a farm tip-cart; a vehicle carrying condemned persons (as political prisoners during the French Revolution) to a place of execution

[Middle English tumberell (tomrel), from Old French tomberel, from tomber to let fall or tumble, perhaps of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German tūmōnto reel.]

First Known Use: 14th century

A (French) two-wheeled open dump-cart (tiltable backwards to empty its load without handling) or wagon

typically designed to be hauled by a single draught animal such as a horse or ox. Originally used to carry agricultural supplies, it was most often associated with the cartage of animal manure.

Their most notable use was taking prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution:

Marie Antoinette is transported to the guillotine in an open tumbrel. [Image: tumblr]

Teeming throngs watched with glee as the tumbril passed, carrying a morning load of former aristocrats bound for a meeting with Madame Guillotine. In the square, their heads would roll and the throng would shout itself hoarse at the repeating clunk of the bloody blade. “The Terror” ruled the country.

“Sidney Carton and the little seamstress rumble off to their deaths in a tumbrel escorted by Jacobins.” Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. [Illustration by A. A. Dixon. London: Collins, 1905. (From the personal collection of George Gorniak, Editor of The Dickens Magazine.)]

Tumbrels were also used by the military for hauling supplies. In this use the carts were sometimes covered. The two wheels allowed the cart to be tilted to more easily discharge its load.

Tumbrel is synonymous with: farmer’s cart; farm tip-cart; dung cart; bullock cart; and instrument of punishment (metaphorical or symbolic). Other names are regionally specific.

Here are three dung carts:

Many take advantage of the dung cart’s robust qualities for other heavy work, such as moving boulders and smaller felled-trees:

Other word usage:

  • name for the cucking-stool (scolding stool or stool of repentance): a method of punishment in which the victim, strapped onto a commode or armchair, was paraded through town for humiliation. Later, in 17th century England, the instrument was attached to a beam extending over a  body of water and resting on a cantilever, whereupon the individual could be lowered and raised repeatedly into the water. This often proved fatal.

cart is a more generic word:

A two-wheeled vehicle drawn by a draft animal, used throughout recorded history by numerous societies for the transportation of freight, agricultural produce, refuse, and people. The cart, usually drawn by a single animal, is known to have been in use by the Greeks and the Assyrians by 1800 BC (although it is generally assumed that such vehicles could have been used as early as 3500 BC as an extension of the invention of the wheel). Carts have been made in several ways, with emphasis usually placed upon simplicity of construction.

jaunting car  (jaunty car, side car):

A two-wheeled, open vehicle, popular in Ireland from the early 19th century that was rather unique in having lengthwise, back-to-back or face-to-face passenger seats. The light, horse-drawn cart carried four passengers (although the earliest versions carried more). It usually had a narrow, forward-facing driver’s seat.  The driver was called a “jarvey” or simply referred to as “carman”.


Originally a light, open, one-horse, four-wheeled vehicle with its single seat for only one person fixed on its shafts. It is thought to have been invented in the early 19th century by an English physician and was supposedly named for his sulkiness in wishing to sit alone. The sulky was adapted to two wheels and widely used in the United States by doctors and others who had to travel extensively by themselves. Today the sulky is used primarily in harness racing. Of light metal construction, the racing sulky consists of little more than a U-shaped shaft curving around the narrow seat where the driver perches.

A tumbrel, then, is the draught animal’s wheel barrow …



Whether tilt-table and sprung or sulky or dung, find your favourite horse-drawn vehicle at Farm Carts.


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