Charabanc: All Aboard the Sharrabang!

If photographs are anything to go by, life in the East End of London for my parents did not include holidays. It seems that hop picking and bus trips were a more frugal substitute. On the back of one of her photos Mum has written, “On a charrabank” I had no idea what she meant……but I do now!

Six women posing in front of a Silvertown Coach on a charabanc outing.
All Aboard The Charabanc

Charabanc: French Influence In The East End

A 1920 image of two horse drawn charabancs filled with people.
A Horse Drawn Charabanc

Long before England became part of the European Community the French word, “charabanc” was in use. OK, so it was a bit mutilated in its transference to “Sharra” , “Charrabang” , “Charrabank but everyone knew what it meant. A day of fun, food and friends! In it’s original state it described sitting on bench seats and referred to open topped, horse drawn carriages. This progressed to covered in motorised vehicles with padded seats. It was always more than a means of transport from A to B. The men and women of the 1930’s – 1950’s, who had little spare money to spend on luxuries it offered them freedom away from home and work. Paid holidays were still a long way off so collecting a penny a week until the pot was sufficient to cover all costs meant no one had to be left out.

Leisure time had come to the working classes!

How Charabanc Became A Beano

A group of women posed in front of a SIlvertown coach on a Beano day out
Mum On A Beano

When Mum showed me this phot she told me it was a “Beano” outing. I remember it clearly because as I child my Aunt Doll (who later turned out to be my Grandmother) used to send me Beano comics and I couldn’t see the connection. I thought that charabancs had gone out of fashion and become “Beanos” . But, no the origin of the word Beano had been around for a very long time. The 1790’s in fact when the London Chronicle and Gloucester Journal reported on local gentlemen rewarding their workers with a “bean-fest” bean-feast then, was “an informal term for a celebratory meal or party“,  (Wikipedia) When beans fell out of fashion as a celebratory meal it morphed into “Beanos”!

Roll’in On T’Brighton In A Charabanc by Ralph McTell & sung by Con Maloney

Charabanc Outings & The Beatles

Image of the Beatles charabanc coach used for the "Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles Charabanc

If you were a fan of the Beatles you probably watched their documentary on ITV in 1995. Responding to criticisms of the Magical Mystery Tour” album, George Harrison explained that it was “Basically a charabanc trip,” When people used to go on a trip from Liverpool to Blackpool to see the illuminations. He described the outings as “loads of crates of beer and an accordion player and everyone getting pissed” (sorry, coarse word for meaning drunk in the English vernacular!).

Going On A Beano

A narrow English country road showing a road sign warning, "Not suitable for charabancs"
Road Signs For Charabancs

If you take a closer look at the women in my photographs you will see that going out on a Beano was a special social event. The women are all dressed in their best “frocks”, flowers on their lapels and many with their hair freshly peroxided! However, looks can be deceiving as I have it on good authority, (my Mum) that quite a few of the older ladies enjoyed a “tipple or three” and the single girls enjoyed a bit of “fun with the boys”. I have also read quite a few accounts where the locals would walk out when the Beanos or charabancs pulled up!

“Put it like this, I used to say that when you took a coachload of girls out on a beano and their boyfriends and husbands came to pick them up at one o’clock – if they knew what I knew these girls had been up to they wouldn’t be so welcoming. In other words, they were not so innocent in those days as people thought they were. But the police were the worst, they went bloody barmy and they did things they would nick anybody else for doing!” http://spitalfieldslife.com/2019/03/01/the-departure-of-empress-coaches/

The Era Of The Charabanc and Beano

I am not affiliated to any supplier of these books and I have added them for those of you who like to read about this period of history or maybe just want to add to your childhood memories.

A collage of three books about charabancs and London East End
The Era Of The Charabanc & Beano

If you would like to add your comments or images for the gallery about your charabanc/beano experiences please do…..the more the merrier!

Just Vicki
A charabanc cartoon showing all the occupants of an open topped charabanc bouncing out of their seats. Titled "The Backfire"
Charabanc Cartoon from Punch 1924

3 thoughts on “Charabanc: All Aboard the Sharrabang!

Add yours

  1. I love this post Vicki. It’s so interesting and the great group photos and video depict happy times despite some hardships. I never knew what a charabanc or a Beano was! I must ask Mum and see if she remembers…….

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    1. Thanks Helen. A simple day out but the joy from being with friends is obvious. Yes, ask your Mum please. She has an untapped and unrecorded store of memories just waiting to be shared.

      Like

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