Adapting to the emergence of the automobile: a case study of Manchester coachbuilder, Joseph Cockshoot and Co., 1896-1939
Today motor vehicles are ubiquitous. Yet at the end of the 19th century motoring was a new pastime, and there were only a few hundred motorised vehicles on the road. Many believed motoring to be a fad and motorists faced opposition on many fronts, from local corporations, the police and rural residents. However over the next few decades motoring would grow exponentially, changing how people thought about transport.
Coachbuilders also had an uneasy relationship with this new technology. While automobile manufacturers and customers required coachbuilder’s skills to build motor car bodies, the growth of the automobile was eroding the use of personal horse-drawn transport during the first decade of the 20th century. Relatively complete company records at the Museum of Science and Industry survive for Manchester coachbuilder Joseph Cockshoot and Co. This collection is one of only a few that documents the dilemma faced by coachbuilders in this era of change.
While clear technological inheritance between early motorcars and horse-drawn carriages has long been established, more recent scholarship has examined the emerging automobile culture, highlighting the complex relationships between cycling, motoring and the use of horse-drawn transport. Study of this relatively under researched industry offers a unique perspective on the advent of the motor car, providing some significant observations that can add to our understanding of personal mobility and motoring during this period.