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Cart marking 2017 – 500 years of transport history

Sep 21, 2017
The annual cart marking ceremony was held at Guildhall Yard in London on 12 July, 2017. This was the 500th year for cart marking: the first ever recorded system for taxing vehicles.



The removals industry was stylishly represented by Evan Cook, with an 1893 hand cart; Michael Gerson’s 1947 Morris van and beautiful horse-drawn Purdey pantechnicon; the 1928 Morris van ’Sammy’ from Bishop’s Move and White’s 1890 tunnel van, owned by the company since new, pulled by three rare-breed Suffolk Punch horses and driven by Mrs Ness Morris.

The power to mark vehicles is vested in the keeper of Guildhall who marked the vehicles of the Freemen of the Fellowship of Carmen licensing them to park and operate on the London streets. Each year the Freemen would bring their vehicles to Guildhall to receive a brand from a red-hot iron onto a wooden plate fixed to the vehicle denoting the letter of the year. The tradition is kept today, however in this quincentenary year the brand was of the Carmen’s 500-year logo.

This year the weather was kind for the event; very kind as it had been pouring with rain the day before and there is no natural cover in Guildhall Yard for either spectators or drivers. But the sun shone and spirits were high as wave after wave of nostalgia swept over the audience as they admired the history of transport from the 19th century hand-driven carts, through the splendid horse-drawn age of grandeur, whispering steam-powered lorries, and diesel workhorses right up to the multi-fuel sustainability of the modern age. It was all very impressive. Even Corporal Jones’ butcher’s van, of Dad’s Army fame, made an appearance along with a Captain Mainwaring lookalike.

The hard work, branding the vehicles, was handled by The Master Carman Mrs Marsha Rae Ratcliff OBE and The Lord Mayor of the City of London The Rt Hon Alderman Dr Andrew Parmley.

Dinner, as always, was served in the 15th century Guildhall under the watchful eye of the great and the good. Dining with the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson staring over your shoulder making sure you know which bread roll to eat can be a little intimidating at first but most seemed to take the formality in their stride, especially when the Lord Mayor returned from a brief interlude entertaining the King of Spain to give a very amusing and beautifully delivered speech.

To understand history is to understand the present. Everywhere we look and everything we do is a product of what has gone before. The branding of vehicles is outdated, today our vehicles don’t even have a tax disc anymore, but that doesn’t matter. It is our past that has made us what we are today and our ability to recall it that gives us our character and our wisdom. Besides, it’s great fun.

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