Imagine all the horses

December 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm (a day in the life, people, places, research) (, , , , )


My father well recalls his early years with horses; theirs was a home where the horse was still a main mode of transportation. We’ve had many a wonderful conversation about his memories, as well as “life with horse”.

But I grew up in a city! And well into the period where “car” was the only transport.

So I post today to see if anyone out there, well versed in the horse culture, especially when horse and carriage was the only means of transportation, can help.

I envision what it must have been like to be living on Portland Place, London, in 1814, when the Goslings readied to journey to Oxford. Mary Gosling writes of the journey itself; where they stopped; what they visited; when they arrived in Oxford. But: How would the household have gotten everything ready for the family to depart? Who would have done what so that when the Master of the house and his family descended, they could just enter the carriage, and be off.

I have my conjectures, of course, but would welcome some first-hand knowledge of what was required, what was done, how long it took.

Diaries are great! but describing the running of a house are not usually  included! (If anyone knows of such a diary or diaries; published books, etc; do let me know.) That would be like writing down getting into one’s car on a wintry December day: dust off snow, scrape ice; if you stop for gas, how you pump gas… etc etc. We all know HOW it’s done, so who would bother to describe it?! Similarly, Mary doesn’t bother with such minutiae overly familiar to her.

How does one harness a horse? Who would have been responsible for what? Was the carriage (and presumably there was more than one to choose from) pulled out and then the horses fitted into the traces? How? by whom? Would the driver have overseen stable lads? Or was his arrival timed to happen just before his passengers came down?

The one thing the diaries and letter DO describe is accidents; so I chose to illustrate this post with a great “action” picture by my favorite, Diana Sperling.

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