Accessories for the governess cart owned by Mrs Ernest Hillier.
The governess cart appeared in Britain in about 1900 towards the end of the horse-drawn vehicle period and just before the popularity of the motorcar. It has apparently survived in great numbers in Britain.
The governess cart was especially designed for children in the care of a nursery governess or willing aunt and all the occupants sat within the cart as though in a tub. The body of the cart, referred to as being tub-shaped, hung between a pair of elliptic springs on a cranked axle, ensuring its centre of gravity was kept low. This, together with access to the vehicle made via a rear door with a low step, provided safe mounting for small children. The children were therefore away from the cartwheels and dangers of being run over if the horse should move forward and the possibility of being kicked and hurt by the horse was eliminated. Once the children were inside the vehicle with the door shut they were relatively safe and unlikely to fall out as they might have been from the high seats of a gig or dogcart. The arrangement of seating also meant that they could be seen at all times by the driver.
The use of the governess cart in Britain was usually confined to country lanes, private or estate roads and by-roads. It is now considered to be one of the safest owner-driven vehicles as it is almost impossible to overturn. However, the main difficulty with this vehicle is its awkward, off-set on driving position from the rear of the right-hand longitudinal seat which is not conducive to maximum control of the pony if it pulls. Although there is a recess in the seat for the knees, the driver had to adopt a half-twisted posture that could become very uncomfortable. Also, the rear door makes it difficult to stop a restless pony from moving off while the driver is entering or leaving the cart. Perhaps the original promoters thought a family who could afford a governess would also have a groom to assist at these times by holding the pony.
The governess cart or 'tub trap' formed the most common means of rural transport in Ireland well into the second half of the twentieth century. Other local name variations in Britain for this vehicle included the 'digby' in Northern Border countries of England and a 'jingle' in the West Country. Most governess carts had their bodywork grained and varnished rather than painted. Some had spindle sides to reduce the weight while others had basketwork bodies and models with fixed or removable 'heads' or covers of wood or canvas.