This beautifully presented Governess cart is probably one of the smallest horse-drawn vehicles on display in the museum’s extensive collection. In its heyday was one of the most popular modes of transport.
Governess carts were designed mainly for carrying children, and were popularised by Queen Victoria, who loved taking her family for outings. They were still in general use into the early years of the 20th century. These ‘tub-like’ vehicles always had high sides to safeguard against any of the small children passengers from falling out.
As an extra precaution – in the rare event of a very naughty child managing to go overboard – the Governess cart was always low-hung, so injuries would be minimised. So, maybe even way back then, health and safety considerations were paramount, even if not as stringent as they are today. Only quiet ponies were chosen to pull the cart, and the pace at which it travelled would be sedate (slow by today’s standards).
Governess carts were designed to be entered from the rear, their wheels were about a third the size of that on an average-sized gig, and they were often rubber-tyred. This timber-framed vehicle is leather-lined and features delicate spindlework.
This Governess cart was bought by Miss Bertha Zurcher of Palmerston North, from Mrs Hugh Morrison of Blairlogie, Wairarapa. Miss Zurcher presented it to the society on 30 July 1966.