When I was in Bath a few months ago, I was fortunate enough to come across a violin player named Nik, who was busking outside of the Pump Room, playing a mean fiddle. Sandra Mettler and I sat on a bench, listening, for quite some time. I bought a CD off Nik and, once I’d returned home, I did a Google search and discovered that Nik is one half of the Ninotchka Band. As they describe themselves, “Ninotchka is a Gypsy, Klezmer and Irish folk duo from deepest darkest Somerset. In their performances, Nik Jovčić-Sas and Sydney Bull, take wild Gypsy dances and lighting fast Irish jigs and mix it all together with a signature infectious punk energy that has audiences stomping and hollering throughout the night. First discovered playing on the streets of Bath, they’ve now played a host of different venues and festivals including Avalon at Glastonbury 2017.”
I thought you might like to meet Ninotchka, as well, as their music is thoroughly stirring and unique. Click above to watch their video and find their CD here.
In light of our recent post on Sefton, we’re re-running this post on our visit to the Horseguards from a few years ago.
One of the places Victoria and I were most anxious to visit on Open Houses Day in London was Horseguards. As you all know, neither Victoria nor I are strangers to Horseguards, but Open Houses Day presented a unique opportunity for us to finally see the Duke of Wellington’s office and desk, both of which are pretty much untouched since the Duke’s departure, though still used by the commanders through the years.
As you can see by the photos below, it was glorious day, so Victoria and I decided to walk to Horseguards from Trafalgar Square.
Approaching Horse Guards: Big Ben in the Distance.
Upon arrival at Horse Guards, we found that there was a bit of line to get in. Normally, we would have grumbled at the wait, but heck, when one is treated to a review and change of guards during the wait one would be an idiot to complain.
The Life Guards above, and the Blues and Royals below.
As it turned out Horse Guards was overwhelmed by the number of people who had turned out for tours of the building, so a young soldier in fatigues was handed a few sheets of historical notes and told to have at it. Thus, our tour began.
One of our first stops was the Cock pit, located below the stables.
Once our group was assembled within the confined space, our guide read from his notes, telling us about the history of cock fighting at Horse Guards – and how Wellington had allowed it to continue while serving as Commander in Chief of the Army.
“Ridiculous. Wellington would never have countenanced such a thing!” Had I just said that aloud? Apparently I had.
Our guide looked down at the notes in his hand. “But it says so right here,” he protested valiantly.
“I don’t doubt it. However I’m telling you that it’s rubbish. The Duke served as Commander in Chief of the Army from 1842 to 1852. Cock fighting had been banned in England well before that time (Cruelty to Animals Act 1835) and Wellington would not have flaunted the law, nor allowed his men to do so.”
Victoria laid a calming hand upon my arm. Oh, Lud, I thought, I have become that old woman. You know, the one who goes about correcting strangers and sticking her nose in where it don’t belong.
Eventually, we made our way upstairs.
Stairs to the first floor
In the Floor, above: Seven Joined in One, referring to seven regiments of Household Division —
The Life Guards, Blues and Royals, Welsh Guards, Grenadier Guards, Scots Guards, Coldstream Guards, Irish Guards.
Each regiment has its own ceremonial drum.
And then, before our very eyes was the entrance to the
Duke of Wellington’s office, wherein lies his desk.
View from the Duke’s office of the forecourt and Whitehall
Once we were all in the room, our guide read from his notes and told us, “And above the door is a bust of Lord Palmerston.”
“Palmerston? That’s the Duke of Wellington,” Victoria said aloud.
“Look,” said our guide, turning his notes so that Victoria could see them, “it says Lord Palmerston.”
“I see that,” Victoria agreed, ” but I can assure you that it’s Wellington. She looked at me, “Isn’t it?”
I had decided not to say anything else on the subject after my outburst in the cock pit. After all, the majority of the people in the room with us wouldn’t know Wellington from Churchill if push came to shove. Nevermind Palmerston. Put on the spot now, I had to admit, in front of many pairs of staring eyes, that the bust was indeed that of Wellington. We moved on.
The dividing line between the parishes of St. Martin in the Fields and St. Margaret’s Westminster passes through the Horse Guards Building.
The Duke’s office fireplace, above.
In the Duke’s Office, above and below, our fellow attendees
The office window overlooking the parade grounds.
And last, but certainly not least, the Duke’s desk.
You can find a complete history of this desk and its origins in this article by retired Major Ian Mattison on the Waterloo 200 website.
The plaque reads, “This table was habitually used by Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington K.G. during his tenure as Commander in Chief 1842-52. It was restored to this room by Field Marshal The Duke of Connaught, Inspector General of the Forces 1904.”
In the background, a portrait of George III
At the end of the tour, we left by a set of backstairs –
which provided a unique perspective of one of the guards on duty.
If you’d like to see Horseguards for yourself, along with many other historic sites, do think about joining one of our upcoming, London based tours. Kristine always does a Regency London walk during these tours, chock full of visits to historic sites – tour details here.
SEFTON served with the British Army for 17 years from 1967 to 1984, coming to prominence when he was critically injured in the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings of July 20, 1982. Eight soldiers on ceremonial duty were killed in two IRA bomb blasts. The first blast, in Hyde Park, killed two soldiers and injured 23 others and the second explosion, in Regents Park, less than two hours later killed six soldiers instantly and injured a further 24 people.
In the first incident a nail bomb in a blue Austin car was detonated as members of the Household Cavalry made their way to the changing of the guard from their barracks in Knightsbridge. Seven horses were killed or so badly maimed they had to be destroyed. Another device exploded underneath the bandstand in Regents Park as the Royal Green Jackets played music from Oliver to 120 spectators.
Regimental commander, Lt Col Andrew Parker-Bowles, ex-husband of Camilla Parker-Bowles, the current Duchess of Cornwall, raced to the scene of the first blast on foot. Arriving quickly he met a groom leading a severely wounded horse, Sefton. Blood gushed from a huge hole in the horse’s neck and Parker-Bowles instructed the groom to take off his shirt and stuff it into the wound. Unfortunately the groom had sustained his own injury in the bomb blast, a four-inch nail pierced the man’s hand. Another man sacrificed his shirt and helped staunch the blood flowing from Sefton’s neck. Sefton suffered 28 separate wounds to his body from the nail bombs. One 2 x 1 shard severed his jugular vein. Five four inch nails were implanted to half their length into his face, one spiked his back. His stifle and flanks were gored by searing shrapnel from the car. His right eye was burned and the cornea damaged. His rider, Trooper Pederson, injured too by the flying nails, when ordered to dismount, stood dazed, holding the valiant horse. Sefton underwent eight hours of surgery and became a media sensation and a household name. He was 19 years old at the time of the bombings and recovered sufficiently to return to active service and was subsequently awarded “Horse of the Year.”
Sefton pictured after making a full recovery with trooper Michael Pedersen, also injured in the attack.
Born in Ireland, Sefton joined the Army in 1967. He was 16 hands high and spent the early years of his army career as a school horse, teaching new recruits to ride. in 1975, despite having socks and a blaze, he found his way into the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, which normally recruited only totally black horses. The Household Cavalry recorded that he was a horse of great courage and character. Trooper Pederson reported that Sefton responded so bravely when the bomb exploded that there was no chance of being thrown from him.
A watercolour painting done by the Duchess of Cornwall of Sefton for a 2011 exhibition War Horse: Fact and Fiction at central London’s National Army Museum.
In 1984, Sefton was retired from the Household Calvary to The Home of Rest for Horses in Speen, Bucks, and stayed there until July 9, 1993. He became incurably lame from the injuries he suffered and was put to sleep at the age of 30.
Sefton’s legacy remains through The British Horse Society Sefton Awards, set up in 1984, and there is the Sefton Equine Referral Unit, which is based at the Royal Veterinary College. Household Cavalry tradition dictates that horses’ names are re-used, which ensures that Sefton’s memory will live on.
A monument to the tragedy that killed 11 people and seven horses, injured Sefton and eight of his stablemates, was erected on the spot where the bomb went off in Hyde Park and daily the troop honors it with an eyes left and a salute with drawn swords.
The soldiers who lost their lives that day –
WO2 Graham Barker, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
Corporal Major Roy Bright, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
Lieutenant Anthony Daly, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
Bandsman John Heritage, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
Corporal Robert Livingstone, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
Corporal Robert McKnight, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
Bandsman George Mesure, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
Bandsman Keith Powell, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
Bandsman Laurence Smith, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
Trooper Simon Tipper, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
Lance Corporal Jeffrey Vernon Young, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
The seven horses of the Blues and Royals that were killed were:
July 28, 2019, is the 153rd birthday of Beatrix Potter, an extraordinary woman we remember with great affection and appreciation. Victoria here, a lifelong fan of Peter Rabbit and the other familiar characters she wrote about.
Born in 1866, Helen Beatrix Potter (died 1943) lived in London and vacationed in the Lake District and Scotland. She studied animals and plants, and developed a love of the outdoors as well as an ability to draw plants and fungi.
This website (click here) will give you all the background you need on the stories, her life, and her legacy. It also provides information on the recently discovered Tale of Kitty-in-Boots which was published in September 2016, a special treat for all of us.
Perhaps Potter’s most valuable contribution, beyond her stories, is her gift of more than four thousand acres of land in the Lake District of Britain. She left the land to the National Trust which has maintained her Hill Top Farm (click here) open to visitors. Most of the land is incorporated into the Lake District National Park.
Hill Top Farm
One of my favorite stories is The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. I suspect it is more because I adore hedgehogs, not because I am a neatness freak about housework and laundry.
Fortunately, Potter’s stories and their wonderful illustrations have been preserved. No disney-fication for them! My grandchildren have greatly enjoyed the DVDs from the BBC with the original characters. In 2006, Miss Potter,starring Renee Zellweger was filmed. The trailer is here.
Hooray for you, Beatrix Potter!! And thank you for all your gifts.
From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)
Tattersall’s is usually looked upon as the headquarters of horsey London. It is certainly the headquarters of the horse of pleasure, but, as has been made clear enough in these pages, that sort of horse is simply lost in the thousands that throng our streets. Tattersall’s is practically the great betting exchange, but the visitor to any of the Monday or Thursday sales will be puzzled to find the least sign of a betting atmosphere at Knightsbridge. The two things are as distinct on those days as, say, the Bank of England and Capel Court. The yard is under cover, a lofty glass-roofed hall, which cost 30,000L to build, and which is as big as many a railway station. It is surrounded by a handsome gallery, behind the arched and columned screen of which every type of pleasure vehicle seems to be ‘on view,’ duly numbered in ‘lots’ for the hammer. In the centre of the gravel area is a drinking fountain, surmounted by the quaint old Georgian bust of the founder, with its eyes fixed on the entrance doors, and its thoughts apparently as far away from water as are those of the crowd around.
It is a different variety of crowd from that which gathers in any other sale yard. London has several ‘repositories.’ There is Aldridge’s in St. Martin’s Lane; there is Kymill’s in the Barbican—these two being the chief; and there are Stapleton’s out in the East, and Ward’s in the West, and the Elephant and Castle in the South, and others which many a horse knows well. There is a sort of horse that ‘knows the lot’; the sort that ‘does the round,’ and brings more money to the auctioneers than to the unfortunate buyers, who ‘find him out’ in a fortnight, and ‘get rid of him sharp’ to an unwary successor; a wonderful animal this horse, ‘quiet in harness, a good worker,’ who has only two faults, one that ‘it takes a long time to catch him in a field,’ the other that ‘he is not worth a rap when caught.’ But this kind of horse does not put in many appearances at Knightsbridge. Tattersall’s has a character to keep up, and it has kept it up for over a hundred years now. It is eminently respectable, from the unused drinking fountain and the auctioneers’ hammer, one of the good old pattern, with a rounded knob instead of a double head, down to the humblest hanger-on.
Entering one of the stables which open on to the yard, and have a dozen or more roomy stalls apiece, we find a horse being measured, to make sure he is correctly described. One would think he was a recruit, from the careful way in which the long wooden arm is brought down so gingerly as not even to press in his skin. Soon his turn will come. Up in the gallery will go his number, and the young auctioneer in the rostrum below —which has a sounding-board, as if it were a cathedral pulpit—will read out his short title.
Out comes the horse at last—tittuppy-trot, tittuppytrot. ‘Ten,’ says one of the crowd. ‘Ten guineas,’ echoes the auctioneer. ‘Twelve,’ comes from the crowd; ‘twelve guineas,’ echoes the Varsity man in the pulpit. And so the game goes on with nods and shouts, each nod or look being worth a guinea, so that the solo runs, ‘Thirteen—thirteen guineas—fourteen guineas—fifteen guineas—sixteen—sixteen guineas— seventeen—eighteen—twenty guineas’—quite a singsong up to—’ twenty-eight guineas’—and so gradually slowing, with a spurt or two to ‘forty guineas’—and then a grand noisy rally till ‘fifty-five’ is reached. ‘Fifty-five?—Fifty-five?—Fifty-five? Last time, Fiftyfive!’—knock—and away goes Captain Carbine’s hunter, to make room for a ‘match pair’ that will change hands at 165 guineas, or perhaps fifty more if the season has begun—the bidding always in guineas, in order that the auctioneer may live on the shillings, as Sir John Gilbert used to do in the old days when the guineas flowed to him for his drawings on the wood.
If you want riding horses or carriage horses you go to Tattersall’s; if you want draught horses for trade, you go to Bymill’s or Aldridge’s, where you not only get the new-comers, but also the second-hand, and many-another-hand, from London’s stables. With those second-hand horses we need not overburden ourselves; our task has been to bring the first-hand horses into London, and sort them out. We have brought in the ‘bus horses, the tram horses, the cab horses, the railway horses, the cart and many other horses. Of the cart horses we could, if it were worth while, say a good deal more. We have said nothing of the distillers, the millers, the soap merchants, the timber merchants, the better class contractors, and half a dozen other firsthand horse-owning trades. Some of the distillers’ horses are said, by those who know, to be as good as any in the brewers’ drays, and by ‘as good’ is meant that they are of the same breeding, and can be compared with them, owing to their being at somewhat similar work.
If you think you know anything of horseflesh and want the conceit taken out of you, by all means attend a repository sale. You will see a horse—it may be a likely mare—led from her stall and stood ready for her turn, and you will probably value her at, to be reasonable, 20L; and she looks worth not a penny less. When her number goes up at the window you will see her shown at her best at a run, and, for a moment, you will be inclined to add hi. to your estimate, But soon a chill will run down your back as you hear the bidding. ‘Three! Three and a half! Four!’ a long pause. ‘Four and a half! Five!’ jerks the auctioneer in the corner, with about as much expression as if a penny had been put in his mouth to work him automatically. ‘For the last time! Five!’ Knock. Five guineas! And as the mare is led back to her stall she seems to Change before your very eyes, and you are ready to admit that she doesn’t look worth a penny more!