James Pollard

The ‘Tally-Ho’ London - Birmingham Stage Coach Passing Whittington College, Highgate


Not on display

James Pollard 1792–1867
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 369 × 457 mm
framed: 518 × 608 × 57 mm
Bequeathed by Mrs F. Ambrose Clark through the British Sporting Art Trust 1982

Display caption

By the time Pollard painted this picture, stage coach travel was beginning to be threatened by the rise of the new railway system. For many observers stage coaches were seen not only as one of life’s essentials, but also as a picturesque part of English life. From the details included by Pollard in this picture, this particular coach can be identified as the ‘Tally-Ho’ London to Birmingham coach. This would leave The Saracen’s Head inn on Snow Hill in Holborn at 7.45 am, and arrive at the Swan Hotel in Birmingham eleven hours later.

Gallery label, October 2013

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Catalogue entry


Oil on canvas 14 1/2 × 18 (369 × 457)
Inscribed ‘J Pollard 1836’ b.r. and ‘JP’ on a trunk at rear of coach; the coach is variously lettered (see below)
Bequeathed by Mrs F. Ambrose Clark from the collection of the late F. Ambrose Clark through the British Sporting Art Trust 1982
Prov :...; ‘Christie's 1914’ (according to Selway 1972, but sale untraced); F. Ambrose Clark by 1937; his widow Mrs F. Ambrose Clark
Exh: Sporting Prints and Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March–April 1937 (32); Tate Gallery, August–September 1982, and York City Art Gallery, March–September 1984, with other paintings from Mrs F. Ambrose Clark's Bequest (no catalogue)
Lit: Hugh McCausland, The English Carriage, 1948, p.117, repr. facing p.120; [E.J. Rousuck], The F. Ambrose Clark Collection of Sporting Paintings, privately printed, New York 1958, p.217, repr. p.216; N.C. Selway, The Golden Age of Coaching and Sport, 1972, p.30, no.103

The painting has hitherto been exhibited and described as ‘The Manchester-Liverpool Mail Coach...’; but the meticulous detail with which Pollard records the embellishment of the vehicle firmly establishes this as the ‘Tally-Ho’ London-Birmingham Stage Coach, licence number 3462 (Pollard depicts the number plate affixed to the door panel of the coach behind its headlamp). ‘BIRMINGHAM' and LONDON’ are lettered on the lower part of the door, with the picture of a turbaned head between them; above them are lettered the coach proprietors' names, ‘W. CHAPLIN & CO.| TH. WADDELL| S.A. MOUNTAIN & CO.’. ‘MANCHESTER’ and ‘LIVERPOOL’ are lettered on the bodywork to the left of the coach door, and ‘ [...] VEN [...] ’ (Coventry) to its right. A tubular holder for the guard's horn hanging from the roof of the coach is lettered ‘TALLY-HO’ and also carries the image of a turbaned head. All this evidence firmly identifies this coach as the ‘Tally-Ho’ London-Birmingham stage coach, which departed from ‘The Saracen's Head’ inn on Snow Hill in the City of London at 7.45 a.m., arriving eleven hours later at the Swan Hotel in Birmingham, from which passengers could travel by other stages to Manchester, Liverpool etc.

A detailed study of the coach itself, in pen and ink over pencil, is in an album of Pollard drawings in the British Museum (4 7/8 × 7 1/8in; 1933-10-14-172). This drawing carries the same lettering as the painting (and is inscribed with colour notes and with ‘Sarison's Head’ for its point of departure and ‘Swan Hotel Birmingham’ for its terminus), and the same clearly numbered licence plate, ‘3462’. The Directory of Stage Coach Services 1836, compiled by Alan Bates, 1968, p.5, records '3466 and ‘3501’ as licence numbers for the ‘Tally Ho’ London-Birmingham coach, and ‘3462’ for its competitor, the ‘Greyhound’ London-Birmingham coach. Pollard's clear evidence is to be preferred on this point.

The background depicts Whittington College, a two-storied row of almshouses built by the Mercers' Company from 1823 to replace almshouses at St Michael's Paternoster established by the Mercers executing the Will of Sir Richard Whittington (‘Dick’ Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London, d.1423). Whittington College, Highgate, contained flats for almswomen who were widows and spinsters and aged over 55; as Pollard shows, there was a chapel in the middle of the central block and two houses (for the Chaplain and Matron) at the end of each wing. The road in the foreground was built by the Highgate Archway Company as a commercial venture, to bypass the steep Highgate Hill. An Act of Parliament in 1809 authorized the Company to build a road and to levy tolls on vehicles, animals and pedestrians; the charges were 6d. for a horse-drawn cart or carriage, 3d. for a horse and rider, 2d. for a donkey and 1d. for a pedestrian. This toll-gate and its keeper can be seen on the right in Pollard's painting. In 1966 Whittington College was demolished to make way for the Archway Road Improvement Scheme, and rebuilt at Felbridge in Sussex (information kindly provided by Joan Davies, Jim Connell and Arthur Drage).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986


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