The Sydney Coach Builder, Jim Frecklington was given tacit Royal approval to name a new coach after the Royal Yacht “Britannia”, which he was to fund and build himself. Prior to that, Jim had built the only other coach for the Royal Family, The Australian State Coach, which was a gift from the Australian Government to commemorate our Bi-Centennial in 1988… the one before that, was in 1903!
In his younger days, Jim worked for the Royal Household in London, and managed the horses and coaches where he gained his intimate knowledge of this dying art. Jim designed “Britannia” to be State of the Art with improved suspension, central heating, and power operated windows. However, rather than just build a carriage, it was decided to incorporate some UK historical artefacts into the door panels and interior trim. As this concept gained momentum, more and more artefacts arrived from British Governments, Museums and historical Institutions, until today, there are more than 100 pieces of history included. Now,”Britannia” is not just a coach… it’s a mobile Time Capsule!
Each artefact has its own unique story making “Britannia” an educational masterpiece. As an example, one piece of OLD LONDON BRIDGE, shows some of its intriguing 1000 year old history… In 1722 the Lord Mayor of London, decreed that due to the increasing congestion as well as buildings on the bridge, that all carts and coaches coming into the City from Southwark, were to keep to the West side of the bridge, and all traffic leaving the City was to use the East side. The rationale being, that as all coachmen carried their whips in their right hand, pointing to the left, this meant that when the vehicles past, the whips would not clash! Which is how we came to be driving on the left hand side of the road today.
All items included on the coach have their own certified copies of authenticity. It is hoped, that in the near future, when “Britannia” goes to London, this information could be included in school curriculum in the UK and other Commonwealth Countries.
One of the most interesting additions to “Britannia” were the two gold-plated door handles which have each have been encrusted with 24 diamonds, and 130 Australian sapphires. These were supplied and fitted by a New Zealand jeweller, Mike Baker (younger brother of Les Baker – Norglass Managing Director). The work and supply of these gems was through the generosity of Mike’s business and is a significant feature of the project.
In 2005 Norglass was invited to solve some technical issues with “Britannia” and since then, 10 Norglass products have been used on the project. For example, all of the gold leaf work to the roof, insignia, coats of arms, wheels, chassis, springs, have been coated with multiple layers of Weatherfast Marine Varnish. See our document England 1926 – Australia 2012