Book about antique hitching posts

However specialised your field of collecting, someone somewhere in the world probably shares your passion . I was delighted to find this book : “Horsing Around – 19th Century Cast Iron Hitching Posts”, it’s a catalogue of an exhibition of (surprise, surprise) hitching posts from the collection of Phil & Bunny Savino at the Albany Institute of History & Art in 2008. It focuses on American hitching posts, which were commonly freestanding cast iron posts; in Europe tethering rings or finials were more often attached to pre-existing walls, posts or pillars. The hitching posts were decorative as well as functional, common designs were horse heads, patriotic emblems such as the flag or an eagle, dogs, snakes, people and geometric or architectural shapes. Their makers are rarely identified and they fall into the category of “Folk Art”

Victorian horse head tethering posts
French Horse butchers sign
A French Horse Butcher’s Sign

I had bought the book in the hope of identifying the pair of horse heads shown above, I found one example in it that was similar but not identical . These are probably English and would have been placed on top of pillars or posts in a yard. The vendor described them as “19th Century cast iron horse heads possibly from a horse butcher’s shop”. I’m sure that’s wrong, I sold a French Boucherie Chevaline zinc horse head model a few years ago – it was much lighter in weight so that it could be hung on a wall & didn’t have bit rings (I suspect that thinking about one’s favourite riding horse before tucking into a steak doesn’t help the appetite )

Victorian horse head tethering posts

Christies sold a very similar white painted pair in 1999. They described them as “A pair of English white-painted cast-iron horse head tethering-post finials Circa 1870. Each with two rings in its mouth, on a circular base 10 in. (26 cm.) high”. They can be seen here

Victorian horse head tethering posts

The horse heads are made of cast iron, each was originally cast in two halves – a seam is just visible along the back of each mane. There are defects around their bases, presumably from when they were removed from their posts or pillars. The quality of the casting is very good and the details of the manes, eyes and even facial blood vessels are clear. The bit rings are in good order & still move freely. They have been painted gloss black, there are a few very small chips in the paint. They stand 10½ inches (26cm) high, and they are very heavy

Victorian horse head tethering posts


antique whips with silk handle

antique whips with silk handle

antique whips with silk handle

antique whips with silk handle

antique whips with silk handle

antique whips with silk handle

Next time I find myself cringing at the sight of a neon pink riding whip or a crystal encrusted browband perhaps I should reconsider.
“Bling” has been with us in the horse world for quite some time.

An antique dealer friend once told me that Victorian riding whips were all about “power, sex & status”. He had a point – before sports cars and ipads came along a fine horse and elegant attire were pretty good ways of advertising one’s wealth and taste to the world.

Personally, I prefer the gold and silver mounted whips on the left to today’s more “colourful” examples.

I bought the thinner sidesaddle whip on the left a couple of years ago. It has a silver cap and collar. The cap is engraved “Callow & Son Park Lane”. The handle of the whip is covered in finely braided silk. The braiding is really well done, the threads of the blue sections are arranged so that the colour fades from dark to light in each section.

Callow & Son are listed in the 1879 “Dickens Dictionary of London” by Charles Dickens Jr – the publication only listed tradesmen / shops which had a Royal appointment. Swaine & Adeney and Callow & Son are listed under whipmakers. (As an aside, Charles Dickens Jr was the son of Charles Dickens the novelist, the son was responsible for many publications including Dickens’ Dictionary of London, an Unconventional handbook. It is full of useful information such as the location of the nearest racecourse or workhouse – perhaps the latter was necessary after the former. Anyway, reprints are available, or find it at )

Back to whips – I have just acquired the two heavier whips. They were sold as racing whips. For once I know a little of their background – they were sold by the Earl of Lonsdale at Christies in 1980.

Both have woven silk covered handles and 15 carat gold caps and collars. One is engraved “Callow & Son Park Lane”. The similarity to my other whip intrigued me, so I thought I’d research Callow & Son a little more – I was quite excited to find a Thomas Callow recorded as a London silversmith in the late 19th century – but it isn’t the right Callow. One of these whips has the goldsmiths mark “TJ”, probably Thomas Johnson, and the other “EHW”, who I can’t identify.

I have seen another whip for sale with a braided silk grip like these – also by Callow & Son. It is possible that they were the only company of whipmakers who used this style of decoration.

I visited Tyntesfield in North Somerset a while ago. (Tyntesfield is a fantastic house owned by the National Trust which still has most of its victorian interior & contents – read more here )

In the entrance hall there was a whip rack which held a hunting whip and a couple of sidesaddle whips. One had a decorative threadwork handle (see later images), and the other was braided blue silk. Now I wonder if it was also made by Callow, I should have asked to look more closely at it at the time. I guess I’ll just have to go back…

This last whip shows decorative linen threadwork.


Antique padded stirrups

I tend to associate padded stirrups with modern endurance or trail riding saddles. So these were quite a surprising find – a pair of Victorian padded stirrups. The burnished steel construction (well, they would have been burnished at one point, I’m not too enthusiastic with the old burnishing pad, so they’re a little dull) and very fine stitching (around 14 stitches to the inch) suggest that they date from the 19th century.

Unusually, their provenance is known – they came from the Althorp attic & Spencer carriages sale earlier this year. There were quite a few interesting pieces for sale. I was spectacularly outbid on some hunting whips and military tack. I suspect the Althorp & Spencer connections attracted more attention than equestrian antiques would usually get.

Anyway – what were these stirrups doing in the tackroom of a Northamptonshire stately home? Victorian long distance riding ? The estate had its own railway station (Althorp Park) from the mid-19th century until the 1960′s, one could have travelled by train or coach so did not need to travel long distances on horseback. They are finely made, so unlikely to have been for a servant’s use, also I suspect servants’ comfort on long rides was not a priority.

Antique Victoria Sidesaddle Stirrup

Other stirrups such as the “Victoria stirrup” shown on the right had padding attached to their upper arches. This could have been to protect shoe leather from wear.

Alternatively, it may have been a safety feature to prevent the foot becoming trapped and the rider dragged in the event of a fall. The latter would have been particularly important for the sidesaddle rider.

I had always assumed that the Victoria stirrup was a single stirrup for riding aside – certainly that is how it was sold from Benjamin Latchford’s catalogue of the 1880′s and in Mosemann’s Illustrated Guide for Purchasers of Horse Furnishing Goods from 1893. So, I was rather surprised to find a pair – perhaps for the emancipated woman who still wanted shiny shoes?

Pair of Victoria stirrups

There are more details of these stirrups at : and


This blog entry is about lawn boots. Partly because they are interesting but largely because they contain no letter “D”.

kitten damage to laptop

Note the missing key

This isn’t an intellectual exercise, I’m no Georges Perec (he wrote “La Disparation”, a novel without the letter “e”) – an entire work omitting a given letter is beyond me (note the “d” in beyond). It is simply that one of my kittens removed the relevant key from my laptop & it now requires a special poking action to use it.

Back to lawn boots… these are leather boots that would be strapped onto a pony’s (or horse’s, or donkey’s) hooves.

Lawn boots for a pony

Why were they used? Well, if you have ever stamped down divots on a polo field (or accidentally let a horse stray onto a golf course – which has never happened to me, really…), you will know what hooves can do to a lawn.
Before motorised vehicles were common, horse (or pony, or donkey) drawn lawnmowers and grass rollers were used on any large expanses of grass. Obviously, there’s no point in carefully mowing and rolling a lawn if at the same time it is being churned up by hooves.

Lawn boots for a pony

They are made of thick leather and have a strap that would fasten around the pastern, and a lower strap that fastened behind the heel. The soles are generally leather, they are sometimes sewn on & sometimes riveted. The soles often have small studs – wet grass can be pretty slippery. I have seen a set with large studs on the sole, I was told that they were “ice shoes”, but I am not sure how accurate that description was.

Lawn boots for a pony

Most that turn up are probably Victorian. They do show up in old gardener’s catalogues (Ruth Brennan uses the title “Lawn Boots for Donkeys” in her 1991 paper on nurserymen’s catalogues. Ultimately I think they are a fascinating bit of equestrian history & an ingenious piece of problem solving.


I have just found a box of old harness decorations. They come in many forms : simple solid badges, some interlocking monograms or ciphers and some depicting parts of crests or coats of arms.

Harness Insignia

This decoration features a bloodhound. The French motto translates as “Search & you will find”, rather a nice pun.

They were not solely decorative. If we think back to a time when several guests, each with their own carriage & up to four sets of harness, might have visited a country house – the potential for confusion between sets of harness would have been enormous. So, these decorations served as rather elegant identification tags.

“Templa Quam Dilecta” translates as “How beautiful are your temples”, it is a pun on the family name Temple and is associated with Stowe School and Archbishop Temple’s School

Motto from harness

They could be made of brass or a white metal, some were hollow & lead-filled, some silver plated. Generally they had pins on their reverse sides which would be inserted into the leather.


A muzzled dog – rather a strange emblem

Harness decoration

Back of harness decoration

There are more at