Another from my hideously-large pile of unanswered questions today, from the darkest section of all, labelled ‘Hard Stuff…’
Jo (who admits she may have had one or two when she saw this…) asks:
“I took a cab from Greenwich through Deptford and somewhere along the way (think it was only 5 minutes from Greenwich) the cab drove past a stables which seemed to house shire horses – I assumed an old people’s home equivalent for London’s rag and bone horses where they can see out their final days and avoid the glue factory. Do you know anything about it? Google doesn’t throw anything up but another cab driver did know where it was but I’d had a few too many drinks to remember the answer…. “
This has so far defied any attempts to find an answer, Jo – I tried various places and got nothing in the way of answers. I found this list of horse and donkey sanctuaries, none of which appear to be in South East London.
Then I tried looking for heavy horses that might still be working – perhaps drawing those old-fashioned funeral carriages or wedding coaches – but the closest I could find was in Hampton Court.
I understand that Youngs Brewery still uses shire horses, but again – they’re in Wandsworth. Lewisham Police Station has horses, but that’s one strange journey you would have taken home.
I found an article in the Independent (sadly from 1994) about rag & bone men still using horses, which, being fifteen years old can only be vaguely useful, but is a great read – beautifully and engagingly written. I’m not in the business of reinventing the wheel, so I won’t rehash it here, but in brief it talks about Corky, a Deptford totter, and his horse Sarah, who seem to be based somewhere around Broomill Road, though when I was down there a couple of weeks ago I didn’t see any likely candidates. Another character, ‘the Major’, deals in old cookers round the corner, and Billy and John, got out of the totting trade years ago, but kept the horses on as a hobby.
Sadly I can’t for a moment hope Corky’s still doing the rounds, given the article’s entitled The End of the Road for the Rag & Bone Man…
Is it possible you saw a Traveller site, Jo? They often have horses. There’s a list of Deptford-local Traveller sites here – recognise your journey at all?
But I have to say – Deptford isn’t my manor. Might be worth asking the Dame…