The London Cart Horse Parade

A rather short post this week, work and trying to find the time to get to some East London locations has delayed my planned post for today, however I hope these photos of an annual parade that was once held in London will be of interest.

During the past week, pollution levels in London have been very high. The thousands of cars, taxis, buses, lorries etc. that keep the city supplied and moving but congest the city’s streets, contributing to the smog that hangs across the city when there is no wind to blow it to the east. In previous centuries, it was the horse that was essential to the functioning of the city. Transporting goods and people from one end of the city to the other.

I have seen a range of different figures for how many horses were on the streets of the London, with numbers of around 300,000 in the year 1900.

Treatment of horses was very variable and dependent on the owner. Horses needed to earn their keep and when they could not, through age or illness they were of little use to their owner.

There were a number of initiatives in the 19th Century to try to improve the conditions of the city’s horses, one of which was the Cart Horse Parade, established in 1885 with the aim of encouraging the owners of horses to take pride in their animals and to show to their peers and the public in a formal annual parade.

The first Cart Horse Parades took place on Whit Monday in Battersea Park. A second annual parade, the Van Horse Parade started in 1904 and took place on Easter Monday.

The Cart Horse Parade moved to Regent’s Park in 1888.

The two parades continued to run as separate parades, however with the declining numbers of working horses across the city, the two parades merged into a single Easter Monday parade in 1966.

My father must have known the parade well as he lived a short distance from Regent’s Park and one year took a series of photos of the event. These specific photos were not dated, however from the photos on the same strips of negative I am sure the year was 1949. Judging by the crowds, this was a popular event.

London Harness Horse Parade 1

London Harness Horse Parade 2

London Harness Horse Parade 3

London Harness Horse Parade 5

London Harness Horse Parade 6

London Harness Horse Parade 7

As a final photo, the following shows one of the problems with film cameras. When I scanned the following photo I thought there were two negatives stuck together, however it is an example of where the film did not wind on correctly between taking two photos leaving them both on the same individual negative. There are a number in the collection where this has happened – very frustrating.

London Harness Horse Parade 4

The combined parades have now moved out of London, but are still held on Easter Monday as the London Harness Horse Parade with the next parade being on the 17th April 2017 at the South of England Centre at Ardingly in West Sussex.

Details of the next parade can be found on the website of the London Harness Horse Parade.

11 thoughts on “The London Cart Horse Parade

  1. Jo W

    Lovely interesting old photographs there, Admin. Whichever year, it certainly was a cold grey Easter, judging by the thick overcoats most people were wearing.

  2. Christopher Davis

    Thank you for this post (as well as all the others, of course) I went to the Hyde Park event in the late 60’s / early 70’s when I was ”into” photography and you reminded me that I have those somewhere. Today’s task may wel be to try to find them. I remember it as being fascinating and being amazed at the vatiety of size of the horses.
    I often wondered if this still happened in Hyde Park, but always forgot to check, so thanks for letting me know about Ardingly, I’ll do my best to get there!

  3. Joss Mullinger

    Very interesting to see these photos and read about this event. I had long forgotten about it but remember now being taken to see the parade when I was a child, probably late 1950s. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Donna Reeves

    Wonderful! I am going to have to show this to my father – born in1928, the son of a zookeeper, he was taken to watch the Cart Horse & Van Horse shows as a small boy before WW2. He carried on going whenever he could as an adult, until the show moved from London. I’m sure he will have his (excellent) memory jogged by your photo’s. Thanks for another fascinating start to Sunday!

  5. Dee Cornfield

    So interesting to see these photos. My parents used to take me to see the Regent’s Park parade in the 1950’s and I remember enjoying a close up look at the horses lined up at the side of the road, presumably waiting for the parade to start.

  6. Wendy

    Thank you. Fantastic pictures and very moving. Glad to find out about the West Sussex event too. Thanks for all your amazing work. I love London but am feeling depressed at the changes. Would you believe, I am sure you would, however, that a little film extra bonus on ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ 1934 (brilliant British film) is from 1924 warning that London was fast disappearing! If they could see it now!!

  7. Margaret Lawrenson

    I remember regularly seeing some of the horses on their way to, presumably, the Battersea Park Parade, back in the 1950s. We lived in a flat in Victoria, overlooking the now demolished Lord High Admiral pub. I loved to stare out of our living room window to see all the dray horses, immaculately turned out with ribbons and brass, and their owners too, in far from everyday finery. These owners presumably popped into the pub for a swift half before continuing their journey.

  8. Keith Tampin

    In the 1950s and 1960s we would all meet up as a family in Regents Park inner circle to see the horse show and then on to the volunteer pub in Baker Street.

  9. Margaret Pawson

    Wonderful old photos. Nice to see such well fitting harness. Attended the Centenary event 1985 in Regents Park, quite an experience!

  10. David Nicholls

    I have only just found you ” site ,” and found it most interesting ; as a harness maker/Saddler in the 80’s , I had been doing some work for the ANCHOR BUTTER turnout and had an invite to escort the horseman
    We stabled the horse at the old Whitbread stables and slept in the straw overnight. An experience ! .

  11. Wendy MacPherson

    In so thrilled to find this post ! Today I was rummaging through cupboards and came across a stash of horse grasses I have been meaning to hang up for years. Among them is my favourite. It’s a merit badge from the RSPCA given at The London Cart Horse Parade in 1903. Does anyone know if an archive somewhere that may have the name of the person it was awarded to ?


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