Story and Photographs by Jim Graham
George A. “Frolic” Weymouth has owned carriages since 1960, the year he bought his 18th-century Chadds Ford farmhouse at The Big Bend. And at one time, he had as many as 100, including a horse-drawn hearse. “I bought a carriage, and I loved driving, and then I got a pair, and I kept buying more,” he says.
The two days before Winterthur Point-to-Point’s official carriage parade, Weymouth hosts his own event, aided by friends Alys Cort and Molly Nichol, along with his chef d’équipe, Dave Busby. Unlike Sunday’s festivities, these Friday and Saturday drives are by invitation only.
Some 40 years ago, Weymouth gathered his first group of carriage enthusiasts to test their skills over the hills, dales and bumpy ruts of Chadds Ford. To this day, carriages plunge into the Brandywine and ford the creek to Point Lookout for a sweeping view that, legend has it, George Washington gazed upon as he plotted tactics against the British advance in 1777’s Battle of Brandywine. It’s the same scene that poet Elizabeth Chandler—born on The Big Bend farm in 1807—wrote about in her poem, “The Brandywine.”
This trip isn’t always for the faint of heart. There have been spills into the creek, broken wheels that caused carriages to topple, and a runaway horse or two. During one drive—to shock, amuse and amaze—Weymouth hired figure models to swing from trees along the route.
The day begins quite early, as grooms prepare their horses and carriages. Brass is polished, hooves are painted, and vehicles are washed and buffed. In the past, as many as 34 participants have met in what they call the “Buttercup Field” to greet Weymouth, the grand master of the drive.
Weymouth then leads the way along the paths around the land that abuts the creek. There are stops for a carriage review and a picnic lunch, before heading off yet again through the woods, past what was the old Twaddell Mill.
Year after year, the route is never quite the same.