COACH (through the Fr. coche, originally from the Magyar kocsi, an adjective from the Hungarian place named Kocs, between Raab and Buda, i.e. the sort of vehicle used there in the 15th century), a large kind of carriage for passengers (see Carriage). As a general term it is used (as in “coach-building”) for all carriages, and also in combination with qualifying attributes for particular forms (stage-coach, mail-coach, mourning-coach, hackney-coach, &c.); but the typical coach involves four wheels, springs and a roof. The stage-coach, with seats outside and in, was a public conveyance which was known in England from the 16th century, and before railways the stage-coaches had regular routes (stages) all over the country; through their carrying the mails (from 1784) the term “mail-coach” arose. Similar vehicles were used in America and on the European continent. The diligence, though not invariably with four horses, was the Continental analogue for public conveyance, with other minor varieties such as the Stellwagen and Eilwagen.

The driving of coaches with four horses was a task in which a considerable amount of skill was required,[1] and English literature is full of the difficulties and humours of “the road” in old days. A form of sport thus arose for enterprising members of the nobility and gentry, and after the introduction of railways made the mail-coach obsolete as a matter of necessity, the old sport of coaching for pleasure still survived, though only to a limited extent. The Four-in-hand Club was started in England in 1856 and the Coaching Club in 1870, as the successors of the old Bensington Driving Club (1807–1852), and Four-Horse Club (1808–1829); and in America the New York Coaching Club was founded in 1875. But coaching remains the sport of the wealthier classes, although in various parts of England (e.g. London to Brighton, and in the Lake district), in America, and in Europe, public coaches still have their regular times and routes for those who enjoy this form of travel. The earliest railway vehicles for passengers were merely the road coaches of the period adapted to run on rails, and the expression “coaching traffic” is still used in England to denote traffic carried in passenger trains.

Of coaches possessing a history the two best known in the United Kingdom are the king’s state coach, and that of the lord mayor of London. The latter is the oldest, having been built, or at least first used, for the procession of Sir Charles Asgil, lord mayor elect, in November 1757. The body of this vehicle is not supported by springs, but hung on leather straps; and the whole structure is very richly loaded with ornamental carving, gilding and paint-work. The different panels and the doors contain various allegorical groups of figures representing suitable subjects, and heraldic devices painted in a spirited manner. The royal state coach, which is described as “the most superb carriage ever built,” was designed by Sir William Chambers, the paintings on it were executed by Cipriani, and the work was completed in 1761. During the later part of Queen Victoria’s reign it was hardly ever seen, but on the accession of Edward VII. the coach was once more put in order for use on state occasions. The following is an official description of this famous coach:—

“The whole of the carriage and body is richly ornamented with laurel and carved work, beautifully gilt. The length, 24 ft.; width, 8 ft. 3 in.; height, 12 ft.; length of pole, 12 ft. 4 in.; weight, 4 tons. The carriage and body of the coach is composed as follows:—Of four large tritons, who support the body by four braces, covered with red morocco leather, and ornamented with gilt buckles, the two figures placed in front of the carriage bear the driver, and are represented in the action of drawing by cables extending round their shoulders, and the cranes and sounding shells to announce the approach of the monarch of the ocean; and those at the back carry the imperial fasces, topped with tridents. The driver’s foot-board is a large scallop shell, ornamented with bunches of reeds and other marine plants. The pole represents a bundle of lances; the splinter bar is composed of a rich moulding, issuing from beneath a voluted shell, and each end terminating in the head of a dolphin; and the wheels are imitated from those of the ancient triumphal chariot. The body of the coach is composed of eight palm-trees, which, branching out at the top, sustain the roof; and four angular trees are loaded with trophies allusive to the victories obtained by Great Britain during the late glorious war, supported by four lions’ heads. On the centre of the roof stand three boys, representing the genii of England, Scotland and Ireland, supporting the imperial crown of Great Britain, and holding in their hands the sceptre, sword of state, and ensigns of knighthood; their bodies are adorned with festoons of laurel, which fall from thence towards the four corners. The panels and doors are painted with appropriate emblematical devices, and the linings are of scarlet velvet richly embossed with national emblems.”

See the Badminton Driving, by the duke of Beaufort (1888); Rogers’s Manual of Driving (Philadelphia, 1900); and “Nimrod’s” Essays on the Road (1876).

  1. The idea of “driving” was responsible for the use of the term “coach” and “coaching” to mean a tutor or trainer, for examinations or athletic contests.