2018-08-09 / Around Town

Newport’s Coaching Weekend

Trudy Coxe and Laurel Howe ride in the coach with Walter Eayrs as the driver. (Photo by Jen Carter) Trudy Coxe and Laurel Howe ride in the coach with Walter Eayrs as the driver. (Photo by Jen Carter) Authentic 19th century coaches drawn by highly-trained teams of horses will return to Newport from Aug. 16-19, in the triennial "A Weekend of Coaching," hosted by The Preservation Society of Newport County. The public will enjoy free viewing of the colorful and historic coaches every day, as they drive through the streets of Newport and the grounds of the Newport Mansions, celebrating and preserving a century-old sporting tradition. In addition, there will be a free-to-the-public driving exhibition, sponsored by BankNewport, on the grounds of The Elms, starting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18. The weekend will culminate with a formal Coaching Dinner Dance at The Breakers on Saturday evening.

The Honorary Chair of he coaching weekend is Mrs. David E. P. (Lynda) Lindh. Mr. Kenneth M. P. Lindh and Mrs. David J. (Beverly) Little are co-chairs of the Weekend. Mr. Frederick E. Eayrs is chair of coaching.

Ted Eayrs is one of the weekend "whips." (Photo by Jen Carter) Ted Eayrs is one of the weekend "whips." (Photo by Jen Carter) "We are very grateful to the members of the Coaching Club, who honor Newport and the Preservation Society with their visit every three years," said Preservation Society CEO and Executive Director Trudy Coxe." This event gives us an opportunity to feel the spirit of life in the Gilded Age, when coaching was not only a mode of transportation but a social and sporting activity."

More than a dozen “whips,” as the drivers are referred to in the sport of coaching, are expected to attend from as far away as Leicester, United Kingdom and Ontario, Canada.

The tradition of coaching grew out of the 18th and 19th century mail runs in England, which later made their way across the Atlantic to the United States. The horse-drawn mail coaches were eventually replaced by railroads, but nostalgia led to the development of coaching as a sport. The Coaching Club of New York was formed in the latter part of the 19th century, eventually becoming part of the social fabric of Newport in the summer. The Wetmores, the Bells, the Vanderbilts and the Belmonts were all active members, bringing their coaches together to go to the races, the polo games, and the Casino.

The two types of open-air vehicles used in the sport of coaching, a Road Coach and the slightly smaller Park Drag, employ a team of four horses. All seating is outside with the whip sitting in the slightly elevated right front seat, and the whip’s wife or female relative taking up the box seat on the left. The rear bench of the coach holds at least two specialized footmen called grooms. Two center benches can hold up to 10 passengers.

The routes of the daily drives and other details are available at newportmansions.org.

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