This particular hearse was built by Marston & Co around 1880 in Birmingham, England, a gritty, gloomy place during the Industrial Revolution, also the hometown of the greatest rock band of all time, Black Sabbath. Birmingham rose to prominence during the Victorian Era as a center of commerce, and it wasn’t long before the city was second only to London in population. Lots of people living in one place in 19th century England, unfortunately, meant lots of funerals, and lots of business for coachbuilders.
Everything else is in order, the faux hammercloth remains intact, the pierced top rails, finials, and corner posts are all original, and accounted for. The hearse was purchased on from an undertaker in Ireland in 1967, and exported to the UK in the early 1970s where it has remained, unused, and in climate controlled storage.
The dawn of the automobile meant the closing of the window for horse drawn hearses in the early 20th century. Marston & Co remained in business until 1935, and by the end they too were building “horseless hearses”.
Would they have ever thought that one of their builds would be up on the auction block at Bonhams, and possibly put back into service as horse drawn funerals have once again become stylish?
Doubtful, but given the attention to detail in the coachwork, and society’s love of an outlandish funeral, it’s quite possible they knew understood the boldness of their work.