Sedan Chair

Contributed by Museum of Edinburgh

Sedan chairs carried wealthy people around Edinburgh, particularly in the City's Old Town, where the tightly packed houses made some of the streets too narrow to allow a carriage to pass along them.

Sedan chairs permitted passengers to be carried from door to door, and even from inside one building to another, avoiding the need to walk along the filthy streets, where their expensive clothes and footwear could get dirty.

Rich people sometimes had their own elaborately decorated chairs, but plain black painted chairs could be hired, a bit like hiring a taxi today.

A 1768 list of fares in Edinburgh suggested a fee of 6d (2.5 pence) for a journey within the City, 1 shilling and 6d (7.5p) for a journey half a mile outside the City, and 4 shillings (20p) for a whole day's hire.

Sedan chairs were carried on long poles placed through brackets at either side of the chair. The door was at the front so the passenger could get in and out without the poles being removed. Two people known as 'Chairmen' were needed to carry each chair. Many of the Chairmen came from the Highlands of Scotland. They had to be strong, fit and healthy as they were often standing outside in all weathers.

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