My Life with The


by John Sparks

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Naming of the Shires

The publics view of the Whitbread shires working, delivering barrels of beer to the public houses, at shows and the Lord Mayor's Show is seeing names as Time and Tide, Crown and Anchor, High and Mighty.

It started back in 1742 when Samuel Whitbread established his brew house in Whitecross Street. It was not long before he started to deliver beer to the local pubs, and he needed bigger premises that he moved to Chiswell Street. It was here that the company grew and more and more deliveries were being made. At the end of the 18th century over four hundred of his horses were delivering beer all over London.

Sometime in the 1880's the idea began of naming each horse bought that year with fresh letter of the alpabet. This enabled a stableman to know how long the animal had been with the Company. !896 was the year when all the horses had to begin with the letter "J" and the directors must very nearly have been stuck for names, for there were no fewer than 98.1901 was another difficult year for them, for the letter was now "O" and if it had not been for Irish surnames, like O'Brian, O'Neill and O'Malley, thet might have run out of names altogether..
That year incidentally, Osprey, possibly the biggest horse the brewery had bought up to that time, was purchased. The horse weighed over 21 cwt, and cost £83.00 at the age of four.

At the end of the 19th century,to relieve growing pressure on the stable in the south yard in Chiswell Street, new stables were built in near by Garrett Street. Here around 100 horses were housed on three floors standing in stalls, linked by sloping ramps.
A cartouche on the outside wall is inscribed  " Whitbread & Co Ltd. Stabling. Erected 1897"

Horses were soon being kept at several locations. In 1912, the peak year for horse transport in Whitbread, Head Horsekeeper John Frampton Cowan was responsible for 420 horses not only at Chiswell Street and Britannia Street, but also at depots at Lewisham, Tottenham, Willesden,Manor Park, Abridge, Chelsea and Chiswick, and at Theydon Hall Farm in Essex.
Light vanners accounted for part of the total, but they were used only for delivering bottled beer, a role they undertook until 1938 from some depots.

Horse drays at this peiod travelled as far as Bromley and Edmonton north London. Draymen started work at 6am and often there was so much to do that they would sleep in stables ( I have done that on a number of occations ) without going home. Althogh broken at the farm, the horses were only acustomed to traces and had to get used to poles instead of shafts. it was not until 1900 that regulations were introduced making reins compulsory by law. Previously the animals were controlled by whip and voice.

Horses were bought by the stable manager mainly from breeders in Yorkshire,

In 1961 when I started Jack Brend was our manager. At that time he only bought geldings at the age of two or three and these were sent to the hop farm where they were broken to harness and called by the names the breeders had given them

Once they were ready to come to London and start their work they would be put with a older and experenced horse for training. The young horse would be kerb side ( nearside ) and would be taken out every day until the driver thought that he was ready to be put with a regular mate., This was when he would get his pair name. The horses were named in alphabetical order in consecutive years they were purchased

e;g 1950 all horses named that year would start with the letter R - Rhyme and Reason , Romulus and Remus.
  1951 would be S ; Saint and Sinner, Soldier and Sailor.
  1952 would be T : Time and Tide, Thames and Tyne. and so on 1953 - U : Union and Unicorn, 1954 V : Vim and Vigour,
1955 W. : Winston and Warrior, Winner and Worker.

I am sure when mentioning the Whitbread shires people remember the names because the names were used over and over again. As horses died, the surviving horse of the pair would be put with another so you would for example have Tide working with Saint, Vim with Pride until they passed on and those names would be given to a younger pair.


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