Horses were back at Petworth House Stables in West Sussex recently, to enable visitors to see the historic equine stables in an event organised by the National Trust, which runs the property.
The first equine interest had come in 1787 when the third Earl of Egremont took a great interest in horse breeding and racing. In the next three years he built a racing stables and stud at Upwaltham on the Petworth to Chichester Road, where he bred five Derby winners had seven runners-up- still a record. He also had five winners of Oaks and winners of several Goodwood Cups. He used to hold race meeting in Petworth Park, surrounding his home.
At a point when he had 300 horses, he began to lose interest and abandoned these regular meetings. This led to the Duke of Richmond holding the first Goodwood race meeting in 1801.
The Earl of Egremont bought Whalebone, an ex-Derby winner in 1801 for 510 guineas, and put him to stud. Many racehorse pedigrees today link back to Whalebone.
Four sets of stables were built at Petworth House with 12 horses stabled in the outer court of the house in 1662, then the Earl of Northumberland built a stableblock including a riding barn, coach house, saddle house, cart house and forge. It was said that horses had better accommodation than guests!
In 1716, the 6th Duke of Somerset had new stables built, shown on the Capability Gardens plans of 1752 as being to the south west of the house. From 1756-60 the 2nd Earl of Egremont started building the current stable block.
Thanks to different local horse enthusiasts, there were horses and also a coach back there at the special day last Saturday, so that visitors could envisage the stables as they were once used.
In addition Belinda Wilkins of Walberton had a comprehensive display about side saddle, including a saddle which visitors could try out. A comprehensive photographic display showed her daughter Caroline, taking part in different side saddle events, as well as starring in Downton Abbey in hunting scenes. Caroline was also there wearing her costume from Downtown Abbey.
Nadine Crouch, a secretary for the local Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray hunt, had taken along Beatrix, an Irish Sports horse, Beatrix, and seven-year-old thoroughbred, Minnie, which is ridden in pony races by her son Hector- and is heading for the pony race at Glorious Goodwood next month.
Two Friesians, Lorenzo and Lucardo were in side-by-side stables, enabling visitors to have a close look at this more unusual breed, renowned for their glossy dark coats and wavy manes. Under the banner of Sussex Equestrian Carriage, they are based at Sussex Equestrian Centre at West Wolves Farm, Ashington, which also caters for children and adults at all levels wanting to enjoy equestrian activities.
The Friesians belong to the Elllis family, and daughter Lavinia Ellis explained that the 15hh pair are used to draw a Victorian landau for special occasions. Their Victorians landau was outside the former carriage house at Petworth House for visitors to see. It is used for special hire for events such as weddings, when the owners wear traditional matching livery coats and top hats.
For more information see www.sussexequestriancarriages.co.uk