Lamport Hall 2015

New Exhibition Remembers the Age of the Working Horse

On Thursday 14 May Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire unveils a new exhibition to honour the contribution made by working horses to the nation.

The Bryan Holden Working Horse Collection has been donated to Lamport Hall by a lifelong heavy horse enthusiast who remembers these magnificent beasts as part of daily life in his youth.

Cataloguing the history and extent of their reign, the exhibition is a chance to learn about the lives of ‘Charlie’ the last railway horse and ‘Robin’ the pit pony along with fine examples of their working harness including horse brasses, horsehoe patterns, saddlery and a host of emphemera.

Lamport Hall has set aside part of its Edwardian stable block to house the collection of horse-related memorabilia which also includes a fascinating yet of eye-watering array of antiquarian vets’ equipment and farriers’ tools.

Bryan Holden from Solihull, who amassed the collection says:

“In my childhood cart horses and van horses were still everyday sights, in our towns and cities. Most door-to-door deliveries were made by horse-drawn vehicles. Horses were also the mainstay on our farms, and I have very happy memories of sitting on a horse and cart when I helped with the harvest on one Warwickshire farm in the summer of 1939, just as the War broke out. Horses were vital too on the canals, at hundreds of collieries and in railway shunting yards.

“The coming of the motor lorry and the farm tractor changed everything, and by the 1950s the end of the working horse was in sight. Now they are just a distant memory and the debt that previous generations owed to the working horse deserves to be remembered while there are still a few people of my generation around with our first-hand memories.

“I am delighted that my collection has found a permanent home at Lamport Hall, where it is now on display in a splendid Edwardian saddle room and can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages”.

Bryan ’s collection is accompanied by some fascinating interpretation panels that he has written and designed. In other parts of the stables visitors are also treated to interpretation panels about the many other uses to which horses have been put down the centuries, from hunting to racing, as well as the vital role that horses played in the two world wars. These panels have been created by students from the University of Leicester in conjunction with staff at Lamport Hall.

Bryan offered his collection to Lamport for three important reasons:

  1. As Lamport is now administered by a charitable trust there is no risk of the collection being broken up and sold off;
  2. The Edwardian stables at Lamport are the ideal location for horse-related memorabilia, where they can be seen and enjoyed by the public;
  3. Bryan is also secretary of the BB Society – which preserves the memory of Denys Watkins-Pitchford (known as “BB”), one of England’s greatest writers and illustrators of 20th century nature and countryside books: Denys was brought up in Lamport Rectory, just opposite the Hall, during WW1, and so Bryan has been a regular visitor to Lamport Hall down the years.

Lamport Trust’s Executive Director George Drye says: “We are extremely grateful to Bryan Holden for his generosity in donating his collection – the result of a lifetime’s passion – to Lamport Hall, where it can now be enjoyed by our many visitors. And there can be few more appropriate places for it to be housed than in our fine Edwardian stables”.

Lamport Hall is open to the public every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon between Easter and mid-October, as well as Bank Holiday Sundays and Mondays. The new Working Horse exhibition will be a key attraction at the Lamport Festival of Country life on Sunday 24th & 25th May, which regularly attracts 5,000 to 10,000 visitors from across the region.

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The exhibition will be formally opened by Bryan Holden at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday 14 May at 2pm. You are very welcome to attend. Bryan Holden and George Drye will be available for interviews afterwards.