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A Unique Piece of Portsmouth History Needs Restoration

The hearse in its Old Town Hall location.

The hearse in its Old Town Hall location.

When people visit the Portsmouth Historical Society, there is one exhibit that they either love or want to avoid. That exhibit is a horse-drawn hearse.  How did a hearse find its way into the collection of a town historical society?  It came with the building!  It was the hearse for the Christian Union Church and that church building is now the headquarters of the historical society.

We have been able to trace much of the history of this fascinating/frightening vehicle.  Church records show that it was purchased in 1871 and was used for many years to bring the departed to the church and the Union Cemetery down the road.

It was made in Newport, RI by the furniture maker, Langley and Bennett.  When the church dissolved in the 1930s the hearse was moved to the Breakers Stables in Newport.  In 1970 there was a fire at the stables and in 1974 the Little Compton Historical Society provided storage for the hearse in the basement of their barn.  In 2009 the hearse was moved to the Portsmouth Historical Society which is at the Church’s original location.

The hearse arriving back in Portsmouth.

The hearse arriving back in Portsmouth.

Interested in helping to preserve the hearse?  Our next blog will detail some of the construction details and the possibilities for preservation and/or restoration of this unique piece of Portsmouth History.

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