The following correspondence is from The Despatches, Correspondence, and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur, Duke of Wellington
Wellington’s letter to Mr. Bankhead
London, 9th Aug.. 1822
Dear Sir: I called upon you with the intention of talking to you about Lord Londonderry, and of requesting you would call upon him. He promised me that he would send for you, but, lest he should not, I entreat you to find some pretence for going down to him. I entertain no doubt that he is very unwell. It appears that he has been overworked during the session, and that his mind is overpowered for the moment and labours under a delusion. I state the impression made upon me in the interview I have just had with him. I told him that this was my impression, and I think it is his own, and he will probably communicate it to you; but, lest he should not, I tell you what I think, begging you never to mention to anybody what I have told you. I am setting out this moment for the Netherlands; I would have stayed with Lord Londonderry, but he would not allow me. I shall be very much obliged to you if you will write me a line and have it left at my house to let me know how you find him, and particularly if you think I am mistaken.
Ever, dear Sir, yours most faithfully,
Mr. Bankhead to Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington
Lower Brook Street, 9th Aug., 1822
I am this moment (8 o’clock) returned to my own house from Lord Londonderry’s, where I have been for two hours; and I lose not a moment in answering the letter which your Grace has condescended to write to me. Thirty years intimacy with Lord Londonderry makes me know his peculiarities intimately. His nerves are never unstrung unless when he has some bodily indisposition. I conceive that at this moment he has a preternatural fullness of the vessels of the head, and that this (rather than the wear and tear of work) makes him nervous. I have had him cupped, and he experiences the greatest possible relief in the feelings of his head and of his mental competency.
He is gone down to Cray with Lady Castlereagh, and I purpose to see him there to-morrow. Perhaps a feverish affection of a few days may follow this casual derangement of the system, but knowing the natural soundness of Lord Londonderry’s constitution, I have no doubt but that by quietness and ordinary care of a few days he is likely soon again to be reinstated in his general health.
I know that Lady Londonderry has written a few lines to your Grace before she left St. James’s Square.
I have the honour to be,
your Grace’s most obedient humble servant,
To the Duke of Wellington from the Marchioness of Londonderry
London, 9th Aug., 1822.
My Lord: From your kind feeling with respect to Lord Londonderry I am sure you will be glad to hear that he saw Bankhead, who ordered him to be cupped. The blood resembled jelly, and he was instantly relieved, and I have hopes that he will be well in a few days; but I really think he was upon the verge of a brain fever.
Yours most sincerely,
Lord Fitzroy Somerset to Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington.
London, 12th August, 1822.
My Dear Lord
It is with great concern that I have to announce to you the melancholy intelligence of the death of Lord Londonderry, which took place, by his own hands, this morning between seven and eight o’clock.
I enclose a copy of Bankhead’s statement, which will show you what occurred from the time you first sent him to attend Lord Londonderry, and will prove to you that you were right in the apprehensions you expressed to Bankhcad that his mind was not what it ought to be.
Lord Liverpool, whom I saw as soon as he arrived from Combe Wood, desired me to communicate this lamentable event to you, and to express to you his wish that you should return to England immediately. He is in the greatest distress. His first idea was to set off for Scotland immediately, and break the intelligence to his Majesty himself; but upon reflection he has thought it best not to leave London, but to depute Mr. Peel to do that office for him. He laments your absence amazingly, and would have requested you to go to the King if you had been in the way. As it is, however, his Majesty is better prepared for the shock than anybody else, for he mentioned to Lord Liverpool on Saturday, that he had seen Lord Londonderry the day before, and was quite convinced that he was not right in his mind, and that he felt great alarm for the consequences of the break up of such a mind as Lord Londonderry’s.
Lord Liverpool has written to the King, and entreated his Majesty not to make any arrangement for filling Lord Londonderry’s office till his return from Scotland, assuring him that
he will keep the machine going till that time in the best way he can.
I understand from Bankhead that Lady Londonderry apprehended the possibility of Lord Londonderry’s making away with himself, and placed everything out of his reach that she thought him likely to make use of; but unfortunately he had in one of his despatch-boxes the knife with which eventually he put an end to his life. He had got up in the night and gone into the dressing-room to wash his face, and then returned quietly to his bed.
I presume you will be able to arrive here between Thursday and Friday. Lord Liverpool looks forward to your return with great anxiety. Lord Westmorland and Lord Maryborough are the only ministers in town. The latter would have written to you, but Lord Liverpool has employed him to write to Lord Harrowby and Lord Wellesley; and as I am writing, he thinks it unnecessary to do so.
Your most faithful and affectionate,
Fife House, 12th Aug., 1822.
From the time Dr. Bankhead first saw Lord Londonderry on Friday evening last he was satisfied that his head was seriously affected, and that he laboured under very general mental delusion. He had been cupped in his house in St. James’s Square on that evening, from which he seemed much relieved; and in the quiet of the evening Lord and Lady Londonderry went down to Cray, Dr. Bankhead promising to follow them the next day, and to stay at Cray all Sunday. On Friday night Lord Londonderry was restless, and asking many questions during the night, which manifested incoherence and delirium. On Saturday morning he took some opening medicine which Dr. Bankhead had sent him, remained in his bed all the day, and was kept particularly quiet, using slops only as nourishment, and barley-water as drink.
When Dr. Bankhead arrived at Cray in the afternoon of Saturday he found Lord Londonderry rather better from the favourable operation of the cooling medicine, but still there was heat and fever, great thirst, and an unusual watchfulness and suspicion of manner, and a constant anxiety lest he should not be well enough to go abroad in the appointed time. He asked several questions very irrelevant and quite at variance with his usual calm manner. In the night of Saturday he had some refreshing sleep, but on the whole of Sunday his fever still continued, as well as the delirium and unhappiness of mind and manner. Dr. Bankhead quitted his room about midnight, leaving his Lordship tolerably comfortable, and Lady Londonderry in the room with him, both retiring to rest. Dr. Bankhead slept in a room close to his Lordship, and on the morning of this day, about 7 o’clock, Lady Londonderry’s maid called him, saying that Lord Londonderry wished to see him. Dr. Bankhead instantly repaired to the bedroom, but found that his Lordship had that moment gone into the dressing-room adjoining to the bedroom. On entering this instantly, the Doctor saw Lord Londonderry standing opposite to the window with his face to the ceiling, having on his dressing-gown. The Doctor immediately ran towards him, saying, “My dear Lord, why do you stand so?” upon which, without turning, he answered, “Bankhead, let me fall upon your arm; it is all over.” In the agony of the moment, Dr. Bankhead caught him on his arm, and, dreadful to relate, saw a short-bladed knife in his right hand fiercely clenched, with which he had deeply divided the carotid artery; and from the sudden effusion of blood he fell instantly from Dr. Bankhead’s arms on his face upon the floor, and was instantly dead without a struggle.
The Duke then wrote:
13th Aug., 1822.
I saw Lord Londonderry frequently during the last days of his life.
I dined with him on Saturday, the 3rd of August, at Cray, and sat next to him at dinner. There was a very large party, and I thought Lord Londonderry was in particularly good spirits at dinner.
I had occasion, both before and after dinner, to talk to him on subjects on which the delusions of his mind would have appeared, if he had at that time laboured under any. They related to certain anonymous letters received by Mr. Arbuthnot and others of the Treasury, which were known to come from a person by the name of Jennings, who had been under examination before a committee of the House of Commons; and although I thought Lord Londonderry was cold in his manner on the subject of some of these letters, which was not unusual with him, I never saw him more decided or more clear in his opinion. I saw a letter from him to Mr. Arbuthnot on the same subject the next day, Sunday, the 4th of August, in which he expressed himself with more than usual clearness and decision.
I did not see Lord Londonderry on Monday the 5th, but on Tuesday the 6th he came to the Ordnance office early, to a meeting of certain persons to consider of the means of reforming the commissariat in Canada. Upon this occasion I thought him very low. He took no part in the discussion, and manifested no interest in it. After the meeting had broken up he waited to talk to Mr. Arbuthnot and me about Jennings’s letters, about which he showed that he felt more than I thought he had on the preceding Saturday, but there was no appearance of agitation respecting them.
I met Lord Londonderry at the Cabinet on Wednesday the 7th of August. The subject of discussion was the instructions for himself on his mission to Vienna. Lord Liverpool read them to the Cabinet, and there was some discussion upon them; but Lord Londonderry took no part in the discussion, and he appeared very low, out of spirits, and unwell. There was, however, no appearance of agitation. After the Cabinet was over I went into Mr. Beckett’s, and after leaving him I met Lord Londonderry as he was coming out by the back door of his office. We walked together through the Park and the Ordnance office to his own house. Lord Londonderry was remarkably low and silent. He held me by the arm, but scarcely said a word; but there was no symptom of agitation.
After leaving him at his door I returned to my office, and in about half an hour went to Carlton House to take leave of the King previous to my departure for the Netherlands. I found Lord Londonderry at Carlton House. The King was gone out, and I walked with Lord Londonderry back to his own house, where I left him. He was equally low as before.
I had occasion, in about an hour afterwards, to go to my own house, and as I was returning down the Park I stopped to speak to his Royal Highness the Duke of York, who was in his buggy. Lord Londonderry came up the Park on horseback, and joined us, and in a few seconds I left him and the Duke of York together; he then appeared very low and out of spirits.
I did not see him on Thursday the 8th of August.
On Friday the 9th I was proceeding on horseback through St James’s Square from the Ordnance office to my own house, to set out for the Continent at about four o’clock in the afternoon. Lady Londonderry called to me, and was talking to me from her window, when Lord Londonderry passed me in rather a quick and hurried pace, and told me he wanted to speak to me. I followed him into his house and his room.
I cannot give a better account of what passed in this interview than by copying a letter which I wrote to Mr. Arbuthnot (who had left London that evening) immediately after it was concluded, before I set out for Dover:—
London, 9th August, 1822.
My Dear Arbuthnot
“I am just setting off, but I cannot go without making you acquainted with the impression made upon my mind by an interview I have just had with Lord Londonderry.
“It appears to me that his mind and body have been overpowered by the work of the session, and that he is at this moment in a state of mental delusion. He took me into his house to talk to me about the same story that he told to you and to Lord Liverpool; and, strange to say, he imagined from my manner at the last Cabinet and afterwards walking home with him that I had heard of something against him and believed it. He thought the same of the Duke of York; and he told me some strange story of a man telling him this day that his horses were waiting for him when he was coming out of Carlton House, of his not having ordered his horses to town, and of the arrival of the horses, and of his being informed of their arrival, as proofs that the person who had ordered up his horses, and that the person who informed him they were waiting, thought there was so much against him that he ought to fly the country. This impression was so strong upon his mind that he rung the bell to desire that inquiry might be made as to who had ordered up his horses, and the delusion was not removed till he was informed that the horses were not in town.
“He is certainly very unwell, and I did not conceal from him my opinion that he was so, and that his mind was not in its usual and proper state. I offered to stay with him, but he would not allow me, as he said it would make people believe that there was some reason for it. I begged him to send for Dr. Bankhead, and, between ourselves, I have informed Dr. Bankhead that it is my opinion that he is labouring under a temporary delusion. He cried excessively while talking to me, and appeared relieved by it and by his conversation with me, and he promised me to see Bankhead.
“I am afraid that he has mentioned the story above referred to, to more persons than Lord Liverpool, you, and me. I have entreated him to say no more about it to anybody, but I fear he will.
“I write you all this in order to urge you to see him as soon as you can after you will return to London and observe him well, and see if his mind is quite right. If it is not, and he should go abroad, I think you ought to make him take Bankhead with him; and, if that is not accomplished, I think you ought to mention the matter to Planta. Otherwise, it is my opinion that this impression of mine should never go beyond ourselves.
“He is quite clear and right about public matters, but agreed with me that his mind had been overpowered by the work of the session, and that he was labouring under a delusion.
“Destroy this letter, and believe me, etc. Wellington.”
The remains of the noble Marquess, after lying in state for several days, were removed from his house in St. James’s Square, followed by the Ministers of State, principal Nobility, and private friends of his Lordship, in carriages, and interred, with funeral pomp, in Westminster Abbey, on Thursday, the 22d of August, 1822.
Continuing the Accounts of the Death and Burial of Queen Caroline, August 1821
Queen Caroline had long been a popular figure with the masses. During her funeral procession, riots broke out in the London streets. The following account was published in the Manchester Guardian on 18 August 1821:
“Before six o’clock a crowd assembled at Hyde Park Corner. The anxiety of the people as to the course the funeral procession [for Caroline of Brunswick] would take was here most strikingly displayed. The crowd were unwilling to depart from a place where there was a favourable chance of joining or viewing the procession; but there was the greatest agitation and alarm lest it should pass another way.
“The procession reached Kensington at half past nine. It was after eleven that it moved on into Hyde Park, and an attempt was made to pass, but this failed, for the people, apprehensive that the hearse would not pass through the City, shut the gates.
“About twelve o’clock the procession entered the Park, and during its passage through it a scene of confusion and outrage ensued of which the annals of this or any other Christian country can present few parallels. Vast numbers of persons on foot and on horseback passed with great speed along Park Lane. Their object was suspected by the Guards to be to reach that gate before them, with the view of meeting the procession, and forcing it to turn back. To prevent this, the Guards galloped through the Park to gain Cumberland Gate before them. The procession moved at a very quick pace through the Park. Suddenly, it halted, and it was understood that the people had closed the gates. It became necessary to force a way for the procession through whatever impediments might present themselves. The people were equally bent on turning the procession, and forcing it into the route of the city. Here a contest arose, and here, we deeply regret to say, blood was shed!
“Some stones and mud were thrown at the military, and a magistrate being present, the soldiers were sanctioned in firing their pistols and carbines at the unarmed crowd. Screams of terror were heard in every direction. The number of shots fired was not less than forty or fifty. So completely did the soldiery appear at this period to have lost the good temper and forbearance they previously evinced, that they fired shots in the direction in which the procession was moving. Immediately upon the cessation of the firing, the latter part of the procession joined the rest of the funeral train. The rain, which had lately abated, again poured in torrents, as the procession advanced.”
Harriet Arbuthnot, diarist and close friend of the Duke of Wellington wrote in her Journal:
“August 1821: 15th Most disgraceful riots have taken place in London at the Queen’s funeral. The people were dissatisfied at the procession being settled not to go thro’ the City and actually, by force and violence, by breaking up the roads and blocking them with carts and carriages, forced it into the City. One man was killed and many wounded, and nothing prevented a dreadful slaughter but the exemplary patience and forbearance of the military…”
A few days later, she wrote: ” 21st – Mr. Arbuthnot writes me word from London that he thinks all the mischiefs at the Queen’s funeral were caused by Sir Robert Baker’s folly and cowardice, that the Riot Act was not read and the soldiers fired without orders; but, after all, men with arms in their hands cannot be expected to stand and be pelted to death without retaliating. Inquests are sitting upon the two men who were killed, and nothing ever was so absurd as the proceedings. Sheriff Waithman acts as Counsel for the dead men and treats the Coroner and everybody with the utmost impertinence; the Life Guards were paraded today that the witnesses might try and identify the man who fired, but all picked out different people and most of them men who were not on duty, so that it is quite a farce…”
On the 30th of August, Mrs. Arbuthnot wrote: “…There was a great riot at the Knightsbridge barracks at the funeral of the two men who were killed on the day of the Queen’s funeral. The people hissed and hooted the soldiers and at last attacked one who was amongst them unarmed. His comrades defended him and a general battle ensured. Nobody was much hurt.”
Mrs. Arbuthnot added a month later:
“Sept. 14 1821: The Duke of Wellington dined with us and told me that he was quite sure Sir Robert Wilson was at the bottom of whole riot at the Queen’s funeral. The Ministers have evidence that he offered five shillings to the first man who wd break up the roads, and gave beer to the mob to excite them; he also abused one of the soldiers and d—-d him, on which the soldier loaded his pistol and cocked it, which preparation rather alarmed Sir Robert, and he made off. he is to be dismissed the Service as soon as the King returns, and he is expected today. I asked the Duke why he was not tried for treason for obstructing the King’s Highway, but he said people were afraid of appearing as witnesses from the violence of the mob.”
From the Hamburg papers, published September 5, 1821, in The Times:
“Brunswick, August 25: Yesterday was performed here the funeral ceremony of the entrance and depositing of the body of the late Queen of England, with all the solemnity and attachment to the House of their Princes which characterises the brave Brunswickers….The citizens of Brunswick…drew the car to the church themselves….Immediately behind it followed several hundred merchants and citizens with tapers. Behind the train of the citizens followed the carriages of the English, Alderman Wood, Lord Hood, Lady Hamilton, Austin, etc. and several carriages belonging to persons of this city attached to the House of Brunswick…There were 20,000 persons who followed the royal corpse, and the greatest tranquillity and order prevailed during the whole of the funeral solemnity. The church was hung with black, and 60 young ladies, all dressed in white with black sashes, received the corpse, and accompanied it, with wax tapers, to the vault. ”
Caroline is buried in the Brunswick royal tomb in the cathedral in Brunswick (in German, Dom St. Blasii et Johannis), a large Lutheran church in the city now known as Braunschweig.
Numerous volumes have been published about the life of Caroline of Brunswick, her trials and tribulations. Below, the 1996 biography by Flora Fraser, published by Knopf.
Ms. Fraser’s conclusion (p.466): “[Caroline’s] high-spirited, even reckless, response to her predicament brought her unprecedented liberty, as she confounded the machinations of her husband and of the governments in England and on the Continent to bring her to book. But in the end Caroline’s breathtaking audacity had fatal consequences, contributing to the loss of her daughter, her crown and her life.”
The married life and death of Queen Caroline (1768-1821 were equally frenzied. Though she was never officially crowned, Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfbuttel was the wife of King George IV and thus, Princess of Wales and after the 1820 death of George III, the Queen of England. She died on August 7, 1821, just a month after her husband’s lavish coronation ceremony which she was physically restrained from attending.
For an account of her death, we turn to excerpts from a letter from Viscount Hood to Henry Brougham, M.P., who had represented the Queen at her recent trial and had gone to York to attend Assizes.
Brandenburgh House, 8th Aug., 1821.
“. . . The melancholy event took place at 25 minutes past 10 o’clock last night, when our dear Queen breathed her last. Her Majesty has quitted a scene of uninterrupted persecution, and for herself I think her death is not to be regretted. . . . She died in peace with all her enemies. Je ne mourrai sans douleur, mais je mourrai sans regret (I shall not die without pain, but I die without regret) was frequently expressed by her Majesty. I never beheld a firmer mind, or any one with less feelings at the thought of dying, which she spoke of without the least agitation, and at different periods of her illness, even to very few hours of her dissolution, arranged her worldly concerns. . .”
King George IV learned the news of the death of his estranged — and much despised — wife while on board a ship bound for his visit to Ireland. Apparently illness had accomplished what he had tried to do so often in life — rid himself of Caroline. Though there were rumors of poison and other nefarious plots, her death was officially ruled to be from natural causes. George IV greatly resented the popular acclaim that Caroline enjoyed; she was a favorite of the people; they probably loved her mainly because they detested the Prince Regent/King and his profligate ways.
Even in death, Caroline left controversy in her wake, as expressed by our old friend, the Diarist Thomas Creevey:
Mr. Creevey to Miss Ord.
“Cantley, Aug. 11.
. . . The death of this poor woman under all its circumstances is a most striking event and gave me an infernal lump in my throat most part of Thursday. . . . (There) is one subject which gives me some uneasiness in the making of her will, the Queen wished to leave some diamonds to Victorine, the child of Pergami, of whom she was so fond. This was not liked by Brougham and her other lawyers, so the bequest does not appear in the will ; but the jewels are nevertheless to be conveyed to Victorine. This, you know, is most delicate matter to be employed on her deathbed in sending her jewels from Lady Anne Hamilton and Lady Hood to Pergami’s child appears to me truly alarming. I mean, should it be known, and one is sure it will be so, for Taylor had a letter from Denison last night mentioning such a report, and being quite horrified at it. On the other hand, when I expressed the same sentiment to Brougham, he thought nothing of it. His creed is that she was a child-fancier: that Pergami’s elevation was all owing to her attachment to Victorine, and he says his conviction is strengthened every day of her entire innnocence as to Bergami. This, from Brougham, is a great deal, because I think it is not going too far to say that he absolutely hated her; nor do I think her love for her Attorney General (Brougham) was very great.”
Creevey is referring to Victorine, the daughter of Caroline’s companion and perhaps lover, Pergami. She was one of several children Caroline doted upon during her lifetime, Whether any of them were her illegitimate offspring was widely discussed but never proved. Several were left legacies in her will.
George IV was desperate to rid himself of his wife. They had been estranged since shortly after their arranged marriage in 1795, even before the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817). Even after Charlotte’s lamented death in childbirth, Caroline had remained abroad, living in Italy until her husband became king. But when she returned to England, she faced an unpleasant situation.
When King George tried to divorce his wife in a trial before the House of Lords in 1820, Henry Peter Brougham (1778–1868), later 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, defended her. The fact that the case was later dropped gave him great prestige. He became Lord Chancellor of Great Britain under King William IV.
Letter from Henry Brougham, M.P., to Mr. Creevey.
“Aug. 14, 1821.
I have seen Lushington and Wilde repeatedly. They are at this moment in negociation with the Govt. ; or rather throwing up all concern with the funeral on account of this indecent hurry. Their ground is a clear one : they won’t take charge of it from Stade the port in Hanover to Brunswick without knowing that arrangements are ready to receive them. . . . The Govt., only wishing the speedy embarkation, as they avow, for the sake of not delaying the dinner at Dublin, insist on getting it on board as quick as possible, and don’t mind what happens afterwards. … I shall, I think, be satisfied with going to Harwich with it, and not go, as I had intended, to Brunswick.”
Poor Caroline. Though the people mourned her, only those required to accompany her body apparently wanted to do so. She had requested burial in her native Brunswick.
Mr. Creevey to Miss Ord.
” Cantley, Aug. 18th.
“. . . Here is Brougham again. He has been at Harwich, where he saw the body of the Queen embarked about 3 o’clock on Thursday; and then immediately came across the country, and, after travelling all night, got here to dinner yesterday, and proceeds to Durham to-night to join the circuit there. I wish very much I had been at Harwich : according to Brougham’s account it must have been the most touching spectacle that can be imagined the day magnificently beautiful the sea as smooth as glass
our officers by land and sea all full dressed soldiers and sailors all behaving themselves with the most touching solemnity the yards of the four ships of war all manned the Royal Standard drooping over the coffin and the Queen’s attendants in the centre boat every officer with his hat off the whole time minute guns firing from the ships and shore, and thousands of people on the beach sobbing put aloud. … It was as it should be and the only thing that was so during the six and twenty years’ connection of this unhappy woman with this country. . . And now what do you think Brougham said to me not an hour ago? that if he had gone with the Queen’s body to Brunswick, it would have been going too far it would have been over-acting his part ; ‘ it being very well known that through the whole of this business he had never been very much for the Queen ! ‘ Now upon my soul, this is quite true, and, being so, did you ever know anything at all to equal it ?”
Apparently Mr. Creevey did not approve of Mr. Brougham’s dismissal of any affection for the lady he had served as adviser since 1812.
Caroline had long been a popular figure with the masses. During her funeral procession, riots broke out in the London streets. We will continue reporting on Queen Caroline’s death and burial soon.
From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)
The brewer’s horse is a splendid animal, the most powerful as a rule of London’s heavy brigade. At the Cart-horse Parade, in which teams of all classes compete, the first, second, and third prizes were taken for the only two years in which they entered by Messrs. Courage, whose cast horses are generally sold for an average of 321. each, one of them having fetched fifty-one guineas, the highest price ever obtained for a horse cleared out of a stud as being past the work of the trade in which he made his first appearance in town. In fact, there is no stud in the kingdom of higher level excellence than that under Mr. Laird’s care at Horselydown, which is saying much, considering that the 3,000 horses owned by the larger London brewers are worth at the very lowest estimate 90L apiece.
A barrel of beer weighs 4 cwt.; a brewer’s van carries 25 barrels, which means 5 tons; the van itself weighs not less than 35 cwt., some of them weigh over 2 tons; the harness weighs three quarters of a hundredweight; the men weigh—what? It is a delicate question. To answer it Mr. Laird weighed a drayman for us, a fine young man in his twenty-ninth year, he weighed 20 st. 10 lbs.! And the horse he drove, a five-year-old gelding standing 17*2 and still growing, was then put on the scale, and dipped the beam at just over the ton.
But this is hardly a fair average. Let us throw the men in with the sundries, and say these tremendous horses have to draw 8 tons; and this is for three horses worked unicorn fashion, two at the pole and one as leader. According to one horse-keeper, who had been twenty-seven years in his position, it now takes three horses to do the work that four did twenty years ago. ‘The vans have improved, the roads have improved, and the horses have improved, especially the horses’; but this is not the usual opinion, for even with the brewer’s horse the laudation of the past is the consolation of the many.
On most of these horses there is not a pound of superfluous flesh. They are working regularly every week-day, doing often their fourteen hours a day, sometimes doing sixteen hours, resting on Sundays, and having a light load on Monday, which is the brewer’s dull day; out at five o’clock in the morning, back into stable at seven at night; averaging six years of work; and then, in many cases, realising over 201. under the hammer when cleared out to make way for the newcomers.
Most of those under notice to quit look little the worse for wear, although perhaps their legs may have come over a little with the draught, which in the suburbs is severe, the load being no light one to drag over a hilly track at the brewer’s walking rate of five miles an hour easy. But it does not do for a team to have a weak horse, unless, maybe, the leader, who can shirk now and then if he chooses, for the rate of the slowest is ever the rate of progress; hence horses are worked together only so long as they work equally, and the weak one is rejected immediately he is found out, lest he should demoralise his companions.
There is a prevalent notion that hairy-legged horses stand heavy work better than others, but the value is not in the hair, but in the stout bone it should cover. One of Courage’s best horses is a Clydesdale, with his fore legs so fine, because fleshless and so thinly-haired, that the question has been asked if it was intended ‘to go racing with that animal’; but Clydesdales, though now improving every year, do not run quite heavy enough for brewers’ work, and nearly all the horses are shires. Some brewers—Barclay & Perkins, for instance —have nothing but shires in their stables; and this particular stud, a singularly fine one, averages seven and a half years of brewery life.
Of course all the brewers do not work their horses on the same system. Hoare’s, by way of example, work their 160 horses only five days a week, and no horse is allowed to be out more than ten hours without being examined by the horse-keeper. Their horses are bought at six years old and cleared out on the average at twelve, which is as soon as they show the least sign of decay; and there is not a horse in their stud weighing under 16 cwt. or standing under 17 hands, which compares rather awkwardly for the antiquarians with the 14 ‘handfuls’ which Henry VIII. fixed as the minimum of stallions in 1535. A range of twelve inches, unless the horses were of very different classes, seems too wide to be true. The thoroughbred racehorse increases a hand in height every century; in 1700 ho stood 13-2, he now stands 15-2; and it certainly looks as though the heavy horse had also grown a little.
It is noteworthy that these big horses should so very seldom have bad tempers; they are almost as intelligent as dogs, and quite as amiable. They are in rude health, it is true, and that may account for their being comfortable and pleased with themselves, more especially as they are kept hard at regular work, but it is scarcely enough to answer for their peculiar placidity under all circumstances.
The one great secret of keeping them in condition is attention to their feet. There is no animal more carefully shod than a brewer’s horse. Many of them have a different make and shape of shoe on each hoof. At Courage’s, for instance, no such things as standard sizes are known; the shoe is always made specially to fit the foot, and the shoes are never thrown away, but are mended—soled and heeled, in fact—by having pieces of iron welded into them again and again as they are worn. Some of the shoes are steel-faced; some are barred, the shoe going all round the foot; some have heels, some have toes; some have one clip, some have two; in fact, there are almost as many makes of shoe as there are in a Northampton factory.