How an American-made sports-carriage became Braidwood's first armed Gold Escort

The carriage used from about 1851 to about 1875 to carry gold from the mining areas of Araluen and Major's Creek to Braidwood for transfer on to Sydney was discovered in a private collection south of Braidwood during 2008. The carriage was purchased by gold exploration company Cortona Resources and gifted to the Braidwood Historical Society where it is now a cenral exhibit. This highly important carriage was originally supplied for the Gold Escort by Mr John Huxham Blatchford, a prosperous Braidwood gold buyer of the 1850s. Mr Blatchford owned several gold diggings in Araluen and would watch their progress from his property east of Braidwood using his telescope, now in the Braidwood Museum collection. The Escort was organised by the Government, but used a privately supplied carriage, purchased in this case by Mr Blatchford, and escorted by two armed troopers on board and four additional troopers on horseback. The carriage was usually driven by a professional driver, and on this occasion was accompanied by Mr Blatchford himself. In March 1865, the Gold Escort was held up on the steep hill up to Major's Creek by Ben Hall and the Clarke Brothers, vicious local bushrangers. After a violent gun battle the bushrangers fled into the bush but the police escort saved the gold. Constable Kelly was severely injured and later received a fifty pound reward. The carriage is of American manufacture and of very high quality. Made by W & A Flandrau in New York in the early 1850s, the design is that of a "stable break", a carriage used for hunting and shooting parties on country estates. W & A Flandrau produced an exceptional range of very high quality carriages of all types, and provided a landau and a victoria to the White House and many other prestigious clients. Smart dog carts were a specialty of theirs. The Flandrau coachbuilders, consisting of a father and two brothers, operated together, and then as three separate businesses, from the 1830s to the 1880s. For the Gold Escort, the carriage was fitted with a sturdy bullion safe which was bolted down through special holes in the floor of the rear compartment. The original safe from this carriage was separated from the carriage in 2007 and sold to the National Museum of Australia. The carriage, used until about 1885 as the gold escort, was then sold and used as a light carrier's vehicle in Braidwood and Goulburn, where it remained in service to the 1950s. During this time the superstructure, with it's attractive spindle sides and folding dog-cart seats, was removed and a more modern motorback seat fitted. During 2009 the carriage was restored to museum standards at Millpond Farm, and unveiled on Friday May 1st at Jembaicumbene. It was then driven into Braidwood where it proceeded up the main street with a full escort of troopers as part of the Braidwood Festival Parade. Upon reaching Ryrie Park the carriage was formally handed over to the Braidwood Museum by Cortona Resources chief Peter van der Burgh. The restoration work has included full reconstruction of the forecarriage and front driving section, the spindle rails and all of the seats and folding seat rests. Original timber was retained where possible including all of the main body. The wheels were professionally rebuilt and every component removed and repaired to the original pattern and quality so that the carriage is not only authentic but also completely roadworthy. The paint colours, typical of the gold escorts to enable them to be seen from a long distance, were matched from paint scrapings on the carriage. The carriage can be drawn by a single horse or a pair, and is presently set up with shafts for a single horse.

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