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Cutten's Coachbuilders

By Amanda Rogan & Pat Saunders

By Amanda Rogan, Learning Officer and Pat Saunders, Volunteer at The Novium Museum

Early Carriages were reserved for people who were unable to travel on horseback, such as those who were ill or elderly. It would not be until the early 18th century when travel by coach became accepted as a form of transport, although this was still reserved for the upper classes.

By the 18th Century, the design of carriages had improved significantly and this encouraged a huge range of decoration and styles. The introduction of springs gave rise to lighter types of carriage that could absorb the shock from uneven road surfaces and for those that could afford it, made travelling by coach much more enjoyable and comfortable.

Eventually, designs became standardised as coachbuilders were able to consult textbooks and use standard patterns. A coachbuilder's workshop tended to be separated into specialised trades like body-maker, undercarriage-maker, wheelwright, coach-smith, carriage-trimmer and carriage painter, each accommodated in their own area.

The Tubb and Davis "machine" (a two end coach) was one of the first fast coaches to run between London and Brighton. The journey time was around 11 hours (leaving Brighton at 6am) with a single fare being between 14 and 16 shillings.

In Chichester coachbuilding was established by John Turner in 1738 and, by 1784, he was in partnership and working under the name of Turner and Philpot. In 1821 the business was sold to James Ewer Cutten (1783-1857) a coach and harness maker. The business, which was based in St Pancras, remained in the Cutten family over the next four generations.

In July 1832 William Ballard, landlord of The Dolphin, West Street, entered into an agreement with James E Cutten for repair of carriages at an annual charge of £78. By 1839 two other coachbuilders are recorded in Chichester, George Cutten in Crane Street and James Dorey in Little London.

James Cutten (1812-1888) was also a coachbuilder like his father and went on to have three sons, James, Henry Richard and Charles William, all of whom worked as coachbuilders. Henry Richard went on to have 5 children, including two sons Ewer and Ernest, who also joined the family business and worked for their mother (who took over when their father died). Ewer worked as a coach body maker and Ernest as coach painter.

In the 1860s Cuttens employed six apprentices, a third of the business' total workforce.

In 1920 Cuttens built the body on a Ford chassis motor bus which was used in Summersdale at a cost of £270.

The advent of mass-produced cars killed off the business and in 1930 Cuttens was sold to Rowes (specialists in agricultural machinery) who later demolished the buildings in St Pancras and moved to a site in The Hornet. They remained here until the beginning of the 21st century when their site was sold to be re-developed as housing.

A number of artefacts related to Cuttens coachbuilders are housed at The Novium Museum with a selection currently on display.

James Cutten, Coachbuilder James Cutten, Coachbuilder
Cutten Coach Drawing Cutten Coach Drawing
Cutten Bus (P2573) Cutten Bus (P2573)
Thumbnail image of James Cutten, Coachbuilder
Thumbnail image of Cutten Coach Drawing
Thumbnail image of Cutten Bus (P2573)
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