Some Background and History
The earliest known pram models were developed in the Eighteenth Century. A man called William Kent, who was a garden architect, designed the first baby carriage in 1733. As an architect, he was well known. So much so, that it was the Duke of Devonshire who commissioned him to build a pram. At that point, no other prams existed. The instructions were to build a device capable of transporting the Duke’s children. Kent took on the task, and the finished product was a success. The part that carried the children was shaped like a shell, which was decorated intricately, and balanced on wheels. Not only that, but the original design was intended to be pulled along by ponies or goats. The background in architecture must have been useful, because he became very well known for pram-making. Within 100 years, prams were enormously popular with the general public and royalty alike. Queen Victoria herself had three prams for her children.
The earlier models were constructed solidly. The top part of the pram was usually made from wicker or wood, and was fastened together using brass joints, which were more often than not very expensive and intricately designed and painted. The joints were stand-alone pieces of art. More and more styles and models were produced, and they were often named after member of the royal family, or after their titles, such as Duchess and Princess, or royal places, such as Windsor and Balmoral.
Changes in Pram Designs
All of these early styles had the basket part of the pram facing away from the parents. But in 1889, one of the first reversible strollers was patented by William Richardson. Basically, the bassinet part of the pram was reversed, so the parent could see their child. Another big change in the design at this point was to change the actual carriage’s structure. Before this time, the prams wheels moved at the same time. Richardson designed the axis to allow the individual wheels to move independently. This was a revelation for the design of prams, as they were cumbersome to turn before this. The design was a massive success.
Over the next thirty years, prams grew in popularity, and became a staple item for any family. Over the years, the designs changed to become more modern, as well as being safer. By the start of the 1920s, prams were widely available, and the models had much sturdier frames, as well as bigger wheels, often with brakes, and deeper bassinets for the children, ensuring their safety.
Prams from 1950s
The 1950s saw a change in the design; as more and more people began to travel, demand was for lightweight designs that folded up. The bassinet was also reversible, meaning it could be unclipped from the frame to face either the parent or the street ahead.
From Prams to Strollers
Still, the pram was still a heavy piece of equipment to manoeuvre. It was only in the 1960s that an aeroplane engineer called Owen Maclaren changed the design of child carriers completely. His daughter complained about travelling with the pram on long journeys, so he used his expertise to manufacture the stroller. Lighter and more convenient, strollers eventually became more popular than the pram. Prams continued to sell for a while, but as strollers were easier to use, eventually the pram became outdated. Nowadays, modern prams can be purchased, but they are often cumbersome and expensive. Traditional, old designs have made a bit of a comeback, and are sought-after items.
Buying Vintage Prams
Vintage prams can be purchased if you know where to look. Some brand names of popular vintage prams include Wilson, Silver Cross, Marmet, Millson, Royal, and Pedigree. But buying an old-style pram can be tricky unless you know exactly what you are looking for. You don’t want to end up with a shoddy, worn-out model if you’re intending to use it on a daily basis. Likewise, you don’t want to end up paying over the odds for a mint-condition pram if you’re only going to store plants in it.
If you’re just looking for something on the cheap side, try browsing around garage sales, car-boot sales, and in second-hand shops. For more high-quality merchandise, you’ll find a lot of traders on the internet, especially eBay. Here are a few more tips if you’re buying a pram online. Always check the seller’s reputation and don’t buy without seeing photos of the pram from various angles – ask for more if necessary. Don’t be scared of asking the buyer questions – it will help you make an informed decision.
Be sure there isn’t any rust, or if there is, that it is possible to deal with it
Check that there aren’t holes or tears in the bassinet, unless you are confident you can repair it
Remember: finding replacement parts could be tricky
Check the condition of rubber on the tyres
Vintage Prams are more Popular than Ever
Nowadays, a lot of people are obsessed with all things retro. And why not? Items from the past are often beautiful and well-made, and can be classic looking. A rarer item some people like to own is a vintage pram. And it’s not as silly as it sounds! Vintage prams are beautiful in their own right. They can be bought and used as a beautiful piece of furniture, perhaps in a child’s room or nursery. If it’s not in great condition, you could put it in a conservatory and fill it with plants. Or you can get yourself a top of the range, mint-condition one, and use it as it was intended: as a vehicle for your child.