I like big prams that's all there is to it. I nearly fell off my chair a few weeks ago when an email came into my Inbox with photographs of 3 prams which a gentleman was selling. They had belonged to his mother and she had recently died. I looked a little harder and I thought Millson Prince! And sure enough it looked to me like a Prince. Same hood arms, same handle, it looked to have 24 and 22 inch wheels ( I do hope so) balancing axle. I can't see the little Nanny's storage compartment which apparently all Prince's had but I hope it is there as well, there is one on my other Prince, just below the foot extension, so I will know what to look for.
I very soon made an offer on the Fred McKenzie and it was accepted, I'm now waiting for Prince Fred to get here, very impatiently too. It is only the second green Prince that I have seen as well (they are usually dark navy blue, but I have seen a lovely silver grey one too both the green one and the grey one had cream linings as well) and unusual to see a cream lining in a Prince, they mostly seem to be navy lined as well.
Why would a Millson Prince be sold with a Fred McKenzie badge on it? Apparently Fred McKenzie sold quality prams but they weren't pram makers. It appears that they bought in unbadged prams from good makers such as Millsons, LBC etc and then put their own badge onto them. Treasurecot did the same and so did Harrods.
I have been Sleuthing around for days now asking people and trying to find out about it all. I have today spoken to two ladies one, Queen B. - who some of you may know and who has forgotten more about prams than I have ever learned - told me that she had once seen a Millson Prince wearing the Fred McKenzie badge and she couldn't get over it either at first. The second prammie I spoke to was another friend of mine who lives north of the border - also well known to many of you and very knowledgeable - and she said that the Fred McKenzie company were indeed pram sellers and not pram makers in the same way as Treasurecot were. So that puzzle seems to be solved.
The pram has a decal for the McKenzie badge as you can see above. So if the body needs repainting I will have to do something to make sure that I keep this badge and the crest below as well.
I am hoping to keep the pram as original as possible, I will have to make a new hood and apron for it because there is no apron with it at the moment, but if you look at the photograph of the inside of the pram at the top, you will see that it has two sets of rein fixings, one at the top of the pram where the baby would lie and there is another set of rein fixings at the handle end of the pram, presumably these are for a toddler to be fastened into the pram with it's feet in the foot extension judging from the positioning of the rein and apron fittings. I will be able to tell you more hopefully when I get it here and have a proper look. But there is also a set of chrome apron fixings on the top rail above the rein fixings which presumably means that there was an apron with this pram for the toddler as well as the baby, rather as there is on my other Prince, the navy Millson Prince. So I will have to work something out in order to give Prince Fred his Apron again.
There also appears to be a crest of some sort on the side panel of this lovely pram, I would like to be able to discover more about that, or maybe it is a Fred McKenzie 'thing' I know very little about the company up until now. I do know that Millsons took over the company pre 1963 but exactly when I don't know. I found an advert which had been given to me by another prammie years ago and it was saying that the Fred McKenzie company had been amalgamated with Millsons and they now had the largest and best pram showroom in London. The advert showed two phone numbers for Millsons, and one of them was Welbeck 2401 and as you will see from the Fred McKenzie badge above it had originally been their phone number and so Millsons took over the phone number with the company.
Search for Millson model Information
If anyone has any information at all on the Fred McKenzie company I would be very interested to hear of it please. But the one thing that I would also like to see is a Millson catalogue page of a Millson Prince pram if anyone has one I would be willing to buy a copy please???? There are many Millson prams around which have some form of 'wings' but totally unlike the Prince wings that I have on my Prince's. I am wondering what model the others were. Were they earlier models of a Prince, or later perhaps and my Prince prams are maybe older? I don't know, but the only way we can be sure is to see a catalogue page of a Millson Prince model.
Last night I was watching a DVD of a visit that Queen B made to Jack Hampshire at his home along with her daughter in the late 60's I believe it was. It was amazing to see the sheer numbers of prams, on shelves on walls, in the bathroom, in his bedroom and the way that he hopped in and out of a couple of the larger models and lay down too! BUT at one point, after he had got into a large pram, he describes the one that is next to it as - and I think these are his very words, which I will double check -'the finest pram every made, a Millson Prince.' The video shows a dark image of a pram and the camera was looking down at the pram so the image is not absolutely clear, but that pram has the same shaped 'wings' as the two 'Prince' models that I have. Whether there was an earlier model though I don't know, please help my search if you can provide any information at all.
I have realised now how I can prove that my Millson Prince is a Millson Prince at least! I had forgotten that when I took the hood fabric from the frame and took apart the storm apron on the Prince, that written on the back of the fabric was the word 'Prince' and the date, a day in 1964. I will take photographs of each and put them onto the site asap. So I know that it came out of the Millson factory as a Prince. So there is more than one way of skinning a cat as they say! I will be interested to see if the same is on the back of the hooding fabric on Prince Fred, who is arriving tomorrow by the way.
Well Prince Fred's chassis is being collected today from being sandblasted and I will need to prime that asap to begin the painting process. I took the body to a paint manufacturers locally who matched the paint beautifully, I can recommend their coach paint and it doesn't cost the earth. The name of the company is Bradite paints and they are in Bethesda North Wales and have been manufacturing paint for 70 years. by the way the paint 'recipe' was saved as 'Millsons Pram Green' if anyone would like any of it!
I have been practicing coachlining using stencils as well over the last few days and it isn't going badly I am at least sure now that I can put the coachlines back onto Fred's chassis. You can see my first effort above. One thing I did notice about the chassis is that it only has one leaf in it. Most C chassis have one long leaf which makes up the 'C' and another shorter one in the middle of the main one which is rivetted into place. Fred only has the one which means that the chassis is very easy to bend, I can put on and take off the suspension straps with no problem at all on my own. No struggling! It does mean that the chassis is slightly lower and I have tightened the straps much further than I ever have done on any other pram, just to pick that chassis up. However the handle is still pretty high and the top line of the pram is 36 inches now, or rather it was when I had the body on the chassis. Handle is lovely and high too, I do like big prams.
One thing that I noticed - funnily enough it was when I had the pram at the paint factory - was that Fred has - or has had - woodworm at some point, and so he was treated to a treat of the nasty smelling stuff, just in case. I now have to fill the holes as neatly as possible because I don't want to have to repaint the body if I can possibly avoid it. Also while I was there there was a Rep from Purdy the brush company and I told her that I used their brushes for coachpainting. She told me of another type of brush that they have which makes it even better for coachpainting, hardly any brush marks. So I am looking forward to trying one of those out on Fred's chassis.
I am also very loathe to re line the pram because there is nothing wrong with the lining except that it is rather 'yellowed' in places and the stitching has disintegrated along the line of the piping on the top rail on each side, something to do with the baby having it's hands on there so much I assume. But I think that I can handstitch the piping line back again, I'm hoping to give that a go today.
Hot off the Amberservices van and with the body on the wrong way around but here is Prince Fred when he arrived here
Beginning to take Fred apart in this pic. The chassis (below) is going to be sand blasted and I will paint it once I have got my paint matched to the body. Bradite paints which is a local company here in North Wales matched the paint (oil based either for coachpainting by hand or for spraying when diluted sufficiently with white spirit) for me and it has been stored as Millsons Pram Green! How about that for 'imortality' then? The match is very good I have to say.
What a s tate the chassis was in as you can see. It was covered with thick oil which was thick with lots of dust too. Large areas of the paint was missing, as you can see above, this is part of t he balancing axle.
Fred's chassis is unusual in that there is only one 'leaf' in the chassis, I have n ever seen one like this before, they usually have two leaves, the two large outer leaves which also take the straps to suspend the body from and a smaller inner leaf which is rivetted onto the larger one, that one is non existant on Fred and moving the chassis around is a bit strange because it is so 'moveable'. I even managed to put new temporary straps onto it myself, it usually takes two of us to put straps on.
Here is the footboard or rather the foot extension, as you can see this pram has no top rail to the bottom of the pram.
When the foot extension is folded up as in the bottom pic here, the extension forms a sort of pocket which has obviously been used as a sort of purse type holder. The later Millson Prince had a little compartment under the foot extension and presumably this is where the idea for that came from. The later Prince had a more usual top rail to the foot end of the pram as well.
The lining of the pram is rather faded in parts, but is in not bad condition apart from that.
One of the larger square cushions is missing and there is no apron to the pram either.
Because I don't want to mess about with Fred's body or interior any more than I have to, I tried something radical on the interior. Some years ago I bought a vinyl dye in white which I have never used and I have no idea where on earth I bought it from, but I had two aerosol cans of it and I wondered what it might do for Fred's cushions/interior. I tried it on the cushions and boards first, the result can be seen below.
This is what I used. I used both cans up spraying the interior of the pram and the hood lining. I could have used another can at least but couldn't find any for sale over here. I would not use this sort of thing for any pram which might be used for a baby but for smartening Fred up until I can change the lining this will do fine for now.
Here is a pic of the lining after I had done my spraying bit. I think it looks a lot better, I also sprayed the hood lining too.
I found that Fred had had woodworm at some point, which should not be active at this time of the year but just to be sure, I gave him a damned good bath in the appropriate insecticide and apart from a bit of a smell hanging around the work room for a few days all is well. Apart from filling the holes in the body and putting a few blobs of paint in various places to make good, I am hoping that a good polishing should render Fred 's body fit to be seen again, I would really like him to be as original as I can possibly keep him.
Fred's chassis being sprayed with Halford's primer. It has been so very cold and snowy up here that I have had no time to be able to start putting the top coat onto the chassis. Cold weather and painting don't sit well together.
I have however been busy sewing the hood and making up the apron. Luckily I had the original apron for the Millson Prince. This didn't fit Fred absolutely correctly, the sides of the apron were rather a bit too short and had to be extended and the length of the apron, or at least the part that extends inside the hood to fit around the baby was too long and had to be shortened. There was also some big differences in the bottom of the apron at the foot end of the pram and how they fixed onto the foot extension (because there is no top rail at this end of the pram).
As you can see above, there are two 'turn locks' which fix the bottom of the apron to the top of the foot extension when it is down, but when the foot extension is folded up and isn't being used, there are also two turnlocks in the wooden base of the foot extension too. As you can see, there are also two lift the dots on each bottom corner of the apron on the outside edge, there are two more at the top of the apron on the outside edge too and then two leather tabs at the inside top edge which go over two chromed pins as usual in this type of apron. There are yet two more fixings for the apron that I have got to put onto the apron, but I'll show you those later when I have finished them.
The apron storm flap isn't attached in this photograph, I want to fix the hood into place before I work out the exact place to stitch it to the main apron. the Prince original apron is slightly different to aprons that I have made before because it is slightly wider than I would have expected it to be in comparison to the main apron. I have kept that in place for Fred's apron so it is slightly wider than normal. The storm apron flap on Fred was also fixed with a popper to the main frame of the hood and not using the normal apron lifts but I have parted company with Fred's originality here and have put apron lifts onto the apron. I could not find poppers small enough to use and I could not face using those great big horrible silver things. If I can find something neater I think I would put them onto the apron mark II because I am not totally happy with either the hood or the apron mark I, so watch this space.
The Prince had 3 aprons I think I have shown you before, one for single baby in the pram and a toddler apron and separate half sized baby apron for when there is a toddler seated on the toddler seat which attaches to the top of the pram. Fred has a similar way of seating a toddler. There is a way of seating a toddler with it's feet in the foot extension and there are fixings for reins and also a toddler apron also and so I have got to make one of those next and that means I'll also need to make a half sized apron to fit the baby end of the pram too. I tried the Prince apron into place on Fred and it doesn't look half bad, so I'll use that as the basis of my pattern for Fred's toddler apron. Watch this space.
I have use some different fabric for Fred, it is the only one that I could get this particular shade of green in and is a much softer fabric than I normally use. I like it, but now that I have used it, I know that I need to employ some different techniques the next time I use it because I am not totally happy with the finish on the hood particularly.
If you look at the photograph above, see the pin where the canopy knobs will normally fit onto the frame and you can see that the fabric there is puckered slightly. This is because this new fabric is much much softer and the fabric has moved slightly on the frame as I have sewed the lining into place. The lining has pulled the main hooding fabric and it has moved slightly on the frame. I will need to use something to stiffen the fabric at this point. Apart from needing slightly different working techniques, it sews beautifully is a very matt fabric and looks really lovely I think, but then I'm biassed.
This is the original hood lining sewn back into the hood which worked very well.
All I have to do now to have Fred looking fit to be seen is to paint that chassis and to put the coachlines onto it as well. Roll on the decent weather please!
2nd April 2013
Still no warmth to allow me to paint the top coat on Fred's chassis, there is still a lot of snow and ice hanging around here and although the sun is out today it is very cold with the wind coming from Siberia I think!
DISASTER! And I am not exaggerating. I gave Fred's body a good T cutting and waxing the other day, fixed in the rein fixings etc and wanted to fix on the handle brackets to the body before I put the hood onto the body as well. I went to fetch the handle fittings, there was the push bar, there were the S bars, brackets? Nowhere to be seen. They are a good 7 inches long minimum, I can't have lost them, I can't have, they were all together there. After a lot of searching and not finding, my husband found them, in my painting shed? What on earth were they doing there? No idea. They were in a carrier bag with some old tape off Fred's hood frame and a tin of rubbing compound which I have had for years and never used, where that had been heaven knows. I was just sitting here thinking that I should go and have a really good dig around in that shed and Tony came upstairs and said he had found them in there himself. Thank you God, that's all I can say.
Here you see them the bracket pinned to the underside of the top rail, the handle folds on Fred, folds down so it just skims the floor to save space, it comes up again and fits up against the bracket that you see there and the little chrome ring is pushed down over the end of the bracket and fixes it firmly. As you can see the handle pivots off the suspension hook, these are not the same way that my Millson Prince handle fixed at all.
The handle bracket when it came off the pram and below after I had cleaned them up enough to have them made decent at least.
Got to go now, I must go fix the brackets to the pram before they disappear again!
Fred's old chassis above was sand blasted and then I put a coat of high build primer onto it. This is Halford's high build primer.
I had had the top coat paint mixed to match the body of the pram and I sprayed the chassis with that myself. It is an oil based enamel paint, which has it's drawbacks because it takes a long time to dry, but I took to spraying in the morning, leaving an oil filled radiator on high in the shed and then I could get another coat onto it again in the evening, which wasn't so bad. I also found that the lighting in that shed is terrible for spraying, certainly for dark colours, so that will need changing now.
Not a professional job I wouldn't say but I have to learn don't I? I was going to coach paint it but it was a nightmare getting in between all of the bars of the balancing axle. On the Millson Prince the balancing axle can be removed to paint that separately but with Fred there is no option but to do it all in one piece, so I gave in after a couple of failed goes at it and I returned to my spray gun.
Fred has coachlines on each side of the chassis and it was a nightmare trying to get the masking right under that curve on each of the corners. I also changed the pattern of the coachlines which I wish I had not done now, I'll probably change it back after Wedgwood I think, more practice if nothing else. I forgot that I was supposed to be keeping it as original as possible.
This is the underside of the chassis (above) you can see the balancing axle at the top of the pic, after masking tape has been removed.
Above - this is the top of the chassis that has been masked out and painted this morning.
The finished coachlining which is a sort of light gold colour, as near as I could get to what is on the body work.
All I need to do to it now is to lacquer it tomorrow hopefully. I have the straps dyed and made so hopefully I could have him on wheels again by Monday sometime. Can't wait.
Well I lacquered the chassis with the lacquer that Halfords told me would be fine to put over an oil based paint and it looked good after the last coat. 15 minutes later I went back into my shed and the paint and lacquer didn't seem to have taken to each other at all, the surface had wrinkled in a few places but one place especially on the top of the chassis right w ere it would be most visible. I felt sick! No time to strip down and respray so I masked off the roughly 2 inch long section sanded down the paint and painted it with a brush, using an electric radiator to dry the paint over night. Next day it w as looking acceptable (amateurishly acceptable!) and I polished it with a cutting compound and t hen re-did the coachlines too. Here is a photograph of the end result. You can just see that the new paint is a shade lighter than the part that had been lacquered (I daren't lacquer this section again) and you can just see the joins in the coachlines too.
2nd May 2013
I put the eyelets into Fred's main apron where the toddler apron should fit when I finally get around to making a pattern for one. There are two chrome pins sticking up on the top rail and eyelets were needed so that there weren't two 'bumps' in the top of the apron. I think I will replace the lift the dots that I put into the sides of the apron with these eyelets when I make model two of the hood and apron - when I find the right fabric! They look more in keeping with the age of the pram I think.
3rd May 2013
Today we put the wheels onto Fred. These are 'borrowed' wheels from two other prams - 24 inch and 22 inch wheels on Fred - because his own wheels need chroming and I didn't have time to do them before Wedgwood.
Then it was get the straps on, and lets see if it looks any good! Needs the wax stripping off the body and repolishing because it is streaky and I have to polish it all again anyway because I got fingerprints all over it when I was fiddling with the wheels earlier. But Fred looks complete anyway doesn't he? What do you think?
Remember the little family crest on Fred's side panel? Well thanks very much to Angie Allen for her help because she found that the crest belonged to the Seymour family, same family as the Marquess of Hertford although his crest is different from Prince Fred's
This pram is huge! I am not short but the handle comes up to the bottom of my ribcage! 41 and a half inches from the floor to top of the handle.
I'm not happy with the colour of the straps, not dark enough, the hood and apron need redoing - don't like the fabric but love the colour. All of the chroming needs......chroming and the chassis needs redoing, I also have to reline it at some point!
But it is a magnificent pram isn't it?
Here's to Prince Fred!
28th August 2013!
I came home from the Onslow Steam Rally last night with some surprising news about Fred. He is a twin!! I never dreamed in a thousand years that Fred would be a twin! It was suggested by a lady who was also telling me that the pram hood was too long which didn't make sense to me, and she also told me that she thought that the pram should have had a toddler seat with it. I'm ashamed to say that I was rather rude to her and couldn't believe it. The lining on the pram looked old to me and I couldn't understand why it would have been relined years ago to make it into a twin pram to be honest and yet the fixings were still there on it for another child, which I had taken to be a toddler fixing. Also the broderie anglais canopy cover and apron cover from my first Prince fitted Fred correctly so I had no reason to think anything other than that he was a single pram.
That evening a friend of mine - Diana Butcher - and I were measuring the pram. He is 45 inches long at the top of the body and 21 1/2 inches wide. I can't remember how long the hood was now but Diana also has a Prince, hers is a single pram made by Millson. Diana said that she would measure her pram for me when she got home and compare it to the measurements of Fred. However we did measure from the foot end of the pram for a hood the same size as Fred's current hood and sure enough there appeared to be room for a second hood and it seemed as though the top of the second hood would touch the top of the current hood, as twin hoods used to do I believe.
The next day I asked Pat Holgate about it and she said that she also thought that Fred was a twin because she pointed out that the hood was too short for a single hood (it should come to about half way along the body apparently and I had never thought of that either!) plus she said that the pram was unbalanced because of this. This made more sense to me but I couldn't see that a twin pram would have been made from a pram body which had a foot extension in it, why? Pat said that they just ignored them! Stranger and stranger to me that was. I wonder if someone put a foot extension into a single pram and took off the hood at that end of the pram in order to make a single pram? Could that be why there is no top rail along the foot end of the pram where the foot extension was? I suppose we shall never know. Pat also said that the lining in Fred didn't seem to be of the same quality that Millson usually used. One thing that I should surely have noticed earlier - and just plain hadn't - was that the foot extension on Fred has a different lining then the main part of the pram, which is the white, the extension is lined in a dark green. Pat has been a friend of mine for many years now and she has forgotten more than I have yet learned and I trusted what she told me absolutely, but I can't believe that I just didn't question it at all.
Anyway I had to prove it, so I borrowed a knife from JanPram (Organiser of the Pram exhibit at Onslow Park and set to to lift out a couple of upholstery tacks. When I lifted up the upholstery on the top rail, there was the telltale screw hole where the second hood had been fixed in place! Now what do I do? I didn't really want to have another Millson twin, even a twin Prince, but on the other hand, it ought to be put back to what it originally was.
I now had to apologise for being so rude to the other lady the day before. As soon as I had a chance I did and she kindly accepted my apology although I still feel very guilty about it I have to say - and so I should.
I now have to lift the rest of that lining up and see if there are any holes where a toddler seat could have been fixed but I will be very surprised to see that. Why make the pram into a single, leave the fixings for a toddler on the new lining which is also covering the toddler seat fixing holes? I wish I could read Fred's mind and see what went on back in time to him.