Duties of Coachmen and Stablemen in a Large Establishment

An establishment or stable department where all kinds of carriages are kept, from a coach to a runabout, differs according to the requirements and life of the family to be served. When everything is the best of its kind, and every appointment is to be perfect, eight men at least, besides the head coachman, and twenty horses are required.

The head coachman should be a man who thoroughly understands his business in every detail, and one who commands the respect of men under him.

He should have full and complete charge of everything connected with the stable, be held responsible for its service in every way, and have authority to discharge his men for misconduct.

His duties require him to see the horses fed, and his men at work in the morning punctually at the hour set by him. He should see that the men do their work properly, he should say what horses require exercise, etc., and strictly watch the general health and comfort of the animals.

To the head coachman falls especially attention to the first lady of the household. He sees that all his men are properly fitted with the livery required for each style of carriage, and that they are at all times clean and neat in person.

To regulate his work he will need a second coachman, who will drive in his turn, see that all carriages are kept perfectly clean, pay strict attention to the oiling of wheels, etc., and care for general neatness of the coach house.

A third coachman, or pad groom, will be required to ride and drive, and to keep clean saddles and bridles. He also has care of the saddle room.

One man must be appointed harness cleaner, and he will have care of all harnesses and the harness room, and see that all harnesses are clean and in their place.

It will need the time of the other men to clean and harness horses, and properly attend to them after they are used; to clean stable drains and stable; to keep the place free from foul odor; and to dust, wash windows, etc.

In order to insure the convenience of the family, and to prevent the men's being away at meals, etc., it is best to provide in such an establishment for the men's board and sleeping accommodations, bath, etc., in the stable. Domestic & Household Management, Domestic Servants' Rights and Duties, Mrs. L. Seely, 1902

The Coachman

GENERALLY is entrusted by his master to purchase the hay, oats, beans, and straw: in the choice of all these he cannot be too particular, as his horses cannot thrive upon bad coin or hay, nor will straw of a bad quality last nearly as long as good. In case of the illness of his horses, he should not consult every ignorant farrier, nor undertake the cure of them himself. It will be less expense to take the advice of a veterinary surgeon. The varnish of carriages becomes, after a little use, rather dull, even by the best care in this case it may be much heightened by using a little fine tripoli, moistened wilh olive oil, and put upon soft leather: with this let the carriage be rubbed and then wiped off, and polish off with olive oil and a clean leather. The harness should be oiled in the inside, and blacked on the outside: by this means it will always look well, and never crack: the plate maybe cleaned with fine whiting.

The Groom

MAY always easily clean his stirrups, bits, etc. by rubbing them over-night with olive oil, and by sprinkling hot lime on them in the morning: rub this off with a soft leather. The saddle may be cleaned by the composition already directed for boot-tops.Domestic Economy, John Farley, 1811

The Head of the Stables.


Carriages being valuable and costly have to be most carefully dealt with. They should be carefully cleaned before putting away, and the coach-house should be perfectly dry and well ventilated, for the wood work swells with moisture; it shrinks with heat, unless the timber has undergone a long course of seasoning; it should also have a dry floor, a boarded one being recommended. It must be removed from the ammoniacal influence of the stables, from open drains and cesspools, and other gaseous influences likely to affect the paint and varnish. When the carriage returns home, it should be carefully washed and dried, and that, if possible, before the mud has time to dry on it. This is done by first well slushing it with clean water, so as to wash away all particles of sand, having first closed the sashes to avoid wetting the linings. The body is then gone carefully over with a soft mop, using plenty of clean water, and penetrating every corner of the carved work, so that not an atom of dirt remains; the body of the carriage is then raised by placing the jack under the axletree, and raising it so that the wheel turns freely; this is now thoroughly washed with the mop until the dirt is removed, using a wash-brush for corners where the mop does not penetrate. Every particle of mud and sand removed by the mop, and afterwards with a wet sponge, the carriage is wiped dry, and, as soon after as possible, the varnish is carefully polished with soft leather, using a little sweet oil for the leather parts, and even for the panels, so as to check any tendency of the varnish to crack. Stains are removed by rubbing them with the leather and sweet oil; if that fails, a little Tripoli powder mixed with the oil will be more successful.

In preparing the carriage for use,

the whole body should be rubbed over with a clean leather and carefully polished, the iron work and joints oiled, the plated and brass work occasionally cleaned the one with plate powder, or with well-washed whiting mixed with sweet oil, and leather kept for the purpose the other with rottenstone mixed with a little oil, and applied without too much rubbing, until the paste is removed; but, if rubbed every day with the leather, little more will be required to keep it untarnished. The linings require careful brushing every day, the cushions being taken out and beaten, and the glass sashes should always be bright and clean. The wheel tires and axletree are carefully seen to, and greased when required, the bolts and nuts tightened, and all the parts likely to get out of order overhauled. These duties, however, are only incidental to the coachman's office, which is to drive; and much of the enjoyment of those in the carriage depends on his proficiency in his art much also of the wear of the carriage and horses. He should have sufficient knowledge of the construction of the carriage to know when it is out of order to know, also, the pace at which he can go over the road he has under him without risking the springs, and without shaking those he is driving too much.


Having, with or without the help of the groom or stable boy, put his horses to the carriage, and satisfied himself, by walking round them, that everything is properly arranged, the coachman proceeds to the off-side of the carriage, takes the reins from the back of the horses, where they were thrown, buckles them together, and, placing his foot on the step, ascends to his box, having his horses now entirely under control. In ordinary circumstances, he is not expected to descend, for where no footman accompanies the carriage, the doors are usually so arranged that even a lady may let herself out, if she wishes to, from the inside. The coachman's duties are to avoid everything approaching an accident, and all his attention is required to guide his horses. The pace at which he drives will depend upon his orders in all probability a moderate pace of seven or eight miles an hour; less speed is injurious to the horses, getting them into lazy and sluggish habits; for it is wonderful how soon these are acquired by some horses. Unless he has contrary orders, a good driver will choose a smart pace, but not enough to make his horses sweat; on level roads this should never be seen. The true coachman's hands are so delicate and gentle, that the mere weight of the reins is felt on the bit, and the directions are indicated by a turn of the wrist rather than by a pull; the horses are guided and encouraged, and only pulled up when they exceed their intended pace, or in the event of a stumble; for there is a strong though gentle hand on the reins.

In choosing his horses

every master will see that they are properly paired that their paces are about equal. When their habits differ it is the coachman's duty to discover how he can, with least annoyance to the horses, get that pace out of them. Some horses have been accustomed to be driven on the check, and the curb irritates them; others, with harder mouths, cannot be controlled with the slight leverage this affords; he must, therefore, accommodate the horses as he best can. The reins should always be held so that the horses are "in hand"; but he is a very bad driver who always drives with a tight rein; the pain to the horse is intolerable and causes him to rear and plunge, and finally break away, if he can. He is also a bad driver when the reins are always slack; the horse then feels abandoned to himself; he is neither directed nor supported, and if no accident occurs, it is great good luck.

The whip,

in the hands of a good driver, and with well-bred cattle, is there more as a precaution than a "tool" for frequent use; if he uses it, it is to encourage, by stroking the flanks; except, indeed, he has to punish some waywardness of temper, and then he does it effectually, taking care, however, that it is done on the flank, where there is no very tender part, never on the crupper.


usually follows dressing; but some horses refuse their food until they have drunk: the groom should not, therefore, lay down exclusive rules on this subject, but study the temper and habits of his horse. Some great authorities on stable management recommend that drinking water should always be kept in the stalls, so that the horses can drink when inclined. This arrangement however is not popular with most grooms.


All horses not in work require at least two hours' exercise daily, and in exercising them a good groom will put them through the paces to which they have been trained. In the case of saddle horses, he will walk, trot, canter and gallop them, in order to keep them up to their work. With draught horses they ought to be kept up to a smart walk and trot.


must depend on their work, but they require feeding three times a day, with more or less corn each time, according to their work. In the fast coaching days it was a saying among proprietors, that "his belly was the measure of his food"; but the horse's appetite is not to be taken as a criterion of the quantity of food. Horses vary very much in their appetites, as well as in their digestive powers. The following are safe signs that a horse is not being over fed: a healthy pink mouth, clearing up his food to the last oat, and healthy droppings. If the mouth be yellow, food left, or the dung loose or hard and slimy, give bran mashes for a day, afterwards include allowance of corn.

A fresh young horse can bruise its own oats when it can get them; but aged horses, after a time, lose the power of masticating and bruising them, and bolt them whole: thus much impeding the work of digestion. For an old horse, bruise the oats; for a young one it does no harm and little good. Oats should be bright and dry, and not too new. Where they are new, sprinkle them with salt and water; otherwise, they overload the horse's stomach. Chopped straw mixed with oats, in the proportion of a third of straw or hay, is a good food for horses in full work; and carrots, of which horses are remarkably fond, have a perceptible effect in a short time on the gloss of the coat.


A horse should not be sent on a journey or any other hard work immediately after new shoeing; the stiffness incidental to new shoes is not unlikely to bring him down. A day's rest, with reasonable exercise, will not be thrown away after this operation. Have the feet stopped at night after being shod; it will keep the feet moist, and allow the nails to better hold.

On reaching home very hot.

Should necessity cause the horse to arrive in that state, the groom should walk him about for a few minutes; this done, he should take off the moisture with the scraper, and afterwards wisp him over with a handful of straw and a flannel cloth; if the cloth is dipped in some spirit all the better. He should wash, pick, and wipe dry the legs and feet, take off the bridle and crupper, and fasten it to the rack, then the girths, and put a wisp of straw under the saddle. When sufficiently cool, the horse should have some hay given him, and then a feed of oats: if he refuse the latter, offer him a little wet bran, or a handful of oatmeal in tepid water. When he has been fed, he should be thoroughly cleaned, and his body clothes on, and, if very much harassed with fatigue, a little good ale or wine will be well bestowed on a valuable horse, adding plenty of fresh litter under the belly.


Every time a horse is unbridled, the bit should be carefully washed and dried, and the leather wiped, to keep them sweet, as well as the girths and saddle, the latter being carefully dried and beaten with a switch before it is again put it on. In washing a horse's feet after a day's work, the master should insist upon the legs and feet being washed thoroughly with a sponge until the water flows over them, and then rubbed with a brush till quite dry. Harness, if not carefully preserved, very soon gets a shabby, tarnished appearance. Where the coachman has a proper harness room and sufficient assistance, this is inexcusable and easily prevented. The harness room should have a wooden lining all round, and be perfectly dry and well ventilated. Around the walls, hooks and pegs should be placed for the several pieces of harness, at such a height as to prevent their touching the ground; and every part of the harness should have its peg or hook one for the halters, another for the reins, and others for snaffles and other bits and metal work: and either a wooden horse or saddle-tree for saddles and pads. All these parts should be dry, clean and shining.

This is only to be done by careful cleaning and polishing, and the use of several requisite pastes. The metallic parts, when white, should be cleaned by a soft brush and plate powder; the copper and brass parts burnished with rottenstone powder and oil; steel with emery powder both made into a paste with a little oil.
The Book of Household Management, by Mrs. Isabella Beeton, 1861, 1907
Published Originally By S. O. Beeton in 24 Monthly Parts, 1859-1861. First Published in a Bound Edition 1861.


A COACHMAN must be clean-shaven, and in the city his livery should consist of white leather or stockinette breeches, close-fitting and fastened at the bottom by small buttons on the outside of the knee, top boots, and a single-breasted, high-buttoned frock coat of dark blue, bottle-green, brown or plum-colored kersey. White linen, a standing collar, with a plastron or coachman's scarf, black silk hat, and tan, white or gray driving-gloves complete his livery. In winter weather, over his livery, the coachman draws a double-breasted over-coat of any of the livery colors chosen. This coat is very long, and fastens high with large brass or silver buttons. In the summer and in the country, unless a Victoria or brougham is used, this heavy and formal livery should be put, aside for a complete suit of brown or gray whipcord, the trousers, waistcoat and coat all of the same goods, A brown felt hat and brown driving-gloves and black or brown shoes are essential details.

The Groom

WHEN serving on the carriage-box, the groom stands beside the carriage door, holding it open for his mistress to enter; he touches his hat as she appears, when she gives him his orders, and when he turns away to mount beside the coachman. Her orders he repeats to the coachman, and when the carriage draws near a private house the footman leaps lightly down, runs up the steps, rings the bell, and coming back, touches his hat, opens the carriage door, and awaits orders. If the carriage is to wait, he does not mount again to the box, but lingers beside it or on the sidewalk. If the carriage halts before a shop or church door, or before a house where an entertainment that his mistress purposes to take part in is very palpably under way, the groom alights quickly, and before the horses come to a standstill he is beside the carriage door to open it. When the master or mistress personally is to drive a trap, the groom stands at the horses' heads until the driver is seated and settled, and then mounts behind to the footman's seat.

When the trap halts for the driver to dismount, the groom springs down before it comes to a standstill and takes his place again at the horses' heads, touching his hat invariably when the least order is given him, or when he replies to a question. A groom is always cleah-shaven, and dresses for the box seat of a brougham or Victoria, with the exception of certain details, in the fashion already laid down for a coachman. On the box of a Victoria, brougham, or landau his hat, boots, breeches, gloves, collar and color of coat match the coachman's. In the country a groom wears whipcords as described for the coachman. His coat does not boast pocket flaps and is shorter in the skirts than the coachman's. His greatcoat is also an inch or two shorter, and on the tails of both body and greatcoat he wears four more buttons. For the groom attending a lady riding in the park, white buckskin breeches, top boots and a short-skirted black kersey body coat, with top hat and tan riding gloves, are the costume, further distinguished by a broad brown leather belt, passed about his waist over his coat and fastened in front with a large brass or silver buckle. A gentleman's groom wears in the country the whipcords and brown gloves, shoes and hat as described; in the city, for service on a coach or cart, he dresses in white breeches, top boots and black or colored body coat.
A Book of Manners for Everyday Use, The Well-trained Servant, by Emily Holt