’, till recently in use in rural Sweden. It is, however, of the greatest interest to observe early forms existing side by side with developed types in the same country (Wales) and even county (Montgomeryshire).

8 Age of waggons : there are waggons still in use in Glamorgan over a hundred years old. One, made at Marychurch in 1825,1s owned and used by the great-grandson of the maker, Morgan Williams; the writer was recently informed by a retired farmer, Mr Evans, of Llantwit Major, of a waggon sold by him in good condition in 1897, which was made in or about the year 1760. It had oaken axles (but more likely ash, I.C.P.), regarded by Mr Evans as very primitive indeed.

9 It may be noted that the bed of the waggon is long–boarded. Sturt says that this better method had been replaced by cross–boarding in his shop (in Farnham, Surrey) before 1884, The Wheelwright’s Shop, p. 67 . The Glamorgan waggon unfortunately has lost the cratches or gornals for carrying hay.

10 The essential features of the ‘Glamorgan‘ waggons—though not, I think, so finely developed—occur in Gloucestershire and western Oxfordshire waggons.

11 See Sigurd, Grieg in Oseberg Fundet, 2, pp. 309–10.

12 Ibid, fig. 12.

13 Oseberg Fundet, 2, fig. 2 and pl. I: Saga Book of the Viking Society, vol. 10, fig. 21.

14 A Book of Old Testament Illustrations of the Middle of the XIII century: described by Cockerell, S.C., 1927. I owe this reference to Mr H. S. Kingsford. See ff. 5b, 6b, 9a, 21b, 27b, 39a.

15 Reproduced by Millar, E.G., English Illuminated Manuscripts of the xiv and xv Centuries.

16 Antiquaries Journal, Jan. 1929, pp. 2629.

17 ANTIQUITY, Sept. 1929, 3, 340342.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
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