The first part of the folio (around 100 pages) contains Hooke’s extracts from early Royal Society journals. One of the recurring discussions centres on the chariot designs of Hooke and Thomas Blount. Although the use of the term ‘chariot’ might conjure up images of the classical two-wheeled variety, this is a thoroughly seventeenth-century version on both two and four wheels (though the use of the term ’chariot’ possibly stemmed from the fashion for using classical terms during the period). This provides a good example of how experiments and designs were presented to the Society as a kind of work in progress, which were discussed at meetings and where members could suggest improvements or offer solutions to difficulties encountered by the experimenters or designers.
Hooke and Blount showed their designs over the course of a number of meetings and various adjustments were made. For example Hooke realised that the springs of the chariot needed to be shortened for ease of turning in the street (which may also indicate the narrowness of seventeenth-century streets). However, shorter strings would impede the comfort of the rider, so following a series of experiments, Hooke decides to shorten and double the strings to accomodate both for the comfort of the rider and the demands of turning the chariot. He also experiments with the positioning of the rider in relation to the wheels, realising that this will impact on the burden felt by the horse.
By June 1665, Hooke was getting close to perfecting the design, but he was unable to show it again until 14th March 1666 as the Society’s meetings were suspended due to the plague, however prior to the recess, he was urged to perfect his chariot.
Hooke brought the chariot with him on his return to London. It was drawn by one horse and gave ‘great ease to the Riders both to him that sitts in the chariot and to him that sitts ouer the horse vpon a springy saddle’. By 23rd May 1666, Hooke and Blount’s chariots were requested to be shown ’Saturday following in the afternoon’ to ‘compare’ them. Exactly what is meant by ‘compare’ is not stated, though I do like to think that some kind of race might have been involved - just imagine the scene - Hooke and Blount at St George’s Field on a Saturday afternoon, Hooke on one side with his chariot, Blount on the other, whilst members of the Royal Society looked on - who needs rugby and football matches, when you can watch chariots on a Saturday afternoon?