Silver Cross image – www.silvercrossbaby.comWords: Haili Hughes
Throughout my childhood I dreamed about what my life as a grown up would be like. I imagined myself as a glamorous parent, pushing a huge carriage pram down a suburban street lined with cherry blossoms, a plump baby wrapped in white lace trimmed blankets, wearing a woollen cap decked with ribbons. Fast-forward 20 years and I was about to become a mother for the first time. When choosing a suitable pram, my design aesthetic and romantic notions went out with the window – practical and suited to a modern lifestyle of folding up and putting in cars.
However, buying and collecting vintage prams is experiencing somewhat of a Renaissance. Perhaps it is the polished chrome or the gleaming paintwork – or even the spectacular white wheels that are more like the size of bicycle wheels than the modern prams of today. Whatever it is, there is nothing quite like the style and grace of these beautiful prams.
Another factor in their increased popularity is celebrity endorsement. A plethora of famous faces have been seen out and about with modern Silver Cross prams over the last few years – including HRH Kate Middleton, who dazzled with a black Millson Prince pram, that the Queen once used to transport Prince Charles to his christening in 1948. People were so awestruck by the gorgeous sight that Harrods launched a Balmoral Bespoke, in collaboration with Silver Cross, for a cool five grand; making it their most exclusive and opulent baby coach yet. Only 50 of these signature prams were created, which made them really special and definitely gave them the wow factor.
However, you don’t have to be a member of the royal family to own one. Indeed, you can pick up a coach built pram for restoration for a couple of hundred pounds. However, restoring them can be a problem if you are not experienced. Additionally, the parts and accessories can cost a lot of money; quite often things like the hood or apron can get damaged and replacements can be difficult to find – particularly for rarer models. In fact, a new set of tyres could set you back at least £200, with re-chromed and re-spoked wheels costing around £450. Despite the cost, collectors and expectant mums are still buying up vintage coach built prams and appreciating their beauty. This has even resulted in festivals and events taking place, which enable collectors to come together, dress up for the day and show off their amazing collections. One such event is Pramtasia Doll Mania.
The first event was started by a few vintage pram enthusiasts in 2014 and was just called Pramtasia at that stage. It was created by a group of collectors and enthusiasts, including Christine Horne, who had been on pram walks together and attended 1940s events dressed in vintage clothing, with their prams. They expanded the idea to include dressing vintage style for whatever era of pram people attending the event have brought, which has proved to be a spectacular success!
Not everybody who attends the events have a real baby to place in their prams, so some use a very life-like ‘Reborn’ or ‘lifelike’ doll to make the appropriate baby shape in the pram. Due to the popularity of this, reborn collectors and people who make these beautiful items, started to exhibit at Pramtasia – hence the Dollmania now in the title. The theme of dressing the ‘baby’ in the appropriate era clothing has also become part of the event now, as well as to the appropriate accessories such as vintage pram canopies, pillows, rattles and pram blankets.
Collecting vintage prams is a whole new world for those of us who are not in the know. Exhibitors at the event include: pram renovators, pram spare parts sellers, accessory suppliers, and vintage style baby clothing and knitwear makers.
One of the organisers, Christine Horne, explained why she thinks it is such a popular hobby: “The appeal of these prams is various – some collect these items just as men collect vintage cars: as a means of securing part of our history and enjoy the styling and different characteristics. For older pram pushers, these carriage prams promote the ‘feel good’ factors around having pushed their
own children in these items and the sense of pride in owning the more exclusive and expensive items from the past.” Just like for vintage clothing collectors, the buzz of getting your hands on something unique and quirky is one of the main draws. Christine adds, “the thrill of finding the
rarer or more desirable items locally in lofts, barns and garden sheds cannot be underestimated. The prams are usually so well made that a thorough clean-up is all that is needed to be able to bring these items into use again.”
When novices such as myself think of coach-built prams, the name Silver Cross comes to mind. But many other companies who have now gone out of business are just as collectable, such as Osnath, Marmet, Royale and Pedigree. Silver Cross are celebrating their 140 year old anniversary in business this year and will be sponsoring the event and donating a raffle prize of a Special Edition Silver Cross Balmoral pram worth nearly £2,000! A family member of the original founder of Silver Cross, Mr Jeffrey Wilson, is the Consultant for the event and his knowledge is invaluable.
For people attending the event without a pram, the sight will really be a feast for the eyes; outside will have picnics and parades where attendees can get a good look at the amazing prams, as they whirl around the site, complete with pram pushers in costume. As it’s held at the Imperial War Museum in Cambridgeshire, entrance to the exhibits is also included.
Of course, vintage prams are a real conversation starter. Christine said: “When we actually take our prams out in public, you have to plan for extra time to reach your destination, as inevitably people see the prams and absolutely love to talk to us and reminisce about prams they were pushed in during their own childhood, or prams they had owned as young parents. This is an enormous part of the ‘feel good’ factor in owning these items, as we love to chat about our prized prams! The prams are definitely stimulants to happy memories for both men and women and encourage those happy memories to come forward.”
Pramtasia and Doll Mania will be held on Saturday 15th July 2017, at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit: www.pramtasiadollmania.co.uk