THE JOBMASTER’S HORSE

From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

The best horses are, of course, those used for fashionable carriage work. The high-class harness horse comes to London when he is about four years old. He is untrained, undrilled, with all his troubles to be faced. The young cart-horse is gradually introduced to work on the farm; not so the carriage horse, who is too much of the possibility of a valuable animal to run any risks with. He may fetch 80L; but if he is a handsome, well-built, upstanding state-coach horse, of the kind now so much sought after, he will be cheap at 120L. He has to be educated to behave himself like a gentleman; he must learn to stand well—not an easy thing to do—he must know how to back and turn gracefully, how to draw up stylishly at a front door, how to look nice when under window criticism, how to carry his head and lift his feet, and how to work with a companion and be as like him in action as one pea is like another; in short, he has to go through a complete course of deportment, though not of dancing, and he will be a promising pupil if he gets through it in eight months. If he does well and shows a willing mind, it is well with him and he has an easy time of it for years; but if he is tricky or perverse in any way he may have to go to hard labour and spend a twelvemonth in a ‘bus. Sometimes that breaks him thoroughly of his bad habits and he returns to carriage work; sometimes, like an habitual criminal, he refuses to amend, and he remains a ‘bus horse for life. And herein is the advantage of a miscellaneous business, for if a horse will not do in one branch he may in another.

The new horse is not branded or numbered, but a note is made of his marks, and he is named from a book of names, taking, perhaps, an old name which has been vacant for at least a year; the names being chosen as fitting the particular horse, and not as aiding the memory with regard to the date or circumstance of his purchase, naming from pedigree, as in the case of a racer, being, of course, out of the question. There are many systems of naming; some firms, like Truman & Hanbury, and Spiers & Pond, give the horses names which begin with the same initial all through the year, so that the A’s may show the horses bought in 1890, the B’s those bought in 1891, the C’s those bought in 1892, &c.; others have other plans, but nothing of this systematic sort seems to exist in the livery trade, owing, perhaps, to the possibility of awkward developments in the event of the customer learning the key.

When the horse has passed his drills and been pronounced efficient, he takes his place with eight or nine others in a stable which has its roof thatched inside, so as to keep the temperature equable in summer and winter; and in every one of these stables the horses are as much as possible of the same colour and size, so as to look their best amid their comfortable surroundings. There are fixed travises and no bales for this class of horse, and no peat, but the usual straw, both for the sake of appearance and to save his coat from roughening. He is as well cared for as the plate at a silversmith’s, and, like it, is not often so well treated when out on hire. But horses of all grades are nowadays better treated than they used to be, even though there may be deterioration in their quality, which, to say the least of it, is doubtful.

(Doctors) with a consulting practice want a different sort of horse to the humbler general practitioner. The consulting man must have a pair that go fast and well, and cover long distances, and draw up at the door in a style that will inspire the patient and the patient’s friends with faith—and move the G.P. to envy. The said G.P. must have a horse that is ready for work at all hours, and looks none the worse for standing about in the rain; in other words, one wants a coach-horse, and other wants a good hackney, which some would consider the better horse of the two. Most of the doctors are horsed by the jobmaster. Some of the Harley Street and Cavendish Square men have half-a-dozen horses on hire, which means a nice little addition to their expenses. The horses are usually foraged by the jobmaster, and every fortnight the feed is delivered in sacks at the stable; but the shoeing is done by a local farrier, though at the jobmaster’s expense.

There is no doubt that the typical doctor’s horse, the horse of the hard-working general practitioner, has a trying life. Like the maid-of-all-work, his work is never done; and he must be exceptionally sound and robust to stand the wear and tear of day and night, particularly on what we may call the outer edge of London. He may not look so well as the animal driven by the country medico, who generally takes a pride in his horseflesh, but he costs quite as much and does not last as long. Six years’ work is as much as can be expected of him, and the expectation is frequently unfulfilled, for as a rule he has little time to bo comfortable either in the stable or the street, although many a one-horse doctor walks his round on Sunday, to give his weary steed a rest. Of late years influenza has been exceptionally hard on the doctor’s horse; it has hit him in two ways: as an ailment from which he suffers, and as a cause of much extra work. No wonder that the doctor jobs, and avails himself of an inexhaustible supply of horse power, in which the risk is spread over thousands instead of being concentrated on his one poor pill-box bay.

The daily round of the doctor’s horse must be as monotonous as that of the milkman’s. As a contrast we have the festive outings of that holiday animal, the wedding grey. As we have before noticed, the grey horse is not appreciated by the cabman, nor is he much loved by the omnibus owner or the carrier, but the livery stableman cannot do without him. For a wedding he is indispensable, though in a crush of weddings chestnuts have to take his place, just as in a crush of funerals the ‘black masters’ have to call on their brethren for the loan of darkish bays and browns.

Tilling averages half-a-dozen weddings a day all the year round, Sundays excepted, for Sunday is not a
favourite marriage day among the folks who patronise the jobmaster. To horse these weddings takes about forty horses, most of which do nothing else; but taking London round, the wedding horse is a superior kind of ‘bus horse out for a holiday, which he owes not to his merits and points, but to his colour; and it has been observed that the melancholy air with which he eyes the bride and bridegroom is due not so much to his forebodings as to their future, but to his veiling his joy at having such a light day’s work.

All the large horse-owners have infirmaries to which the sick and injured are sent, and most of them have a farm for the convalescent. Tilling’s infirmary is a special yard about a quarter of a mile from headquarters, where there are over sixty loose boxes and stalls for the patients under treatment. We have already seen how curiously alike to man the horse is in his ailments. This is all the more noticeable at this infirmary from the fact of a slate appearing on each door, on which is written the patient’s name, his complaint, and the treatment ordered; it only wants a blue paper by the side of it, to be sent to the dispenser for the medicine, to make the resemblance to a hospital complete. The horses that die in a livery stable are few, but those cleared out every year amount to about 12 per cent. This gives an average of eight and a half years’ work, but it is spread over so many kinds of horses as to be hardly worth consideration.

A WELLINGTON KIND OF DAY

 

In my last post, I left off at the point where Sandra Mettler and I stopped by my old stomping ground, the Duke of Wellington pub off Sloane Square. We were supposed to meet Ian Fletcher there the following evening and you can imagine my shock when Sandra and I found the pub deserted – the place was empty, locked up tight and even the signboard, above, was gone.

What the Hell? I thought. “What the Hell?” I asked Sandra. As soon as we got back to the hotel, I got on to the pub website and found that the old Duke of Boots was undergoing a renovation. And that it would be re-opening . . . . tomorrow night. Really, what were the odds?

Everything was falling nicely into place and, as it turned out, the entire next day turned out to be filled with all things Wellington. First, Sandra and I stopped in at Horse Guards

 

 

Wellington’s entrance at Horse Guards

We timed our visit perfectly and so were on hand to watch the changing of the Guards in the entrance gates and to also see the Guards muster for the 11 o’clock inspection.

Exhausted by all the military hoopla, Sandra and I crossed over the road to The Clarence for a refreshing pause at a sidewalk table.

Afterwards, we headed up to Trafalgar Square and on to see my antique dealer, who had quite a nice little something for my collection.

 

Shopping was followed by lunch at Boulestin, in St. James’s Street.

Around the corner, we found the Beau surrounded by construction barriers on our way to Fortnum and Mason and Hatchard’s.

Some time later, we hopped into a cab and headed to the Duke of Wellington pub to meet Ian Fletcher – fingers crossed.

And . . . . it had re-opened! The sign board had been re-hung, the furniture was back in place and the Duke of Boots, as usual, was packed.

 

It wasn’t long before Ian arrived – introductions were made, drinks were ordered and from that point on, the conversation was pretty much non-stop. A goodly amount of time passed before I realized we’d better go on to dinner, and I suggested that we cab it over to that other Wellington stalwart, the Grenadier Pub, once the officer’s mess for Wellington’s regiment and just a stone’s throw from Apsley House.

 

 

The Grenadier was also packed, but thankfully most of the punters here were content to stand outside and enjoy apres work cocktails, while we went inside and were seated for dinner immediately. Sandra quipped that I must feel right at home in these surroundings, and it was nice to have old friends around me, both in print and in person, but to be honest, the Grenadier does a much better cheese plate than I do at home.

 

 

 

I suppose it’s at this point that I should make the obligatory mention of the Grenadier pub ghost. Rumour has it that an officer, caught cheating at cards, was beaten to death outside the pub and that his ghost can be seen standing in the sentry box, above. And it is nothing but rumour. The ghosts never appear anywhere near the sentry box.

 

After dinner, Sandra, Ian and I took advantage of the balmy evening and strolled the streets of Belgravia. It had been a good day. I’d spent it with good friends and I’d found a really nice Artie-fact to add to my collection. As we parted from Ian, Sandra and I turned into Eaton Square and headed home.

“Mista Hudson!” I called quietly.  “Are you there, Mista Hudson?”

“Aye, I’m here, Mrs. Bridges, but that scamp Sarah is no where to be found. Go and ask our Rose if she’s seen her,” replied Sandra.

A grand day was had by all.

THE FUNERAL HORSE

From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

This funeral business is a strange one in many respects, but, just as the jobmaster is in the background of the every-day working world, so the jobmaster is at the back of the burying world. The ‘funeral furnisher’ is equal to all emergencies on account of the facilities he possesses for hiring to an almost unlimited extent, so long as the death rate is normal. The wholesale men, the ‘black masters,’ are always ready to cope with a rate of twenty per thousand —London’s normal is seventeen—but when it rises above that, as it did in the influenza time, the pressure is so great that the ‘blacks’ have to get help from the ‘coloured,’ and the ‘horse of pleasure’ becomes familiar with the cemetery roads.

A hundred years ago there was but one black master in London. He owned all the horses; and there are wonderful stories of the funerals in those days when railways were unknown. The burying of a duke or even a country squire, in the family vault, was then a serious matter, for the body had to be taken the whole distance by road, and the horses were sometimes away for a week or more, and were often worked in relays, much on the same plan as the coach-horses, only that rapid progress through the towns and villages was impossible, for the same reason that no living undertaker dare trot with a tradesman within the limits of the district in which the deceased happens to have been known and respected. Even nowadays the black masters of London can be counted on one’s fingers, the chief, according to general report, being Dottridge, of East Road.

A wonderful place is Dottridge’s. It is the centre of what may be called the wholesale undertaking trade, where the retail undertakers are themselves undertaken and supplied with all they need, from coffin to tombstone. From all parts of the country telegrams and letters are continually coming in and packages continually going out by carrier and fast train, all labelled ‘immediately for funeral,’ to insure quick delivery. If anyone wants a parcel to go promptly and surely to hand, he has only to label it with these mystic words, and the railway men will pounce upon it and be off with it at a run—that is, if they treat it as we saw them do with the first one that came under our notice, which they handled as if it had arrived red hot, and was required at its destination before it cooled. ‘Haste,’ `urgent,’ ‘ immediate,’ are but poor incentives to speed compared with the red funeral label, such as was once accidentally stuck on a boy’s hamper, and sent the matron into hysterics as it was hurriedly bumped on to the school door-mat.

“Altogether there are about 700 of these black horses in London. They are all Flemish, and come to us from the flats of Holland and Belgium by way of Rotterdam and Harwich. They are the youngest horses we import, for they reach us when they are rising three years old, and take a year or so before they get into full swing; in fact, they begin work as what we may call the ‘halftimers’ of the London horse-world. When young they cost rather under than over a hundred guineas a pair, but sometimes they get astray among the carriage folk, who pay for them, by mistake of course, about double the money. In about a year or more, when they have got over their sea-sickness and other ailments, and have been trained and acclimatised, they fetch 65L. each; if they do not turn out quite good enough for first-class -work they are cleared out to the second-class men at about twenty-five guineas; if they go to the repository they average 10L; if they go to the knacker’s they average thirty-five shillings, and they generally go there after six years’ work. Most of them are stallions, for Flemish geldings go shabby and brown. They are cheaper now than they were a year or two back, for the ubiquitous American took to buying them in their native land for importation to the States, and thereby sent up the price; but the law of supply and demand came in to check the rise, and some enterprising individual actually took to importing black horses here from the States, and so spoilt the corner.

“Here, in the East Road, are about eighty genuine Flemings, housed in capital stables, well built, lofty, light, and well ventilated, all on the ground floor. Over every horse is his name, every horse being named from the celebrity, ancient or modern, most talked about at the time of his purchase, a system which has a somewhat comical side when the horses come to be worked together.

“One would think these horses were big, black retriever dogs, to judge by the liking and understanding which spring up between them and their masters. It is astonishing what a lovable, intelligent animal a horse is when he finds he is understood. According to popular report these Flemish stallions are the most vicious and ill-tempered of brutes; but those who keep them and know them are of the very opposite opinion.

“The funeral horse hardly needs description. The breed has been the same for centuries. He stands about sixteen hands, and weighs between 12 and 13 cwt. The weight behind him is not excessive, for the car does not weigh over 17 cwt., and even with a lead coffin he has the lightest load of any of our draught horses. The worst roads he travels are the hilly ones to Highgate, Finchley, and Norwood. These he knows well and does not appreciate. In a few months he gets to recognise all the cemetery roads ‘like a book,’ and after he is out of the bye streets he wants practically no driving, as he goes by himself, taking all the proper corners and making all the proper pauses. This knowledge of the road has its inconveniences, as it is often difficult to get him past the familiar corner when he is out at exercise. But of late he has had exercise enough at work, and during the influenza epidemic was doing his three and four trips a day, and the funerals had to take place not to suit the convenience of the relatives, but the available horse-power of the undertaker. Six days a week he works, for after a long agitation there are now no London funerals on Sundays, except perhaps those of the Jews, for which the horses have their day’s rest in the week.

“To feed such a horse costs perhaps two shillings a day—-it is a trifle under that, over the 700—and his food differs from that of any other London horse. In his native Flanders he is fed a good deal upon slops, soups, mashes, and so forth; and as a Scotsman does best on his oatmeal, so the funeral horse, to keep in condition, must have the rye-bread of his youth. Ryebread, oats, and hay form his mixture, with perhaps a little clover, but not much, for it would not do to heat him, and beans and such things are absolutely forbidden. Every Saturday he has a mash like other horses, but unlike them his mash consists, not of bran alone, but of bran and linseed in equal quantities. What the linseed is for we know not; it may be, as a Life Guardsman suggested to us, to make his hair glossy, that beautiful silky hair which is at once his pride and the reason of his special employment, and the sign of his delicate, sensitive constitution.

REMEMBERING HESTER DAVENPORT

How many times has Hester Davenport’s name passed my lips since we lost her on  September 23rd, 2013 – five years ago? Too many to count, as we at Number One London have so many memories of our beloved friend, sharing them often. If we’re not speaking of Hester amongst ourselves – Kristine, Victoria and Jo Manning – we’re sharing stories of Hester with other friends and acquaintances. She is never far from our hearts.

Victoria, here. I find it difficult to express my sense of loss at the news of Hester’s passing. We will miss her terribly. Wherever she is, I am sure she is organizing everything with her gentle touch and genial good humor.

Kristine and I (and Kristine’s daughter Brooke) thrust ourselves upon Hester one day in June, 2010, full of excitement for our upcoming trip to see the reenactment at the 195th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.  She had invited us to spend the day with her at Windsor, but little were we prepared for the depth of her welcome and her plans for our visit.  We started at the Windsor Guildhall, where she showed us around the upper floors. Then we went into the lower level where the archives were in the process of being moved to make way for the new museum that Hester masterminded.

Hester thoroughly charmed and surprised us by showing us the accounts of the news of the Waterloo victory as they were received and celebrated, as reported in the Windsor and Eton Express.  The original newspapers had been bookmarked for us and there probably had never been two more thrilled readers of the Windsor Gazette than Kristine and I were.

We read about how and when the news was received and the celebratory plans for the royal family and the community.  It was such a thoughtful thing for Hester to do, and greatly added to our enjoyment of our Waterloo visit.  After giving us the latest 195-year-old news, Hester asked us if we’d like to go see the Queen.
That is a QUESTION???  We jumped at the chance.  Off we hiked to the drive from the Castle up the long walk toward Ascot.  Hester told us that the royals went most of the way in autos then changed to open carriages to enter the race course.  A small group had gathered to await the parade of black limos, and we had a glimpse of Herself as she passed by.
 We went on to lunch in a quaint cobbled street-café, all the while chattering a mile a minute, telling each other about various projects underway, observing the locals and tourists, and basking in Hester’s erudite presence.  Of course we talked about the royals, Waterloo, the new Museum about to be created in the Guildhall, then on to persons of interest to all of us, celebrities such as Mary Robinson,  Fanny Burney, Mrs. Delaney, Dr. Johnson, and Queen Victoria (and Prince Albert).  Exactly the kind of celebrity small talk everyone enjoys, right? Well, at least those of us who indulge in the fantasy of  living in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Eventually we moseyed off to the Castle and did the tour.  We were certain Hester had walked that route a million times but she gallantly assured us she loved it every time.  Every step of the way, she told us  “inside” stories, all about the fire in 1992 and what was restored.  And how!

 

On other visits to Windsor, Hester showed us all around the new museum, where she had also welcomed Her Majesty (see below).  She always had the most interesting details to impart without in any way taking credit for all the things she had accomplished.  As head of Dr. Johnson’s House, as an excellent biographer, and as the head of the Frances Burney Society (in addition to many other endeavors and awards), Hester had a role in the most esteemed of British scholarly organizations. But she always had time to chat with amateurs like us.  So we will greatly miss a wonderful friend and favorite companion. All our best to her dear husband, Tony, gardener extraordinaire, and to their daughters.  RIP, Hester.

Victoira at the Guildhall Museum
Kristine here, still unable to process the fact that Hester is gone. Hester and Windsor will forever be linked in my heart. So many memories and so many good times, most arranged by Hester, who was a respected historian, accomplished writer and also very funny. Below is a photo taken by Victoria of Hester and I looking at the grave of Mary Robinson in Windsor, which Hester tended faithfully.
You won’t believe me, but on several occasions Hester related the funniest stories about Mary’s grave to Jo, Victoria and myself. I think my favorite was the time that Hester was showing a group Mary’s grave and while she was giving her talk, became distracted by the fact that Mary’s grave boasted several fresh sprays of flowers. Who could have left them? Where had they come from? It wasn’t till she’d finished that Hester realized she’d taken the group to the wrong grave.

I remember the email we received from Hester telling us that she was doing a truly daring thing – bidding on an original print of Rowlandson’s Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, above. A broker would be phoning in her bids during the live auction. We girls kept our fingers crossed across the pond and were dead chuffed to learn that Hester had submitted the winning bid. Next time I was over, of course I saw the print up close and in person. What a treat.

Hester always good naturedly carried out my commissions with patience, like the time I mailed her a twenty pound note and asked her to buy me the Oyster card issued to commemorate the wedding of William and Kate, which she purchased at Windsor station and mailed to me. (I’m still using it)

Hester was instrumental in the founding of the Guildhall Museum and was appointed to welcome Her Majesty and take her around the exhibits when the Museum first opened.

Of course, the Guildhall figures largely in my memories of Hester. And the Queen. Hester and the Queen – could anything be more perfect?

As most of you know, Hubby and I recently spent two fabulous days with Hester when we were over in January. Firstly, Hester drove us to Oatlands, now a hotel, but once the home of Frederica, Duchess of York. The three of us had tea and then Hester helped me to search the grounds and find Freddy’s pet cemetery. Below is a photo of Hubby, Hester and some guy they picked up at Hampton Court, where we went afterwards. Next day, Hester and I toured the kitchens at Windsor Castle together, had lunch and took a stroll by the river.

Hester was to have spoken to our group when Victoria and I go over to Windsor in September 2014 for the Wellington Tour.  How everyone in our group would have enjoyed meeting Hester – and how much fun we’d have had.

I am convinced that Hester is now spending her days in a well appointed drawing room with the likes of Brummell, Fanny Burney, Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duke of Wellington and the Duchess of York. I only pray that she’s keeping my seat warm.

From Jo Manning

The last time I saw my dear friend and colleague Hester Davenport was when I waved goodbye to her as she drove back to Old Windsor after dropping me off at the railroad station in Windsor. It had been a glorious day, but all days with Hester were glorious, despite the often mercurial English weather.

We’d had tea and pastries – the biscuits a culinary treat – in the back garden with her husband Tony, enjoying the spring flowers and exquisite green swathe of lawn. I was sorry to have to leave, as I always was, because good company is rare anywhere in the world and theirs was sublime.

 

Hester, after her long and arduous string of medical treatments, looked so well! And she was chipper,  too, looking forward to her next adventures in writing and editing. She was skilled in both, such a talent. Her prose was smooth and readable, eminently so.

 

We “met” online in 2005, when my publisher forwarded to me Hester’s comments on the biography I wrote on the 18th-century courtesan and memoirist Grace Dalrymple Elliott. It’s a small world:  Hester had recently completed a well-researched, beautifully-written biography of Grace Elliott’s rival in love – or what passed for it in the Georgian era amongst the aristocrats and royals – Mary Robinson aka Perdita.

 

Hester’s remarks about my writing were so very kind…and thoughtful. She took issue with some interpretations I’d made but acknowledged that so much of the conclusions we drew concerning the lives of these ladies were interpretive, at best.  We loved our subjects, those so-called soiled doves so ill-used by wealthy and powerful men…tough women who sometimes triumphed over social adversity but most times did not.

 

We were thoroughly engrossed in our research and subject matter and it was so delightful to find each other…someone to talk with and reflect and whose company was thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, we most assuredly would have bored the trousers off the majority of people with what we talked about, so being together was a treat beyond the ken of most. We also bonded over biographers who came after us and used our research, claiming it to be their own. We each had a specific bête-noire!

 

 We actually met face-to-face in early 2006, over a delicious meal and white wine at the restaurant atop the National Portrait Gallery. The talking was even more delicious than what we ate or drank  Hester was witty…and wise…and a wonderful companion.

 

We always had something to discuss, somewhere to go – museum exhibition (the Thomas Lawrence show stands out here), Jane Austen’s haunts – the memories are fabulous and Hester’s energy was unflagging as she drove me around the English countryside. I will also never forget the wonderful day we had at Windsor Castle with my two eldest granddaughters, Zoe and Esme Winterbotham. She introduced us to Windsor Castle – what a superb guide! – and the girls introduced her to Wagamama. (A restaurant she said she very much enjoyed getting to know.)

 

A highlight of our day at Windsor was our side visit to St George’s Chapel, where Hester thoroughly scandalized the docents  — and delighted me and the girls – by stomping fiercely on the earthly remains of King Henry VIII, an historical character we found revolting to the max. I will never forget that scene.

 

I miss her. I will always miss her, although I continue to have an ongoing dialogue with her in my mind. I truly believe that people are only really gone when you forget them, when memories disappear. I will never forget my kind, wise, wonderful, clever, witty, darling friend Hester Davenport…and I will bless her memory so long as I live.