Four hand built models of the Royal State coaches housed at Buckingham Palace and one of Prince Phillip’s “Eventing” carriages were demonstrated to the Probus Club of Basingstoke by expert model maker Peter Smith. He is a member of the Guild of Model Wheelwrights that although based in Britain has many overseas members, and has been presented with a Gold Award for his outstanding quality of craftsmanship. In twenty years of entering his models in competitions under the auspices of the Model Engineering Exhibition he has achieved nineteen medals and one highly commended certificate.
The models displayed are part of ten precision models he has made of the coaches held in the Royal Mews. They are unique in being the only set of scratch built 1/8 scale (1 ½ inches to one foot) models ever made of the State coaches and only came about after Peter was initially granted permission to take the measurements from the 1838 State Landau at Windsor Castle. When the model was completed he took it back to show the staff at Windsor Castle. They were so impressed at the quality of workmanship that he was summoned to show the model to the Crown Equerry who subsequently gave Peter permission to go to the Royal Mews.
HRH The Prince Phillip no longer uses his “Eventing” carriage in competitions but is today used for shooting parties in Windsor Great Park and at Royal Ascot. Peter took 15 months to make this model but it was the door opener to him being able to make what he describes as his Royal Collection.
The Scottish State coach was built in 1850 and is used by HM The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The model took about sixteen months to make of which about a quarter of this time was used in its painting.
The Queen Alexandra State coach is used for the State Opening of Parliament. Whenever HM The Queen uses it then only Windsor Grey horses are used. The model has bevelled glass windows that fully open.
King Edward V11 had a landau built in 1902 as a town coach made to suit his bulky size but he died before it was completed. It has been used for the wedding of HRH The Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and more recently for the marriage of HRH The Prince William and Miss Kate Middleton. The model took twenty months to complete and had five coats of paint and six of varnish. Each layer was rubbed down with the smoothest emery paper with each coat left to harden for at least a week.
The Irish State coach was built in 1838. A quotation had been issued for £850 and even though Buckingham Palace had not responded the carriage manufacturer in Dublin proceeded thinking that the quotation had been accepted. When the finished result was seen by the representatives of the Royal household they decided to pay the quoted price. Peter made 40 pages of detailed drawing and measurements before then taking six weeks to make the final detailed working drawing. The model took two years to make and has been valued at £50,000. The National Trust valuer described it not as a model but as a “Fine Work of Art”.
In fact the ten models in the Royal Collection have a value of £300,000 and have been seen by the Queen, Prince Phillip, and Princess Anne while on display at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. They have featured on TV and in numerous magazines and newspaper articles. However the stipulation from Buckingham Palace is that the models in the Royal Collection cannot be sold but must be bequeathed to the Royal Household when Peter passes away.
Peter lives in Bourne End in Buckinghamshire and is a carpenter by trade. He started making model horse drawn vehicles in 1977 and worked his way through sixteen of the Guild’s plans before developing his own measured models.
The Guild of Model Wheelwrights, whose patron is HRH The Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh KG KT, is a group of enthusiasts who are devoted to the construction and promotion of precision scale models of all types of horse drawn vehicles. The range includes agricultural machinery, carts and wagons, light and heavy commercial vehicles, passenger and road vehicles, gypsy caravans and many little known but fascinating vehicles that are of great historical interest.