History

Saving The Forgotten Invalid Carriage

They were banned in 1976, recalled and crushed, but some owners hid them from the authorities.

Originating in Bath in the 1820s, 'Invalid Carriages' were a form of three-wheeled wheelchair, with hooks to be pulled by horses or servants.

After the First World War, the government began to provide the carriages to wounded servicemen free of charge.

Over the years, the carriage design developed. They became self-propelled, and later were fitted with engines, powered either by petrol or electric.

Due to safety concerns, the government banned the use of invalid carriages in 1976 and they were recalled and crushed. But many people hid them from the authorities in barns and backyards.  

Invalid carriages Credit BFBS 30.10.19
Invalid carriages were known as being notoriously unsafe.

Researcher and enthusiast Simon McKeown, owns the UK’s largest collection of ‘invalid carriages’.

“We’ve got fantastic stories from the tricycle association of people going from Catterick to London, even war veterans to the alps,” Mr McKeown said.

“What was interesting was how self-sufficient they were.

"They’d also take their own repair kits, spark plugs and the likes,” he added.

Simon McKeown Pointing At Invalid Carriage
Simon McKeown has a collection of invalid carriages stored away in his shed.

Although the carriages were a lifeline to many servicemen, they had their problems.

They were notoriously unreliable and unsafe to drive, often rolling over on account of their unstable shape and catching fire due to fibreglass cladding.

They could also only take one person at a time.

Mr McKeown is now working with Toyota’s Mobility Foundation, aiming to improve mobility solutions for service personnel in the 21st century.