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The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts


Coach building


The making of horse-drawn coaches and carriages (see also wheelwrighting and wainwrighting).


Status Endangered
Craft category Vehicles
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 6-10
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 1-5 (see other information)
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required



Traditional coachbuilding refers to the making of complete horse-drawn vehicles such as coaches and carriages (in contrast, contemporary coachbuilding refers to the making of the bodies of automobiles, and also to making such things as bespoke buses and horseboxes, and is not covered by this research).





Local forms

There are many variations in style of carriages.

Slight stylistic differences can sometimes be detected between Scottish and English patterns, and from country to country across the Continent.



  • Coach trimming
  • Wheelwrighting
  • Wainwrighting
  • Whip making
  • Lamp making
  • Spring making

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: The market for newly-built vehicles is small – primarily for private drivers and private collections. The wedding market uses carriages, but usually favours the cheaper Eastern European import.
  • Market issues: the cost of restoration can be higher than the value of the vehicle, although there are some owners who are prepared to make this investment in their vehicles.
  • Foreign competition: The main threat is competition from Eastern Europeans, particularly Poland, making at very low cost – this has completely knocked the bottom out of the English-made coach market. A new Eastern European vehicle will cost around a third of a UK made vehicle.
  • Loss of skills: Today, most coachbuilding work is restoration. Very few people buy new English vehicles – they either buy English vehicles to repair, or new Eastern European vehicles. The skills that are most in danger of dying out are those needed to make a new vehicle from start to finish.
  • Loss of skills: The skills that are most in danger of dying out are those needed to make a new vehicle from start to finish. The main market for coachbuilding is in restoration – very few people buy new English vehicles, they either buy English vehicles to repair, or new Eastern European vehicles.
  • Dilution of skills: There is a huge issue with the dilution of skills. Anyone can buy a workshop and call themselves a coachbuilder, without necessarily having much experience or skill.
  • Business rates: A big workshop is required to fit the vehicles in, so business rates are very high.


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

  • Mike Rowland & Son, Colyton, Devon – two coachbuilders and one trainee, Sam Phillips.
  • Crofords Coachbuilders, Ashford, Kent.
  • Philip Holder, Wellington Carriage Company, Telford, Shropshire – primarily does restoration
  • Fairbourne Carriages Ltd, Harrietsham, Kent – now primarily works with vintage cars.
  • Gloucester Wheel and Carriage Co, Uley, Gloucestershire.
  • Fenix Carriages


Other information

The traditional progress of the craft was from wheelwright to wainwright to coachbuilder. The work of a wainwright is not as fine as that of a coachbuilder, with fewer trimmings etc.

Training: Trainee coachbuilders are supported through the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights and the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers.



  • Felton, William, A Treatise on Carriages
  • Berkbeile, Don H, Carriage Terminology: an historical dictionary
  • Philipson, John, The Art and Craft of Coachbuilding