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What is a Brougham?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A brougham is a type of closed horse drawn carriage which was invented in the early 19th century and used extensively throughout the Victorian era. The style of the design was also used in the design of early automobiles, and some car companies continued to produce a “Brougham” model through the 1960s. Horse drawn broughams can still be seen at horse fairs and special occasions, and are in many cases restored Victorian broughams. A restored brougham can command a high price at market, since it often includes many handmade components and accents.

Several things distinguish a brougham. The first is that the carriage is entirely closed, with passengers entering through a center door on the side, typically. The carriage also has four wheels, and usually includes two facing bench seats with an aisle between them. The driver sits outside the carriage, traditionally on an exposed seat which is higher than the seats used by the passengers so that the driver can see ahead. A brougham is also a one horse carriage, designed to be pulled by a single horse rather than a pair or set.

The design was developed in the early 1800s by Henry Peter Brougham, who also happened to be the first Baron of Brougham and Vaux. He was endowed with the title in recognition for his many contributions to society, and the Baron was also a notable abolitionist, among many other things. The simple, stylish design of the carriage caught on, and many upper class households ordered broughams for use during inclement weather, since the sheltered carriage was very snug.

As is the case with many four wheeled carriages, the brougham would have been less than comfortable when it was first developed, due to lack of a springy, solid suspension. Later variants on the design would have included more robust suspensions which made the brougham more comfortable for long trips and on rough roads. The design also usually included a hatch for luggage, so that carried belongings did not get soiled along the journey.

Out of the many carriage designs which existed during the 19th century, the shape and style of the brougham were considered highly suitable for adaptation to the engine. As a result, many early cars look suspiciously look broughams without horses attached. As car design diversified, the brougham shape was gradually lost, although the lines of the brougham can still be vaguely seen in boxy sedans.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By OeKc05 — On Sep 11, 2011

I saw a couple of different types of carriages at a fair last fall. There was the original coach, the regular brougham, and something called the brougham-landaulet, which I took a ride in.

This type of brougham had a top that could be opened. I pulled it back to find that it folded from the rear of the door to the back of the box. This was nice, because the air that day was crisp and fresh. I’m sure it was a great feature to have during the hot summer months long ago.

It also had a window facing forward. We could all see our surroundings as we rode along.

By Oceana — On Sep 10, 2011

My neighbor drives a car that actually has the word “brougham” in its name. It is very ugly in my opinion, but he loves it because it looks old, and he is into antiques.

It looks like a box set on top of a long boat with wheels. It must be hard to park, because it takes up a lot of space. It is nineteen years old, but he has worked on it a lot, and it runs well.

I personally prefer streamlined vehicles with rounded curves. One of his reasons for driving the brougham is its resemblance and reference to the carriages of old. I can appreciate this sentiment, but I don’t share it.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 10, 2011

It must have been nice for wealthy families long ago to have a nice sheltered mode of transportation during thunderstorms. I wonder if they ever considered the poor driver on the seat outside, taking them wherever they desired?

He had to endure being pelted with rain and maybe even hailstones. He was in danger of being struck by lightning upon that high seat. Whatever they paid him could not have been enough.

By wavy58 — On Sep 09, 2011

I had the chance to ride in a brougham at a horse fair last summer. My younger cousin was thrilled to get in the carriage. She said it looked just like the ones in the old movies her dad likes to watch.

Since it was an enclosed space, it got really hot in there quickly. The temperature outside was in the nineties, so it was even warmer inside.

Also, the benches were really uncomfortable. Both of us were really skinny, so we didn’t have much padding to absorb the shock of the bumpy ride.

However, it was cool just to experience a piece of the past. I’m glad that I don’t have to depend on a brougham for transportation, though.

By ElizaBennett — On Sep 09, 2011

Thanks for this article! I love reading old novels and one of the challenges is that they use so many terms we don't know. Just like we have lots of different kinds of cars and what you own says something about you, they had many different kinds of carriages and what kind you owned was important!

If you read Jane Austen, you're always coming across barouches, phaetons, broughams, coaches, etc. (A good annotated edition is super-helpful with this kind of issue.)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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