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GWR stables - towards an overview

Posted by Mikkel , 19 February 2017 · 1,431 views

GWR stable block horse power

The following are my notes on GWR stable blocks – a subject that does not seem to have received much attention. I am about to build one for Farthing, and have noticed various style differences that may be of interest to others.

 

Attached Image
Chipping Norton stables in 1983. Built 1904. Rebuilt with end doors to serve as a garage, but otherwise it features the main elements of the "archetype" standard design, ie "hit and miss" vents in windows and above doors, and those characteristic boxy roof vents. Image copyright and courtesy Alan Lewis, at Ipernity: http://www.ipernity....nzac55/21761627

 

I first became interested in GWR stables some years ago, and received some very helpful advice and material from several RMwebbers on here. Many thanks gents! However, I wanted to obtain an overview of the designs of stables built by the GWR, and this proved tricky. While there are a number of drawings and photos in various books and line histories, I couldn’t find an actual overview anywhere (or have I missed it?). Janet Russell's wonderful "Great Western Horse Power" comes closest with a handful of selected GWR plans and descriptions, but no attempt to provide an overview of the different styles. Vaughan’s "Great Western Architecture" and Stephen Williams’ "GWR Branchline Modelling vol 2" have a few pictures and drawings each.

 

Attached Image
The stable block at Uxbridge Vine Street, illustrating how stables were sometimes located well away from the center of stations. Source: Britain from above. Embedding permitted.

 

So I have tried to make my own overview. Please note that this isn't based on extensive archival research or a systematic review of the various line histories. I have used a few key books and what others have shared.

 

I first divided the stable blocks into three overall types:
* The standard design, with 3 major permutations
* The small "ad hoc" designs, sometimes inherited
* The very large designs for major goods depots

 

In the following I focus especially on the standard designs.

 

The standard designs

 

Various books refer to the emergence of a "standard" design of stable blocks around the turn of the century. However, looking at drawings and photos I realized that there were detail differences in this design, which could be divided into 3 main “styles”. Two immediate caveats:

  • Most of what I have found seems to have been built from approximately the 1890s to grouping. I have not found evidence of standard designs before this time, but that may just be my lack of information. Little seems to have been built after grouping as horses were disappearing, but many stables remained in use for other purposes long after that.
  • Although I identify 3 main styles, there also seem to have been hybrids and possibly also “retro-fitting”. So rather than seeing the three styles as entirely different designs, it is probably better to see them as different expressions of a standard design that evolved over time.
The standard designs were single-story and followed classic GWR style features, i.e. red brick structures with blue engineering bricks around doors and at corners. The main style differences were in the ventilation, windows and doors.

 

Sizes differed widely across the same style, from a few stalls to 20+. The footprint was simply stretched in length to accommodate the necessary no. of stalls (thanks for pointing that out, Ian). They were mostly rectangular, although there are one or two examples with a V or U shaped footprint to fit in the surroundings. In the following I have used sketches of quite large stable blocks to illustrate the styles, as they are of particular interest to me at the moment - but the same styles could be found across different sizes.

 

STYLE A “Simple”
Plain stable doors and sash windows with 3x4 panes. Limited ventilation. No roof-mounted louvred vents, no vents in doors and windows. Examples: Uxbridge Vine Street, Castle Cary. I’m having trouble dating this style, but my theory is that it is the earliest expression of the standard designs, because it pays so little attention to ventilation.

 

Posted Image

 

My ham-fisted rendering of Uxbridge Vine Street, illustrating Style A. An attractive option for the modeller who doesn't want to model the complicated ventilation seen on other types. Based on the original GWR drawing in Russel's "GWR Horse Power", which also has a drawing of the smaller stable block at Castle Cary to the same design.

 

STYLE B “Archetype”
Classic boxy louvred roof vents. Stable doors have “hit and miss” vents above, while windows have the same vents below a 3x3 glazing pattern. Examples: Abingdon, Chipping Norton (see header photo), Westbury, Hayes (original), Hayle, Park Royal, Thame, Little Somerford. Again there are dating difficulties. Chipping Norton’s stable was built in 1904. Westbury was totally rebuilt in 1901, so maybe the stable is from that date? Park Royal doesn’t seem to have been developed until the late 1900s.

 

Posted Image

 

Park Royal, illustrating the archetypical features of Type B.

 

STYLE C “Later”
Stable doors have 2 rows of small windows/lights above doors, main windows are 4x5 panes. No vents in doors and windows, but large roof vents that are flatter and longer than the classic style. Examples: Weston-Super-Mare, extension block at Hayes, and the unidentified large new stable block in Russel's Great Western Horsepower p. 209-210. I’m calling this the “later” style because (i) the roof vent design seems more modern and functional and (ii) the original block at Hayes was style B design, but when it was extended (no date) the new blocks were to style C.

 

Posted Image

 

Weston-Super-Mare, illustrating what I call Type C. Twenty stalls is a lot, there weren't many stables this big.

 

Posted Image

 

A much smaller version of Type C. This 5-stall block was erected to extend the existing Type B block at Hayes & Harlington. A comparison with Weston-Super-Mare shows that the style is the same, and was simply shortened or stretched according to need.

 

HYBRIDS/REBUILDS
One or two stables I have seen could be hybrids between the main permutations. However, this is confused by the fact that (i) stables may have been retrofitted with new ventilation by the GWR, and (ii) stables were often rebuilt when no longer used for horses, and so latter day photos may confuse. For example, the latter day photos of Witney (built 1905) show windows like a Style A, but with the boxy roof vents of a Style B. However, the stable block was rebuilt to house motor lorries, and a closer look at the photos suggests to me that the windows and doors did originally have vents, but were replaced/modified (ie it is a rebuilt style B). The stable block at Minehead is more tricky, as described in the caption below.

 

Posted Image

 

The preserved stable block at Minehead. As seen here it would seem like a Style A, but an earlier hand-drawing (not GWR) shows it with hit-and-miss vents in the windows, suggesting a Style B - except that the drawing does not show vents above the door or on the roof. Were they removed before the drawing was made (when the end doors were installed, for example), or was Minehead a hybrid? Shared under Creative Commons license. Attribution: Chris Osment/West Somerset Railway.

 

Non-standard designs

 

This included "all the rest", worthy of a whole study in themselves, but broadly speaking:

 

Ad Hoc small designs
A number of usually small, non-standard ad hoc stables, typically built during the early years, and often by independent companies. In some locations, the GWR simply hired space in a building for the local shunting horse with private individuals. Examples: Henley-in Arden, Princetown (built ca 1910), or how about Camborne!

 

Very large and unique designs
Very large stables for the major goods depots, including (i) single-story designs such as Hockley, (ii) two-story designs, rare but see Handsworth & Smethwick (and Paddington originally) and (iii) in a league of its own, Paddington Mint.

 

Attached Image
The stables at Paddington Mint. Copyright Getty Images, embedding permitted.

 

So those are my notes for now. Many thanks to all who have provided info and allowed use of photos so far. I am hoping that this will also bring new insights to light from others, as I have probably only scratched the surface.

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Great article Mikkel, I have the same books as you to refer too so cannot really add anything to this fairly comprehensive post but it is good to see a lot of the relevant information together.

Thanks for sharing the information in such a way it makes it easier for the rest of us, I don;t think I have a need for it to make a model but I have always been fascinated by the subject of horses as they were so important back in the early 1900s.

 

Jim

A comprehensive study, with excellent drawings Mikkel.

 

I think we sometimes forget just how many horses the railways had, I quote from Dave Lochrie "By 1906 the Caledonian ran it's own carting from 55 of it's stations and employed 1,000 staff and 1,000 horses.",  in this thread. 

 

http://www.crassoc.o...c.php?f=8&t=774

 

So stables must have been far more common than engine sheds, but you are right, they seem to be rarely modelled. 

 

Oh, and I love the footnote " to lasagna factory" 

Thame also had one. A small one, which I have yet to chase up details of.

A useful collection of information, including some from my 'home' area.  From my current perspective, these are all rather 'modern' (i.e. 20th century).  I must start looking at early photos, to see what I can find!

A compelling read and lovely drawings Mikkel :good:

Great article Mikkel, I have the same books as you to refer too so cannot really add anything to this fairly comprehensive post but it is good to see a lot of the relevant information together.

Thanks for sharing the information in such a way it makes it easier for the rest of us, I don;t think I have a need for it to make a model but I have always been fascinated by the subject of horses as they were so important back in the early 1900s.

 

Jim

 

Hi Jim, glad if it's of use. A shame that you won't be needing a stable block for Hemyock, I'd love to see you build one.

 

I went through three stages in my little study, first I erroneously assumed that all the standard designs were the same, then I realized that they were different, and then I realized that there was a pattern to the differences. It's a bit odd that none of the established literature seems to have picked up on that last point before.

 

 

A comprehensive study, with excellent drawings Mikkel.

 

I think we sometimes forget just how many horses the railways had, I quote from Dave Lochrie "By 1906 the Caledonian ran it's own carting from 55 of it's stations and employed 1,000 staff and 1,000 horses.",  in this thread. 

 

http://www.crassoc.o...c.php?f=8&t=774

 

So stables must have been far more common than engine sheds, but you are right, they seem to be rarely modelled. 

 

Oh, and I love the footnote " to lasagna factory" 

 

Thanks for that link, Dave. A fascinating discussion.

 

I've been wondering whether the emergence of standard stable blocks on the GWR around the turn of the century came at a time when the railway was shifting from cartage contracts with private companies to doing the cartage themselves. That was the motivation for building the 1905 Witney stable block, for example.

 

 

Thame also had one. A small one, which I have yet to chase up details of.

 

Don't know if you have seen the picture in GWR Branchline Modelling vol 2, p. 42. It's small as you say, and built to what  I call Style B above. The picture shows it rebuilt with end doors. 

A useful collection of information, including some from my 'home' area.  From my current perspective, these are all rather 'modern' (i.e. 20th century).  I must start looking at early photos, to see what I can find!

 

Hi Mike, that would be very interesting indeed. Did Brunel for example have a standard design for stable blocks?  

 

Another question is whether there were stone variants of the brick ones? It doesn't seem like it, but they may just yet turn up. What would ideally be needed right now is (a) for someone to do a systematic archival search for all available GWR drawings, and (b) for all available info in the various line history books to be compiled in one place.

 

My retirement is still some way off, so if anyone else is interested .... :-)

 

 

A compelling read and lovely drawings Mikkel :good:

 

Thanks Pete. The drawings were fun to do and helped me get under the skin of the designs. Those seen here are handdrawn from the GWR drawings in Janet Russell's book. I cheated with the windows and only drew a few, subsequently multiplying them on the PC. The employees at the GWR drawing office weren't so lucky!

Photo
webbcompound
Feb 19 2017 17:56

Excellent stuff.

I'm also looking for stables details for a site where all I have is a vague footprint on a couple of plans, though not GWR. This is an interesting site for info about what miight be going on in stables, although it is not GWR either

 

http://www.crht1837....OC-The-Stables-

Quote;

 

Hi Jim, glad if it's of use. A shame that you won't be needing a stable block for Hemyock, I'd love to see you build one.

 

Mikkel. you are a bad influence.

 

I have spent a lot of the evening looking at old photographs and plans as there were some old barns/stables across the road from the cattle dock where the old cattle market took place. I have been thinking it could be a good place for horses for both the station and mill, after all modellers license could be applied in that the wagons were moved by horse power rather than manpower.

 

Jim

Hi Mikkel. Great stuff as always. Worth checking out the Railway Studies Collection on Newton Abbot if you ever make it to Devon. http://www.railwaystudies.org.uk/

Look forwards to further progression with this Mikkel.  Lovely drawings and an informative article.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark 

Hi Mikel, really useful information, I wish I'd room for a stable block at Sherton Abbas! Dave

An interesting study Mikkel.

 

It's probably worth thinking about the way that stables work in general when trying to understand this stuff... which is probably not massively different today because the Mk1 horse is still with us although more nowadays for leisure purposes.

 

Ventilation is important in stables, not just for the obvious reasons but also to reduce the risk of transmitting respiratory disease between the occupants.

 

They also need somewhere to store feed, bedding and tack.. plus some place to put the manure which may or may not have been shipped out quickly.

 

There needs to be space (probably outdoors) to get the horses ready for work and for the farrier to do his job.

 

As you have observed, busy urban depots are very different from rural spots. Apart from fitting more into a smaller space I suspect that there was a lot more 'just in time' activity in terms of feed supply and waste removal.

 

Regards, Andy

Mikkel,

 

A very interesting and quite comprehensive study.  Full of useful information.  Thank you.

 

When doing my layout design I did wonder whether somewhere like Modbury would have had stabling.  In the end decided that any moving of wagons would probably be done by the UP pick-up goods, and any slight shuffling of wagons afterwards would have been done by the station staff with pinch bars.  Would such a station have had its own GWR flat waggon (horse drawn) for delivery/pick up of goods?  I have no idea!  I really must properly read the GWR Goods books I have to see if any clues can be found therein!

 

Ian

When doing my layout design I did wonder whether somewhere like Modbury would have had stabling.  In the end decided that any moving of wagons would probably be done by the UP pick-up goods, and any slight shuffling of wagons afterwards would have been done by the station staff with pinch bars.  Would such a station have had its own GWR flat waggon (horse drawn) for delivery/pick up of goods?  I have no idea!  I really must properly read the GWR Goods books I have to see if any clues can be found therein!

 

I had a quick shufty at the maps in the old OPC Kingsbridge branch book. The 'original' layout at Kingsbridge shows a 'garage' near the goods yard approach road. 'Garage' seems unlikely to be an original 1890s feature so this may have been a stable. It was swept away by the construction of a later siding.

 

On the Gara Bridge map there is a unlabeled rectangle at the back of the goods yard but looking at photos this seems to be a rather ramshackle building with very low eaves which may have predated the railway. There doesn't seem to be anything else likely on the map.

Photo
Job's Modelling
Feb 20 2017 14:37
Lovely article with a lot of background informatiom.
Although not my thing for modeling I love to read about the architectural background of buildings.
Looking forward to the stable you are going to model.

kind regards,
Job

Excellent stuff.
I'm also looking for stables details for a site where all I have is a vague footprint on a couple of plans, though not GWR. This is an interesting site for info about what miight be going on in stables, although it is not GWR either
 
http://www.crht1837....OC-The-Stables-

 
Many thanks for pointing to that very interesting page. Some very "modellable" buildings. I see that the "Long Stable" had a ramp to the second floor similar to Handsworth & Smethwick and Paddington. I'm very tempted by the former of those, it would make an attractive scene with some horses on the ramp!
 

Mikkel. you are a bad influence.
 
I have spent a lot of the evening looking at old photographs and plans as there were some old barns/stables across the road from the cattle dock where the old cattle market took place. I have been thinking it could be a good place for horses for both the station and mill, after all modellers license could be applied in that the wagons were moved by horse power rather than manpower.
 
Jim

 
That sounds like a plan, Jim! A stable block would suit the other buildings on the layout very well, I think. 
 

Hi Mikkel. Great stuff as always. Worth checking out the Railway Studies Collection on Newton Abbot if you ever make it to Devon. http://www.railwaystudies.org.uk/

 
A good excuse to head to Devon, it seems! An open daily too. I see they have started digitising the archives, must be as massive task. No results yet for stables, but found some other interesting pictures.

Look forwards to further progression with this Mikkel.  Lovely drawings and an informative article.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark 

 

Thanks very much Mark. I've started drawing some of those hit-and-miss vents digitally, so they can be cut on a Silhouette cutter - it was easier to do it by hand!

 

Hi Mikel, really useful information, I wish I'd room for a stable block at Sherton Abbas! Dave

 

Hi Dave, glad if it's of interest. There will be other layouts I'm sure :-)

 

An interesting study Mikkel.

 

It's probably worth thinking about the way that stables work in general when trying to understand this stuff... which is probably not massively different today because the Mk1 horse is still with us although more nowadays for leisure purposes.

 

Ventilation is important in stables, not just for the obvious reasons but also to reduce the risk of transmitting respiratory disease between the occupants.

 

They also need somewhere to store feed, bedding and tack.. plus some place to put the manure which may or may not have been shipped out quickly.

 

There needs to be space (probably outdoors) to get the horses ready for work and for the farrier to do his job.

 

As you have observed, busy urban depots are very different from rural spots. Apart from fitting more into a smaller space I suspect that there was a lot more 'just in time' activity in terms of feed supply and waste removal.

 

Regards, Andy

 

Good points Andy. The bigger stables seemed to come complete with attached fodder store and manure pit (the one at Weston Super Mare also had one, I just didn't draw it). On some of the smaller ones it isn't so clear what was done.

 

By the way, on the subject of ventilation, it occurred to me that although what I call "style A" above has very little ventialtion, it does have sash windows unlike the others. Perhaps they would have been open at lot of the time, at least during summer. On the other hand, I suppose draught is the last thing you want in a stable. 

 

Interesting info on the Kingsbridge map and possible old stable. Perhaps I should list all the known stables so far - we can then add to that as time goes by.

Mikkel,

 

A very interesting and quite comprehensive study.  Full of useful information.  Thank you.

 

When doing my layout design I did wonder whether somewhere like Modbury would have had stabling.  In the end decided that any moving of wagons would probably be done by the UP pick-up goods, and any slight shuffling of wagons afterwards would have been done by the station staff with pinch bars.  Would such a station have had its own GWR flat waggon (horse drawn) for delivery/pick up of goods?  I have no idea!  I really must properly read the GWR Goods books I have to see if any clues can be found therein!

 

Ian

 

Hi Ian, horse shunting does not seem to have been the only justification for stables. The one at Witney was built specifically for cartage it seems, and the same is thought to have been the case for the one at Vine Street. These were stations where the GWR originally had the cartage of goods contracted out to private companies, but then decided to carry it themselves.

 

 

Lovely article with a lot of background informatiom.
Although not my thing for modeling I love to read about the architectural background of buildings.
Looking forward to the stable you are going to model.

kind regards,
Job

 

Hi Job, I thought you might like the buildings :-) I will be modelling one of the stables to Type B, and if that goes well maybe an extension next door where the horses can go up a ramp to a second floor.  

Mikkel,

Very interesting, brilliant article.  I had never considered where they kept the horses.  I knew about the Paddington one but never though about smaller places.   On my layout who transports goods from the Goods yard, where does Robert Parry the Coalman keep his horse?  I think the answer is, 'somewhere else', but from a historical point of view, would it have been somewhere else together, or did they all have their own stables?

Hi Chris, I agree that the answer would be somewhere else. As a private business he would not have used GWR stables, and I haven't seen any sign of coal merchants having their own stables by the station either.

 

I don't know if there was such a thing as collective stables (if that's what you mean?), but it seems that in many smaller places it was all a bit ad hoc. Not that I'm implying that Traeth Mawr is a "small place" of course! :-)

Whilst digging about on railway horses in general I came across this in praise of the way the GWR looked after its horses;

 

http://www.victorian...s6/horse-03.htm

Thanks Dave, a fascinating account. Several points surprised me, including:
 

 As much as possible the colours are kept separate, one stable being of greys, another of chestnuts, another of bays, and so on

 
Why would the GWR go to that trouble, I wonder?
 
I thought the description of the railway horse's life cycle was interesting, including:
 

 The railway horse is a farmer's horse to begin with, and for the first two years does practically nothing but grow; in the next two or three years he passes into the regular routine of farm work, and gets into shape; and then he changes masters and comes to London.

Hmm, The chap in charge was Captain Milne. I have no real idea, but maybe it was military practice to do that. Something to do with temper  maybe ? Maybe Horsetan can shine a light on that one. 

 

The bit I really liked was the woodcut ?   of the horse wearing the "tack" for shunting. It seems to be much heavier than that used for carts, a lot of chain involved. First time I have seen a period picture of that. Which means I have to model one......

 

The numbers at the end also hit me. 72 000 horses. Maybe we should be modelling far more wagons full of provisions for horses in urban layouts. 

Ah yes, I hadn't noticed the extra chain on the shunting horse, well spotted.

 

72.000 is certainly lot. The plan is to batch build a number of horse-drawn vehicles for the goods yard at Farthing. I only have two so far though, so there is some way to go yet!

Photo
LSWRlinesider
Mar 03 2017 14:02
Hi Mikkel,
 
Fascinating reading.  Thanks for sharing. There's a book in there somewhere!
 
Have you seen the Historic England (formerly English Heritage) book on Goods Sheds btw?  Available as a real book, but digital link is here: https://content.hist...warehouse.pdf/ 
 
Not GWR, or indeed railway, but a stable link which you might also find interesting, a Victorian municipal stable which survived intact and was recorded in detail: http://brentfordandc...cipal-stables/ 
 
All best, 
 
Matt

 

Hi Mikkel,
 
Fascinating reading.  Thanks for sharing. There's a book in there somewhere!
 
Have you seen the Historic England (formerly English Heritage) book on Goods Sheds btw?  Available as a real book, but digital link is here: https://content.hist...warehouse.pdf/ 
 
Not GWR, or indeed railway, but a stable link which you might also find interesting, a Victorian municipal stable which survived intact and was recorded in detail: http://brentfordandc...cipal-stables/ 
 
All best, 
 
Matt

 

 

Thanks very much Matt for these great links! I had read about the Goods Shed project earlier on, but didn't know that a publication was now available. That should make for some interesting reading (btw the link doesn't seem to work but I found this one that does: https://content.hist...arehouse.pdf/).

 

The Chiswick municipal stables lok very elegant, not least the stalls. The oat crusher sounds like an interesting bit of maschinery, I bet noone has ever done one of those in 4mm scale! 

All quiet from Farthing recently, how are things going?

Hi Corbs, thanks for asking. I've been meaning to post on various projects but seem to be in a phase where nothing gets quite finished. There's hopefully something to how soon-ish :-)

Welcome to Farthing!

Attached Image: farthing2.jpg

 

This blog chronicles the building of "The Farthing layouts", a series of small OO layouts that portray different sections of a GWR junction station in Edwardian days.

 

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