My Life with The


by John Sparks

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  1. Hello

    Absolutely brilliant, i found a picture of my Dad on your site, i have never seen before. Ernie Hodges when he was a stable hand, made my day and i have sent it to my dad, he will be thrilled

    thank you very much

    (Posted on 2017-06-19 15:33:00 by tina james)
  2. I want to know what has happened to the Whitbread Shires or their offspring. Are they still used to pull the coach at the Lord Mayors Show? I live near the Hop Farm, which is actually a very pale shadow of its former self (these days people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing,it seems) and I think that I can remember seeing some Shires there within the last decade.
    Best wishes.

    (Posted on 2016-10-11 21:28:00 by John Wilkin)
  3. HI
    First things first great web site and many thanks for sharing.

    My whitbread life goes back to their depot in chiswick W4.
    My father Charles S Brooks started as a long distant drive and then ended up as transport manager.
    I spent many a trip in the mid 1950's going with him (only school holidays) to exeter, portsmouth (where beer was loaded of to a boat for the isle of wight) and other parts of the south coast.
    I started work for the old firm in around 1961 in Chiswell Street as one of the boys on their training scheme. I remember going round to the stables many times, what a great place and what wonderful horses.
    If I remember correctly one of the boys went to work in the stables.
    I went back to my roots and Chiswick depot, Later joined cellar service department in Dalston near the Angel Islington.
    Still let's move to the question, I'm hoping you might be able to help me with.
    I'm looking for a painting / print of Shires and the brewery, while in a pub at marlow on thames I saw a print of a team and dray in I believe the square near where they keep the Lord mayors coach.
    So do you know where I can purchase any prints of the horses and drays

    Best regards Charles Brooks jnr

    (Posted on 2016-03-16 12:16:00 by Charles Brooks)
  4. My grandparents had two pubs off Gray's Inn Road in Gough Street). One was virtually demolished in the Blitz (The Two Blue Postss). Have a photo of my Grandad standing in the very damaged bar, (my dob is 1943 - so remember the horses very well. Gough Street was a very narrow, cobbled road when the brewery were delivering the waggon took up practically the whole width. My grandmother would save the carrots to give the horses a treat. Also remember the 1955 - Lord Mayors Show but have a vague recollection that one of the pairs of greys were called Time and Tide. May have got this wrong. Lots of happy memories living over the Two Brewers which was like a Town House. Narrow in the front but went back a long way. In l956/57 the pub was compulsory purchased for the post office and the pub was pulled down shortly after. Have photos though so that is good., We go back fairly regularly and only now are they beginning to use the land which stood like a waste land all that time although the post office said it was a car park!!

    My Grandparents name was Tillcock. I live in Ely Cambridgeshire now.

    I had an email from my brother in Australia about Clydesdales and this sparked my memory off and found your site when looking on Google,.

    Memories are always good to have and share.


    (Posted on 2015-11-19 09:43:00 by Hazel Duxon)
  5. Found your website by chance and it instantly brought back many happy memories of brewery days through the fantastic collection of pictures you have acquired, including so many characters from my early years with shires.
    The Wembley pictures are brilliant but really one had to be there to understand why it was such an important week to all of us, if only we had bothered to keep photographs at Courages.

    Well done for all the effort.

    Haydn Webb

    (Posted on 2015-11-08 19:50:00 by Haydn Webb)
  6. Hello John
    I have found this site very interesting. Members of my family have worked for the Whitbread company and in fact, through my grandfather I got to sit in the Lord Mayor's coach as a child, I think it was being kept at Chiswell Street at the time. I am particularly interested in what you have said about the naming of the horses as I have a Whitbread Christmas card for the year 1955 which shows a picture of a drayman and the horses "Time" and "Tide" on it.

    (Posted on 2015-10-21 07:34:00 by Barry Juniper)
  7. Thank you so much John for your wonderful website, it brought back many memories to my husband of is time at Whitbreads. Such a shame the horses had to go from London like so many of our traditions.
    Wonderful photos. Thankyou
    Ernie and Margaret Burrell

    (Posted on 2015-06-09 21:40:00 by Ernie and Margaret Burrell)
  8. I grew up at Beltring, we lived in the lane by The Bluebell during the 40's and 50's. Local life revolved around the hops. My mother worked for a local farmer, Mr Skinner, tying seconding and picking hops. The harvest was taken by horse and cart to Whitbreads for drying. Every year she took us to watch the Shires on holiday from London. It was lovely to watch their joy when they were let loose in the field, beautiful animals. Thank you for bringing back happy memories of a way of life now long gone.

    (Posted on 2014-06-21 16:32:00 by Ann Gaspar)
  9. Hi there,

    I am working on a project for artists Heather & Ivan Morsion in association with the South London Gallery and a local Peckham school.
    We have created a commemorative art work that we want to tow, by horse from one location to another and are looking for horses to do this job.
    I have just been looking at your website, and found it very interesting.... I was wondering if you might know where I might be able to find some Whitbread Shires, like the ones used for the delivery rounds across London?

    We will be doing a procession at the beginning of May for a 1.5m journey, towing 3 or 4 12m lengths of carved tree.
    The procession is to commemorate the new and old premisies of a school... so the journey will be from the old location to the new.
    Please do let me know if you have any good links or contacts.

    Kindest regards,


    (Posted on 2014-03-10 13:17:00 by Carrie Phoenix)
  10. Thank you for assembling the website and sharing the memories.

    When my sisters and I were young we used to travel "across the pond" to London to see our grandparents near the Barbican. Seeing the Whitbread Shires on their delivery runs was always cause for excitement. We'd hear the clip-clop and then see those beautiful horses with the "bell bottom" trousers. My mother used to take us over to the stables where we were allowed to feed apples to the horses .

    Just saw a video on Youtube about the closing of the stables. I am overwhelmed by the fact they closed more than 20 years ago. How sad. And I just found among my mother's belongings a brass "Whitbread Shires" ornament. It is now hanging on a wall in Sacramento, California.

    (Posted on 2013-09-08 07:44:00 by Charles Jakob)
  11. Hello John, you will not remember me but I worked briefly in the stables in the summer of 1992, after also helping with the birds of prey. I had such a happy time working with all of you and have gone on to work mainly in zoos. I am a kent girl born and bred and my father, uncle and grand-parents lived on Paddock Wood during the war. Being an animal and farm girl, I always felt at home on The Hop Farm and loved working with the shires, although they dwarfed me at 5ft 2ins tall. My name was Cathy Faulder,. I have since married. Aswell as working in the stables my job was to help people on and off the wagon, which was one of the best jobs I have had, as I used to ride on the cart all day with you guys. Many happy memories of those amazing animals and great work-mates

    (Posted on 2013-04-18 21:46:00 by Cathy Tillotson)
  12. Hi John

    I used to work for the Solid Fuel Advisory Shire Horse Team in 1982, I always remembered the Whitbread Shires from the Horse of the Years shows. Just wondered if you remember any of our teams?

    There was Dane and Gwent
    Powis and Windsor
    and we had the Tallest Shire In the country at the time he was Called Hobart Long John he stood at approx 19.1.5 inches

    I just wandered what happened to them they were in Lichfield, Staffs during the 80's/90's


    (Posted on 2013-04-10 16:17:00 by Angie)
  13. I adored the Whitbread greys. They always made such a spectacle and I particularly enjoyed watching them compete at the Shire Horse Society's annual Spring Show at Peterborough when they went head to head for the honours with Youngs teams of blacks!

    (Posted on 2013-04-08 19:35:00 by Diane Steadman)
  14. Thank you for creating this site, was an amazing read, love to hear the histories of working heavy horses of the bygone eras.

    (Posted on 2013-04-08 14:51:00 by Paul Cunliffe)
  15. Thank you for this wonderful site . . . I was a nurse at Bart's 1979 - 84 and fondly remember seeing the Shires pullling drays around the City.

    (Posted on 2012-12-20 15:10:00 by Margaret Sofidiya)
  16. i think this site is brilliant my father billy christie worked at the stables in the early 80s and also on the hop farm sadly he passed away in 1986 i remember some of the names and faces fred bracewell kevin robertson johny lawless freddy burrows peter shaw to name but a few. I know that my father really enjoyed working there especially down in kent. John you have done a very good job in creating this site its great to see it brought back lots of good memories for me and i am sure it has and will do the same for many others. well done and keep up the good work

    (Posted on 2012-07-02 15:53:00 by jason christie)
  17. hi john
    you might know me then you might not but you will know my dad and brother my dad's name is johnny usher and my brothers name colin usher.
    my dad worked at the stables and was in the lord mayors show for has long as i can remember,he worked there for about 25 years plus till he retired in 1980.
    my dad is no longer with us he died in 1996,but i have got great memories of dad taking me to paddock wood taking the horses on there hoilday break.
    i loved when the lord mayors show came round everyone getting the horses ready for the show me and my family would be there all day from start to finish,and regents park easter show.
    as i said my brother worked there to he was a drayman delivering beer my brother started there when he lefted school back in the 60's.
    always remember when everyone used to go on the works beno every year.
    your site as brought back some great memories for me and my brother i was looking at the photos that you have put on there and i still remember the people on there like(charlie rocco,jimmy bowden,ernie marks,johnny lawless,ray chalsworth,harry ransom,peter usher my cousin,jack strickland,)and many others that i can't remember.
    thank you very much for setting this site up and bring back so many great memories for us.
    gary usher

    (Posted on 2012-05-11 15:06:00 by gary usher)
  18. Hello and good afternoon,
    I am the owner of number 7A Garrett Street ( previously know as 'The Cottage " Garrett Street.
    I am trying to find out what the history is relating to my house , I am assuming that at one time it had something to do with the brewery. I know that untill the early 90s it was considered part of number 7, it was then slit up and sold as a separate dwelling in the late 90s. I have tried land registry but their records are not historic. I have also just emailed Islinton Libray to see if they have any thing off interest. The Cottage was I think orriginally accessed via Youngs Buildings , which is the Yard directly behind 7 and 7A to the rear, I am also sure that the Cottage sat behind a hight wall to the front and could also be entered via the gates to number 7. I you can thow any light on this I would be most gratefull.
    P S Great site , so pleased it's not all forgotten.
    Michael drake

    (Posted on 2012-02-15 14:15:00 by Michael Drake)
  19. John
    Thanks for your magnificant web page and links. We have had about 4 hours of entertainment. Really great. We went to England in 2010 and saw the pub horses at
    Samuel Smiths Tadcaster delivering the beer. Also the boats at Llangollen we horse drawn. At Oxford we saw a gypsy wagon and in Dorset went to a rescue centre for the day. Look out next time when we fly over. I am sure we will be looking up some of the farms on your link to see the horses.

    Thanks again for the time and effort you must have contributed to establish your web
    pages. Robyn and Philip

    (Posted on 2012-02-08 10:39:00 by Robyn and Philip)
  20. Hi John,

    I'm glad someone has taken the trouble to put something together about the stables and horses.

    I was lucky enough, aged 15 in 1970, to have work experience at Garret Street. It was arranged by our local vet, Carl Boyde, who was, and is of course, a great fan of heavies.

    Through him I had obtained Romulus, a dapple-grey gelding, at 22 full of spirit and inclined to go everywhere at a fast trot. He had been retired by Whitbreads, and I was lucky enough to ride and drive him for a further 3 years, based at our farm in Weybridge.

    I recall the dramatic contrast to my life on our farm, getting up even earlier at 4.0-ish - I was lodging with one of the carters somewhere in a high-rise - and travelling in to feed and prepare the few remaining animals for exercise or deliveries. The farrier, the stables, the stalls over three floors, the Met Polices' nags there as well, travelling down to the Hop farm in Kent in that magnificent articulated horse-box, taking a pair down for their holidays, going out on exercise round London, being given the stable plate for Romulus which I still have, watching the carpenter at work in the dray repair shop over the way from the stables, the arrival and consumption of beer for breakfast lunch and dinner in the messroom, the sheer patina, feeling and depth of history of the stables that impressed even a naive youngster. Meeting up in the foremans (?) office to the left as you went in the main entrance, before the first slope, someone, a motorbike rider, arriving for work and burning their backside through their leathers standing in front of the old gas fire. The show harness, cleaning harness, the dusty and unused but fantastic 3rd floor stalls, the cobbles, the smell, the feeling of peace. Marvellous.

    A few years ago I tried to find Garret Street and the stables, and show the kids, but failed, I can only presume they have long gone.

    Best wishes,


    (Posted on 2012-01-15 18:46:00 by Charlie Bransden)
  21. excellant website, excellant photos, awaiting the book. well done. what a life!

    (Posted on 2011-12-18 20:30:00 by derek hilton)
  22. Hi John
    I originally googled 'Stan Burbidge' after watching The Lords Mayors Show on Saturday last. 'Uncle' Stan was my godfather, his wife Jo was one of my godmothers.
    I recall visiting the coach house and his house above it. It was surrounded by a bomb site where my brother and sister and I used to play while visiting.
    My father worked for the Corporation of London, Weights and Measures department, which was based in the City Greenyard before the bombing of1941? I believe this was how my father met, and became friendly with Stan. My last memory of Stan was when he called at our home to inform my father of the death of his son, John and his Irish wife Bridie, from a motor bike accident. I seem to recall that John was a policeman. This was about the time that Stan was rehoused following the relocation of the Coach when the site was redeveloped. He moved to a flat in London and was emptying parking meters. What a change of occupation! If anyone knew Stan and Jo it would be lovely to hear any stories of them.

    (Posted on 2011-11-16 23:00:00 by Maggie Ludford (nee Spooner))
  23. Rod Page

    John this website is absolutely fantastic what some lovely memories. I know all you guys loved working with the shires, but no one more than you,it was true dedication. I have two lovely photos in my office one of us at Portsmouth horse show and at Earl street maidstone outside the Fremlins depot, now a shopping centre. Theres not a week goes by without telling someone about the great times i had working at Whitbreads and yours and Dave Hattons name is always cropping up.This site is a credit to you, and thanks for letting me know about it.
    All the best Mate

    (Posted on 2011-10-14 19:49:00 by Rod Page)
  24. Hi John,
    What a great website it has brought back so many happy memories from my stays at the yard while working for the Solid Fuel Advisory Service shirehorse team.Can't beleive it has been so long!! The photos are all fab.

    (Posted on 2011-09-25 10:12:00 by Julie Duggins/Coates)
  25. Hi John

    I stumbled across this site purely by chance when attempting to find some information regarding a postcard of my late grandfather's. Its a photo of 'Six Whitbread Shire horses Crown and Anchor, Rhyme and Reason, Hengist and Horsa drawingthe Lord Mayor of London's Coach', and my grandfather is holding the reigns of the grey horse in front of the carriage. I guess this is a long winded way of asking if you knew him, or of him, or had any photos or information that would either be of interest, or I could research myself through magazines or articles etc?

    All I know is that his full name was Walter John Thomas Woods but was known as Joe. He'd previously worked for Gilby's Gin but became employed by Whitbreads in the
    sixties until the late eighties. He initially worked days with the horses but the later years he worked the night shift and apparently used to take a shetland pony
    for a walk around the city in the early hours of the morning. His foreman was called Charlie Roucco who I believe was Italian.

    I would be so very grateful for any help you could offer me, and I, like many others who have discovered this site, thank you for creating such a wonderfully informative
    place for people to reminisce and learn about the history of Whitbreads.

    Kind regards

    (Posted on 2011-09-22 12:07:00 by Nicole Wood)
  26. When I was a young girl my grandpa (who worked at Mencap on Golden Lane) took me to see the Whitbred stables. Even though I was a regular visitor to the Ram Brewery stables in Wandsworth, the trip to the Whitbred stables with the tiered stabling and the beautiful white horses has always stayed with me as a magical memory. My grandpa passed away last year and today it occurred to me that it would be lovely to take my nieces on a similar trip. Google generated this website and I was shocked to learn that the stables had closed 20 years ago! This is a wonderful website, full of loving care, and I've spent an enjoyable time learning about the history of the stables and remembering my trip there. Thank you.

    (Posted on 2011-09-09 10:01:00 by Justine Williams)
  27. Hi this has been very interesting to read its has brought back some very happy memorys of the lord mayors show that I went to, My uncle was one of the coachmen and it was great to find a photo of him on here. His name was TED STRICKLAND, and he is photoed in the chiswell st brewery in 1964 have a drink with you all, I was wondering if you have got anymore photos of him, as I would be very greatful if you could contact me if you have. as my mum his sister is 80 this year and I am trying to get some old photos together for her as a surprise

    (Posted on 2011-08-27 20:25:00 by Mrs Terri Gibbs)
  28. i cant believe how young everybody looked, what a brilliant website this is, history like this should never be forgotten.

    (Posted on 2011-08-26 10:13:00 by lesley hurd)
  29. John,

    A wonderful website. My memories of the mighty Whitbread Shires come from the streets of Finsbury where growing up I would see them delivering to the local pubs. Back in the 1970's when I was a child, I was lucky enough to be shown the inside of the stables and your web pages have brought that back to life again.

    A lovely time was Easter Monday as the drays would pass by our window on thier way to Regent's Park for the annual London Harness Horse Parade. I would then make my way over to the park to watch them and all the other horses that were so beautifully turned out.

    Of course every November we would take the short walk into the City of London and watch the Lord Mayor's Show and marvel at the Lord Mayor's gold coach pulled by the six grey shires.

    It was a very sad day when they finally closed the stables down and the last of the horses moved out but thanks you your help and efforts those memories live on!

    Chris Ruff

    (Posted on 2011-08-14 11:05:00 by Chris Ruff)
  30. HI JOHN

    Was at Copped Hall yesterday with Bob, Royal and Major and the gang when I was told about your Whitbread website - I've got to say, I got up at 7.30 am to pack for a trip to Holland, but I ended up coming on here and suffice to say, I still haven't packed. LOVE LOVE LOVE, the stories and all the history, fantastic! I'm glued! :D Hope to see you again soon, take care!


    (Posted on 2011-05-30 10:43:00 by Sam)
  31. Well this site yet again proves the value of the internet. My Grandfather, Frank Penney is pictured in two of the photos on your site, he was the brakeman. My parents took me to the Lord Mayors show regulary and I have some old photos of me as a little boy with him and the coach and some of the Pike men that used to follow it. Unfortuantely the pictures are of a poor quality so I was delighted to see the two on your site. These brought memories flooding back just as others have commented on your comments page and I will definately point this site out to my father. If you or anyone else has any photos that include Frank Penney I would love to see them. It just remains for me to say thank you, the site brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

    (Posted on 2011-04-20 08:52:00 by Dave Penney)
  32. Dear John
    I am hoping to trace photos or anecdotes regarding my Grandfather, GEORGE JOSEPH ALDRIDGE who I know was a drayman at Whitbreads. As a small chid in Islington in the 1950's he would bring his beautiful huge horse to see us. I particularly remember standing on the back of one and being taken for a ride. I believe I remember him bringing thepoorly horse home in Queensland Road, leading it through the house and into the yard !! Could this be so ? Please don't crush the memory of a once small boy. I love the web-site. Brings back memories. Regards Derek

    (Posted on 2011-02-13 14:42:00 by Derek Hutcherson)
  33. i love this! how beautiful and thank you for preserving history for all draft horse lovers!

    (Posted on 2010-11-24 15:30:00 by candy morris)
  34. Hi John Just to let you know have really enjoyed looking at the website, in particular the photos, especially of my father Tommy Taylor. It is great to look back and to show these to my family. I worked for Whitbreads from 1949-1987, so lots of the people are very familiar to me. It would be nice to hear from you if you get the chance. Thank you for taking the time to produce a wonderful website. Best Wishes, Terry Taylor

    (Posted on 2010-11-15 07:18:00 by Terry Taylor)
  35. Hi John,

    You may not remember us, but we came down to Wembley every year to help out with the musical drive. I was only a small boy the first time, but we built up a good freindship with everyone over 15 - 20 years. John Lawless, Tubbsy, Doey, Kevin. Can you let me know what they are all up to? Are still in contact with them? If you are, please do give them my email address, would love to hear from them again, the memories are with me as if it was yesterday. Just been to HOYS this year, but they will never re-create the atmosphere of the Musical Drive of The Heavy Horses - Wembley style. Fantastic site John, these famous animals must never be forgotten, got goose bumps just thinking of the happy October days spent in the caravan down Wembley Way. All the best. Damien.

    (Posted on 2010-10-23 17:20:00 by Damien Pinder)
  36. Hi My name is Jeni Long. When I was a little girl my friend and I Donna was totally obsessed with horses (still am) I lived in Banner street next to the Whitbread stables in EC1; and spent many /most evenings and weekends at your stables. You used to let us help out a little and we even sat on one of the beautiful horses. And I remember when the lord majors show was in town every year and all the horses would be stabled there for the night before. It was heaven for me. I now own two children's nurseries and I also own four horses. One being a large white cob with loads of feathers like your shires. I just wanted to say a huge thank you for letting us share some time with the shires when we just small children. It shaped my future. I now help children with special needs by letting them have contact with my gentle giants. Would love to come and see the horses again some day in their retirement home. Many thanks again. Would love to hear back. Jeni Long.

    (Posted on 2010-10-06 14:17:00 by Jeni Long)
  37. Hi John it was great see and read the history of the shires and your working with them plus all your old friends fantastic and well put togeather web site, and thanks again for the great day we had with one of your and my friends Bob Gane and his Shires Major and Captian.


    (Posted on 2010-09-30 23:01:00 by Ron May)
  38. Hi John, I fell over your site purely by accident. You really don't know what memories you have brought back, and the Shires are - along with two tv programms, White Horses and Follyfoot - somewhat instrumental in being a horse owner/lover myself.
    As soon as we heard the "Greys" were coming down on holiday we used to go and see an aged aunt who lived a short walk from the stables at Beltering and watch their first release onto their holiday grass. Oh Boy I can hear that thunder now, the whinneys, neighs and downright joyful bucking. Such sights and sounds for a little girl sat up on her Dads' shoulders for a better look over the hedges.

    I can't imagine how you felt going back to empty stalls.

    What did happen to the Greys, please tell me they were pastured up to their hocks in lush grass until their Creator called them for one last delivery?

    Ronald Duncan's ode seems very appropriate for these majestic horses.

    Again I thank you for a wonderful site of memories, and it has been a pleasure to browse as I'm sure you had putting it together. And sincerely hope you are still connected with horses in some way.


    (Posted on 2010-09-27 13:24:00 by Sarah Jones)
  39. John, it was such a pleasure chatting with you the other day and being introduced to this wonderful site. It's a privilege having the opportunity to share your vast knowledge about life in The City, and with living here it gives me a real insight into yet another fascinating aspect of city life. Many thanks and kindest regards, Nigel

    (Posted on 2010-05-12 15:15:00 by Nigel McMillan)
  40. John: I have a number of questions regarding owning and using 'working horses', turns out it's a 'genetic- thing'; my Great Grandfather was a 'Drayman' who took produce up to Covent Garden from Harmondsworth, in Middlesex, to Covent Garden; never knew I had an affinity for horses until I retired in 1994 and started picking-up other folks 'cast off'' horses, Currently have a 37 year old Quarter Horse named Dixie, her off-spring, a Mule named Herbie, and another Quarter Horse, a Buckskin Paint named Patches. Up here in Scott Valley, Siskiyou County, the very top of the State (California), by the Oregon border , we have Percherons and Belgiums, the owners are getting on in years and nobody seems to be interested in carying on their care and upkeep. I'd love to pick up a pair, reconfigure one of the many available wagons to a 'Dray' and use it in local parades, and for promotion of our local Micro-Brewery. I do not want to 'clog-up' your coments section with questions so please send me you e-mail address.....................thanks.........................Richard Martin

    (Posted on 2010-02-26 03:10:00 by Richard Martin)
  41. I used to work at whitbreads for colin downie, i loved my time there and remember you all fondly, i have several photos of the lord mayor's show and of the men and maureen! i used to love visiting the stables and the horses. well done for keeping the memories alive, it makes me smile!

    (Posted on 2010-02-25 23:13:00 by suzanne pigott)
  42. John: I've searched the Internet but have been unable to ascertain what was the final disposition of the horses, tack and rolling stock after Whitbreads sold off the Hop Farm, perhaps you could enlighten me? We are going thru a similar situation over here in the States with the Budweiser Clydedales since Interbrew recently purchased Budweiser Brewing Company, I think its the same outfit that got Whitbreads breweries and pubs. Also I am in possesion of a series of books put out by Whitbreads in the late forties, one is 'Whitbread Craftsmen' published in 1948. One of the chapters in the book is 'The Drayman' and featurex Arthur Mills, if you don't have I'd be glad to send you a copy, has a nice colored painting of Arthur 'perched atop his dray. The article and picture would make a great addition to your web-site and I'm sure since it's sixty two years old there would not be any copyright problems..............regards.......................Richard Martin

    (Posted on 2010-02-25 20:48:00 by Richard Martin)
  43. Dear John: Great web-site, brought back many fond memories of 'the way things used to be'. I spent way too much time today on the Internet looking up Whitbread related material; I was born and raised in England but left in 1956 and have lived in California ever since. My folks Steve and Connie Martin ran the Kings Head on Chiswell Street from 1948 until 1954 when they went to the Nags Head in Covent Garden for about four uears before joining me in California. I see that the Kings Head is now boarded-up, and that the Nags Head is a tourist trap. When we lived in Covent Garden it was still the Veg & Fruit wholesale market with quite the cast of characters round the clock, very odd hours for the pub, 6 to 9 AM for the market workers, 11 to 3 for the office folks from the market, and 6 to 11 PM for the Opera House clientel.
    When we lived at the Kings Head I spent a lot of time at the City Greenyard where the Lord Mayors Coach was kept, Stan Burbidge ran it back then and his son and I spent many hours polishing the horse brasses, and working on tack and the Coach itself. His son John was my 'in London' best freind, the bulk of the time I was out in Slough at the Licenced Victuallers School, that spot is now a Super Tesco.
    Really great to see your pictures of the horses, I remember them well, I used to watch them leaving in the morning loaded with the old wooden barrels, also remmber the actual deliveries to the pub, lowering them down the ramp to the cellar etc. As I remember there was another stable just up the street from the Kings Head , I think it was Sutton, they were still making horse drawn deliveries in the late forties and early fifties. One of your photos was really special for me personally, the one of you 'driving' the fire wagon, dressed in period costume with the brass 'Merriweather' fire helmet; my grandfather was the Assistant Chief of the Harmondsworth Fire Brigade and I have old photos of him dressed just as you were, even have a replica of his helmet (his own was burried with him).
    Thanks again for for taking the time and effort to put together such a great web-page, turned a pretty depressing web-search into a real joy. Dick Martin

    (Posted on 2010-02-20 23:27:00 by Richard Martin)
  44. brillant site very interesting great to read stories ans see photos. I worked with john lawless for 5 years and now know stevie tubbs and john lakin so have had heard many a tale of whitbred days. Only wish i could of seen this place in it's hay day.

    (Posted on 2010-01-10 19:11:00 by claire)
  45. thank you for the photoand news of gracie and charlie gardner,i am charlie gardners eldest grandaughter and rememember the incident very well and how proud the family was of gracie she saved his father was also called charlie and like another reply you had from 'TONY GRUBB'his mother was my dads sister.Is it possible tfor you to pass my email address to him as i have'nt been in touch with the family for years and it would be nice to hear from him,my daughter is also researching our family tree.thanking you

    (Posted on 2010-01-02 20:28:00 by irene liddiard)
  46. Just been reading through your website as part some family research when I came across the story of "Gracie". Charlie was my granddad and my nan had the same picture of Charlie and Gracie on her mantlepiece for as long as I can remember. I can also remember being taken to see Gracie, as a very young child, after she had retired.

    One story of Charlie that may be known is that he missed driving the Lord Mayors coach in 1951 because he was 1" too short.

    Great to see the photograph again and reading the story.

    (Posted on 2009-12-31 17:33:00 by Tony Grubb)
  47. Hi John

    Thought you might be interested in this article I found on John Frampton Cowan, in 'The House of Whitbread' magazine, vol.III, No.4. October 1927 (Price 6d), when researching the family tree of my Grandmother Mabel Alice Cowan. I'm still not quite sure precisely what the relationship between John and Mable was. If anyone out there could tell me I would be very grateful.

    John Frampton Cowan – Head Horse Keeper. (There is a full page photograph by Elliott & Fry, Baker Street, W1 in the magazine)

    Mr Cowan first came to us (Whitbread) and was appointed to his present position in March 1905, by the late Mr. C.E. Crawshay, and followed M William Johnson, who had occupied a similar berth for two years previously. Prior to coming here Mr. Cowan had spent the greater part of his life in the Army, and served in the 7th Prince’s Royal Dragoon Guards in India, Egypt, and South Africa. He saw much service under Major-General C.W. Thompson, and knew Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson when he (Sir William) first served as a trooper. Mr Cowan retired from the Army with the rank of Farrier-Major.

    The duties of the head horsekeep have varied considerably of recent years, and the number of horses under Mr. Cowan's care has decreased a great deal owing to the introduction and subsequent growth of mechanical transport. It may be interesting to recall that at one time Mr. Cowan had about 420 hourses under his care, and when it is remembered that these were scattered over no less than eleven centres, it will be generally agreed that his time was fully employed, and his hours of lbour multifarious.

    The horses in Mr. Cown's charge were at |Chiswell Street, Garrett Street, britannia Street, lewisham, Tottenham, Willesden, Manor park, Abridge, Chelsea, Chiswick, and Theydon Hall farm and, although a reliable foreman was in charge at each place, the services of M. Cowan were in costant demand. He has also been at various times to Brussels and Antwerp in an advisory capacity.

    Mr Cowan is very fond of his horses, and there is but little in the anatomy of the animal unknown to him. it is worth of note that for many years the ability of M. Cowan and his vast knowledge of the horse and its various ailments have been utilised to such an extent that it has not been necessary, except on the rearest occasions, to call in professional aid, and even then it has only been to obtain confirmtion of his own diagnosis. Mr. Cowan has for many years taken an active and important part in the preparation of hourses for the Easter and Whit-Mondaty Shows, and the results must have been gratifying to him.

    Mr. Cowan is well known and highly respected by all who know him and, though the depots see but little of him now, they will al join with us here at the Brewery in wishing him good luck in his next twenty-two years of happy service in what has been erroneously called his "Haven of Rest."

    .....I can trace John Frampton Cowan's family back to George Cowen, born 1764 in Perth. Scotland.

    Strangely enough I have found yet another connection - this time to the Dereham Maltings - as my father's family (the Poll family) originated from East Dereham in Norfolk! Life really does go round in circles doesn't it!

    Good luck with your website
    Kind regards
    Robin Poll

    (Posted on 2009-12-13 19:29:00 by Robin Poll)
  48. Hi John, I was put in touch with this site through a friend in Holland who found it whilst looking for shire horse sites. Great site, what a good idea, nice to see names that you know in the comments section. I done just short of 20 years with the shires and reading through and looking at the photo's bring back some wonderful memories. Will be very interested to see how the site developes, as more people contribute. Keep up the good work.

    (Posted on 2009-12-13 15:54:00 by John Cook)
  49. Hi John, what a exellent site about the Whitbread shires, at the age of
    14, I first met the Whitbread team while working for Solid fuel advisory
    They came to stable for the Walsall show, well at 14 I was in awe,I
    wanted to work with these magnificent shires when I left school, to which
    I did .Whitbreads have been a big part of my shire horselife from ,
    stabling us, to us stabling them, Meeting up at Horse of the year to do
    the Musical drive, what a fab time we all had, it could never be repeated.
    Stopping at the Barbican walking, at 4 oclock in the morning, down to the
    Garrett Street stables find my horses had been well looked after by the nightstaff, to
    which a mug of T awaits us, happy days, Im so pleased you have created a
    page about them as its history that will never be repeated it was a sad
    day when they finnished in the city and then the hop farm, but alas thanks
    to you its now down in print .

    having stabled my shires on many occasions,walking up and down that ramp,
    pushing the great big barra! it was lovey to remainisce, from the
    wonderful horses, stabled in the amazing building up Garrett Street to the
    banter of the staff, geeing Morleys Maidens!!! Horse of the year doing the musical drive with
    the Whitbread team
    Best Wishes Julie Booton (Mills) Solid Fuel, then Theakstons

    (Posted on 2009-11-29 11:52:00 by Julia)
  50. Hello John

    Thank you for telling me about your website this morning. I have really enjoyed looking at it and reading your story. I came to London in 1958 and worked just north of the City in what was then Finsbury. For a country girl coming to London it was a great joy to watch the Whitbread horses on more or less a daily basis. It must have been a real pleasaure to work with them and I'm so glad for you that you can maintain that contact through the Lord Mayor's Show.

    Kate from Brandon Mews

    (Posted on 2009-11-15 19:18:00 by Kate)
  51. I am really pleased to find this site which is dedicated to the famous Whitbread Shires. I have been a fan from childhood, looking for pictures in books and later buying videos all which added to the image I had of life with these magnificent horses.
    I used to look out for John and his fellow draymen at the various shows they attended to quiz them about the horses and find out which horses they were driving; if they were going to pull The Lord Mayors Coach that year. Knowing the names of the team would make watching the Lord Mayors Show on television more exciting for me as a young boy.
    I never saw the horses working in London and it is shame that it is something that will never be seen again. I did visit the horses in the stables at Paddock Wood a few times.
    I also followed the dray in Cranbrook carnival procession once. I was driving my Shetland and trolley which would have fitted in the back of the dray. Little and Large!
    Thank you John for giving the opportunity to recapture memories and a chance learn more about Whitbread Shires through your site. The horses may be gone but will certainly never be forgotten.

    (Posted on 2009-08-12 14:38:00 by Ivor Hatcher)
  52. Subject:
    your web page

    I recently bought some English horse brasses on e-bay.One of the brasses
    was enprinted " Whitbread Shires" I knew nothing at all about the brewery and
    its grand tradition of horses until I found your web site. WOW. I was entranced with
    all that you revealed. What a story. I can understand why you wanted to share it
    with the world.
    I am fortunate enough to be able to drive two teams of drafts - one a
    pair of Clydes, the other full brothers who are Perch/Shire crosses. I swear the more I
    work with them, the more I adore them. I can only imagine what a lifetime of
    working with such horses can mean. Very powerful stuff.

    My hat's off to you. Will Conyngham, Dallas, Pennsylvania, USA

    (Posted on 2009-06-12 14:28:00 by Will Conyngham)
  53. Message:
    Hi John,
    I was very interested to come across your website and found the stories and pictures fascinating. Although I have had horses all of my life I am new to keeping shires and going through a steep learning curve. I have a former Whitbread delivery dray in need of some repair but plan to renovate it at some point. If I look up the serial number of the dray is it likely that you may know some history or even have any photo's of it in earlier times.



    (Posted on 2009-05-11 10:23:00 by Mark)
  54. John, I have just found your site and think it is fantastic. I am a Met mounted Policeman but I grew up in Whitecross street.
    As children we were fascinated by your stable and during school holidays would wait outside the arch in Garratt Street for a glimpse of the horses.

    We also knew that often one of the men in the yard would let us have a quick peek at the horses on the ground floor. Obviously the horses were a very familiar site to us and we viewed them as ours, we would often feed them carrots given to us by the greengrocers in the market.

    My Grandparents lived in the market during the incendiary raid in 1940, they told us of the horses being led and tethered to the railing outside St Lukes church.

    Sorry to rattle on, again thanks for reviving some fond childhood memories.

    Take care,
    Bill Hounsome

    (Posted on 2009-03-04 14:16:00 by Bill Hounsome)

    (Posted on 2008-08-12 10:18:00 by JOHN PAYNE)
  56. Hi John – just a quick note to let you know how great your website is and also quite sad in places!

    I was going out with Tony (Konig) when he joined you in 1990 I think – those were the days....!!! I remember going to the stables a few times at Garrett Street (as well as a few xmas do’s) and falling in love with the horses. I went down to Kent as well but it wasn’t quite the same, although I’m sure the horses preferred it!

    I think it’s brilliant what you’ve done.


    (Posted on 2008-08-10 10:52:00 by Karen)
  57. Subject:
    Whitbread Hop Farm

    John, ive really enjoyed looking at your website and have learnt alot! I have the privilledge of currently working with the four remaining shires at the Hop Farm (we still use Whitbread harness), and I have really valued learning and seeing more pictures of the history behind the Whitbread horses. Unfortunatly there is so little of the history left at the hop farm. I only wish I was able to work there at the time shown in your photo's! They clearly show a very high standard of turnout and horsemanship. Anna

    (Posted on 2008-08-10 09:55:00 by Anna)
  58. John, your's is one of the best amateur sites I have seen. It's got a really professional look about it and it brought back many memories of my association with the horses at Chiswell St. and around the shows.

    (Posted on 2008-06-27 21:33:00 by rogerwillan)
  59. hi john ,great site love the potos, nostagia not what it used to be, have you got any photos of you bet ?

    (Posted on 2008-06-25 21:56:00 by Lennie Guy)
  60. Excellent John, not only memorable for you but interesting to see what went into the high standard of the Whitbread turnout

    (Posted on 2008-06-17 11:00:00 by Sheila Kelly)
  61. John! A great job! And a lovely story. Well done.

    (Posted on 2008-06-16 19:19:00 by Peter Shaw)

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