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Attaching a traditional coach-built carriage to a chassis by way of a 'CEE' spring (so-called because of its shape) made for a more comfortable and balanced ride for a young child or baby negotiating the cobbled streets of industrial Britain.

Wilson - a spring smith by trade who learnt his craft at the Old Leeds firm of Simpson and Fawcett before beginning his own pram works in 1877 - made his first models in Hunslett, Leeds and then in Guiseley in Yorkshire. The business became the Silver Cross Company when it passed to his three sons on his death in 1913.

Like the company itself (the only remaining British pram manufacturer), the Silver Cross sprung perambulator consigned for sale at Vectis in Thornaby, near Darlington, on May 26 was a remarkable survivor. It is in wholly original, unrestored condition, with its painted wooden body and brown leatherette upholstery still intact. It is the only known example from this period, c.1878, with the patent still visible. It reads: Wilson's Patent No.5467.

"Must-have Purchase"

Owned from new by an Edinburgh family until around 1970, it was then held for more than 40 years by a private collector. They decided to sell in the hope of raising sufficient funds to republish Jack Hampshire's 1980 collectors' 'bible', Prams, Mailcarts and Bassinets.

With an estimate of £4000-6000, it is more expensive than the most exclusive Silver Cross models made today (a recent collaboration with Aston Martin produced a £3000 buggy), but a suitable buyer was waiting in the wings. "When we heard the pram was up for auction it was a must-have purchase for Silver Cross," said current CEO Nick Paxton, who was successful at £4400 (plus 20% buyer's premium).

"We are absolutely delighted to have had the opportunity to bring the original historical pram back home. It is a reminder of revolutionary British design that changed the face of the pram industry."

The pram will form the centrepiece of a display charting the history of Silver Cross at the firm's head office in Skipton.