Spider Phaeton


By the late 1880s the Spider Phaeton was considered the most suitable owner-driven carriage for fashionable young men. The design came from America and used a different construction to other phaetons. The seat was built over an open framework and not over a boot. This allowed no space for luggage, making it useful for only the shortest of journeys.

Spider phaetons were light and stylish and were almost entirely used for park and show ring driving. They were usually drawn by a pair and were ideal for showing off fine well bred horses. The equivalent of today’s nippy little sports car!

Made by Holmes of Derby and London, this Spider Phaeton comes from the collection of the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury and has several unusual features. It is a substantial phaeton with a very wide groom’s seat and two mounting steps. This indicates that the carriage carried two grooms and implies the use of four horses. The Earl of Shrewsbury’s crest is engraved on the axle caps where normally only the builders name would appear.

Accession Number: 64.064.0012


The Mechanic’s Tale: Bert Marsh prepares the Spider Phaeton for a race. But will the Earl of Shrewsbury win his bet?

From a collection of films created in 2014. The monologues were written by Mal Dewhirst and performed by Fired Up Theatre, directed by Simon Quinn. Students from South Staffordshire College, media and film studies course in Lichfield provided technical support. Funded by Arts Council England

Additional information

The Forfeit Race!
The unusual forecarriage on this Spider Phaeton suggests it may have been built for the 20th Earl’s planned road race with the Earl of Lonsdale, Hugh Lowther in 1891. The Earl of Lonsdale was a keen sportsman, and is most famous for boxing which is where the Lonsdale brand name comes from. He challenged the Earl of Shrewsbury to a 20 mile race on which he wagered £100. The match was due to take place on the road between Melton Mowbray and Leicester. Apparently the Earl of Shrewsbury refused to ride on the day because he thought the conditions of the road were too dangerous. However the newspapers reported he had been insulted by something Lord Lonsdale had said! The Earl of Shrewsbury forfeit the race and ended up paying the £100 when the Earl of Lonsdale managed to complete the challenge in 56 minutes.