McNaught’s in Worcester built state coaches fit for a queen

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On the weekend when the nation pays homage to the remarkable achievements of a 96-year-old widow named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, it might be appropriate to return to the days when the faithful city had a lot to do with the things of ‘State.

Because long before limos, Worcester was home to one of the largest builders of horse-drawn state coaches in the country.

There seems to be some confusion as to the exact location of McNaught’s works in The Tything. Some accounts place it on the corner of St Mary’s Street, opposite Castle Street, but this cannot be true, as it is the site of the Saracen’s Head pub, which has existed since 1790. A document from the late 1800s gives address 9, Le Tything, where this Kays building – now converted to offices – was later located

McNaught’s Carriage Works and The Tything showrooms occupied a site later taken over by mail order giants Kay & Co. The firm was among the most famous of all 19th century carriage factories with a significant export trade and splendid showrooms in London, Liverpool and Birmingham. .

The head of the business for over 50 years was JA McNaught, the son of a coachbuilder in Kendal, Cumbria, who was responsible for the design of the prize chariot at the Great London Exhibition of 1861, held in the new Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. .

McNaught's State Coach built for the Lord Mayor of London

McNaught’s State Coach built for the Lord Mayor of London

McNaught’s specialty was state coaches. Among its list of lucrative customers were a number of Indian princes and at one time the company kept nine solely for the transport of the king’s judges. These were maintained in the most elaborate condition and, when in use, were drawn by four horses and assisted by javelin throwers.

McNaught’s started out building horse-drawn traps and light carriages for local nobility, but moved into the larger vehicle market. From 1862, they exhibited their vehicles in international exhibitions and received gold medals in London, Paris, Philadelphia, Sydney, Melbourne and Calcutta.

McNaught's sprawling London showrooms at Albert Gate

McNaught’s sprawling London showrooms at Albert Gate

As well as the Lord Mayor of London’s Coach, they built carriages for Metropolitan and County Sheriffs as well as the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Connaught. They had showrooms in Park Lane, London and Birmingham, as well as a superb showroom and galleries in Worcester. Notably, a state coach from McNaught was used at the coronation of King George V in 1911.

Interior view of McNaught's showrooms at The Tything with galleries fitted out to increase space

Interior view of McNaught’s showrooms at The Tything with galleries fitted out to increase space

The company employed the finest painters and guilders to align and decorate the ornate heraldic coats of arms on coachbuilders working in oak, ash, walnut, hickory, elm, birch and mahogany. The forge, which had ten homes, made the springs and tires for the wheelwrights, while the upholsterers put their know-how at the disposal of the most comfortable seats, because travel on the roads was then dreadful.

The Tything showroom and works by McNaught and Smith showing how far back they went

The Tything showroom and works by McNaught and Smith showing how far back they went

Unfortunately a catastrophic fire in 1892 destroyed a large part of the premises, causing serious financial losses. There was more bad news for business when motor vehicles arrived and began to replace cars.

McNaught therefore turned to building cars, maintaining its upscale image by supplying many of the foreign royalty staying in that country.

Advertisement in 1912 Worcester Trade Directory.  Possibly a French Talbot chassis with McNaughts bodywork

Advertisement in 1912 Worcester Trade Directory. Possibly a French Talbot chassis with McNaught’s body

After 1918 the company was dissolved, although McNaught’s son continued a business until his death in 1934, as a coachbuilder and automobile engineer with work in Farrier Street and a showroom in Foregate Street. Sadly, no royalties passed, not even a young Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor and her parents looking for a nostalgic name.

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