Search billions of records on
The Tilbury Gig

Research by J. & C. Tilbury

JOHN TILBURY, son of Robert and Elizabeth, celebrated horse-dealer whose hunters stood across the south of England and who hired them out all expenses included (even the turnpike), who would drink nothing but tea - or water if no tea were available - will perhaps be the best remembered of us all, since HE INVENTED THE TILBURY GIG. His horses were, in his time, as well-known as Tattersall's:

"So, in St. James's, ...
He pays his debts, discards his whore,
No longer drives a stage and four,
Nor cares what horses fill the stalls
At Tilbury's or Tattersall's,
Nor makes his morning lounge the stable,
Nor frets all night o'er Crockford's table. ..."
(From the Moral to 'The Fox & The Rose'
by Henry T. L. Ravensworth, 1833)

Tattersalls continues - and so does THAT GIG!!

From Celebrities I Have Known by William Pitt Lennox:

"Nice little horse, Sir, you are driving (it was one of Tilbury's, hired for the day, and no man turns out better)."
"Stanhope's early connection with Tilbury made him as high an authority in the matter of carriages as the fifth Earl of Jersey himself. Tilbury had raised himself to a high position by his perseverance, attention to business, and honesty of purpose; from a hard-working mechanic in a small shed in the Edgware Road, he, by his invention of the "Tilbury", was enabled to take large premises in South Street, and soon became a popular man. Stanhope had known him previously, and was, in fact, the first that introduced the Tilbury into fashionable circles by driving his wife, then a remarkably pretty woman, in it up and down the Park. This carriage had the mail-coach spring behind, and the others under the shaft, and suited the London stones extremely well, but ran very heavily on the road on account of being hung so low. This difficulty Fitzroy Stanhope conquered by inventing an improvement on it, which was called after himself."

Hoby the bootmaker (who invented the Wellington) as related by Rees Howell Gronow in 1863:

"Hoby was bootmaker to George III., the Prince of Wales, the royal dukes, and many officers in the Army and Navy. His shop was situated at the top of St. James's Street, at the corner of Piccadilly, next to the Old Guards Club. He was bootmaker to the Duke of Wellington from his boyhood, and received innumerable orders in the duke's handwriting, both from the Peninsula and France, which he always religiously preserved.
Hoby was the first man who drove about London in a tilbury. It was painted black, and drawn by a beautiful black cob. This vehicle was built by the inventor, Mr. Tilbury, whose manufactory was, fifty years back, in a street leading from South Audley Street into Park Street."

Old Bailey Trial of 3 April 1811 (theft of 2 bridles, value 7s., on 19 March)
- John Tilbury: victim, coachmaker, lived at No. 7, Edgware-road

3 March 1813, letter from Mrs. Spencer-Stanhope [in London] to her son:
- "I went in Mr. Maddocks' Tilbury yesterday; (... my love for a gig still continues)".

Old Bailey Trial of 3 December 1817 (theft of 'Tilbury' wheels made by Robson)
- John Tilbury: victim, coach-maker, lived in South-street, Grosvenor-square.


A reference in the Sporting Magazine of 1814:

"Fifteen Tilburies drawn by fine blood horses."

There is a report in Harpers Magazine of the Regent driving a Tilbury around Piccadilly Square in 1815.

The 1851 Census shows:

48 Mount St.
John Tilbury (head), 70, Job Master, born St. Giles, Middlesex
Sarah Tilbury, wife, 46, born St. Giles
Emma Maddox, 18, servant

Sarah was probably his second wife.

Public Record Office: Post Office Trades Directory of 1851, Coach and Harness makers section:
- Tilbury, John, Jobmaster, 48 Mount St. Berkley Square, London

From English Horsedrawn Vehicles by D. Parry, 1979:

"The most popular gig of the 19th century was the Stanhope Gig, a pattern first built in 1815 for the Hon. Fitzroy Stanhope, a noted sportsman of his day, by the London coachbuilder Tilbury. This was characterised by a spindle backed seat mounted on an angular luggage boot, a design known as the Tilbury seat because the builder used it in a number of his original designs.... This design soon gained great popularity, which it retained, in its various modified forms, for a century" [i.e. up to about 1915]
"The Hon. Fitzroy Stanhope, already famous for his Stanhope Gig, had the same builder, Tilbury, build him a very light demi-mail with a Tilbury seat like his gig. This was the Stanhope Phaeton that became popular from about 1830."

The above references suggest that Tilbury was probably building carriages, or some form of vehicle, before 1810.

A Treatise on Carriages by William Felton, 1796, describes just about every carriage design of the time, together with many variations on each design. There is no mention of Tilbury.

The 1851 census also lists John Tilbury (coachmaker) b: 1804/5 in Middlesex living at 35 Gloucester Place, Marylebone with his Wife Ann, daughter Harriet (b: 1834) and son Charles (b: 1845).

The catalogue for the 1851 Great Exhibition shows stand 984 being used by Tilbury, John of 35 Gloucester Place, New Road, London, "Manufacturer of light sporting Phaeton with patent noiseless wheels, pole, splinter bar and shafts". This was not the 'Tilbury Gig' which was already in production in large numbers.


History Index        Magazine Index