Victorians were more committed travellers at home and
abroad than their forebears, and needed voluminous luggage to carry all that their status and lifestyle demanded.
Victorian travellers took their comfort and social conventions very seriously,
and a mountain of luggage was required when going for a long weekend in the country. Trips further afield required even more luggage in a variety of sizes and styles.
by ship and train was fashionable
and travelling accessories were a must. There were two main types: heavy luggage and hand baggage.
Chests, trunks and portmanteaux formed the heavy brigade. Trunks have a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages.
The 17th century saw the appearance of wooden trunks covered in leather and decorated with brass nails, and they remained popular until the 20th century.
Those doing the Grand Tour around Europe found them essential, as did soldiers and officials travelling to far-flung outposts. There was heavy baggage to hold virtually everything the traveller owned.
And the Golden Age of Travel
by Harold Darling
Hand baggage included beautifully fitted-out and often very costly dressing cases that contained bottles, jars, brushes, combs, scissors, and even a candlestick to illuminate the fitted mirror.
Hat boxes were made to transport one or more hats in safety, and there were even specialized boxes to take a couple of
collapsible top hats for formal wear and a flat cap to wear on shooting parties.
Carpet bags, with a soft outer fabric on a metal frame, originated in France. Their lightness and roominess made them very popular, and other framed bags followed, including the Gladstone. Original Gladstone bags more resembled suitcases than the soft, open-topped bags known as Gladstones today.
As well as heavier trunks and cases, the Victorians travelled with the more manageable Gladstone bags and carpet bags.
Although some of the highly decorated leather trunks and chests are really lovely items, it is probably more practical to collect hand luggage.
Such a collection cries out to be used, and hard-wearing Victorian leather hand baggage has
become much sought after.
The best places to look for these items are antiques shops and auction rooms. While you may
discover the occasional item in flea markets, these places are not likely to be a rich source.
GLITZ AND GLAMOUR
At the top end of the market are the wonderful, elegant dressing cases produced for firms such as Aspreys. They were made for both
men and women and the contents varied accordingly. Bottles were made of heavy cutglass with silver gilt tops that were sprung to avoid leakages.
The cases, some of which even included a
small bell for summoning the maid, were made of a variety of materials, including exotic woods like ebony, and were occasionally
decorated with semi-precious stones.
Bags made by prestigious firms such as Vuitton or Hermes will also fetch high prices. Other manufacturers worth looking for
include Jenner and Knewstub, who also made dressing cases and chests.
Their famous Old Shekarry's Chow Chow Case was made for tours of duty in India. As with other chests, prices vary according to the completeness and value of the fittings. Some included rifles and a writing desk.
Hat boxes can make a handsome specialized collection. Some of these were made from leather, although cheaper ones were most often fashioned from canvas. The linings were typically of quilted silk.
The material used in the luggage can make quite a difference to its collectability and price. Crocodile skin luggage is now pretty rare, while fine Morocco leather can be colourful and beautifully decorated.