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A pictorial record of horse manure


Mikkel

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I’ve added a selection of horse droppings to the road and yard on “The Stables”. 

 

Obviously, prototype research was needed first! Period photos from the 1890s-1930s often show droppings in the street, especially where horse-drawn carriages were regularly parked.

 

001.jpg.fe404b3533ba938cdf21f3d906f50b61.jpg

"Bicycle couriers with copies of the Manchester Guardian, which are being delivered to Euston station in London for circulation, circa 1920." Getty Images, embedding permitted. 

 

Droppings can sometimes be seen strung out, as seen below. I assume that’s because the “action” happened while the horse was on the move. But just how many horses were involved here?!

 

002.jpg.9a5ed02c88a9f71f9d47592176faf1c1.jpg

"A view along Holland Park Mews, London." Getty Images, embedding permitted.

 

 

After a while, the droppings would get trampled or washed apart. 

 

003.jpg.c40a268b5205a615178e057810ec831f.jpg

"Looking down one of the streets in the village of Hatherop, Gloucestershire, c1860-c1922." Getty Images, embedding permitted.

 

 

In the busiest streets of large towns it could sometimes get quite messy, if I interpret the image below correctly. 

 

004.jpg.7f7a3d9c5874b8cbc6a2156d8d96f4dd.jpg

"Newcastle ca. 1900. The entrance to Central Station and in the background, St Mary's church and spire." Getty Images, embedding permitted.  

 

 

It’s worth pointing out, though, that many 1900s photos of street scenes show just a few droppings or none at all.  The street sweepers must have worked hard in the big cities!

 

005.jpg.1634a4978b3715293ae82819ba503960.jpg

"London. Holborn Viaduct, about 1900." Getty Images. Embedding permitted.

 

 

In villages with limited traffic, the manure would presumably have been rarer. And perhaps quickly snatched up for gardens?

 

006.jpg.a2eb90b393ecd752fddb2f8076055758.jpg

"Stratford-Upon-Avon, circa 1900." Getty Images. Embedding permitted.

 

 

Despite busy horse traffic, urban goods yards also appear relatively clean, although sometimes the presence of a photographer may have helped!

 

008.jpg.cd944e49301ceeddc6dab02dde1bfb37.jpg

"Paddington Goods Depot, 1923.  Horse drawn vehicles carrying Witney blankets"  Getty Images. Embedding permitted.


 

A study of contemporary photos and horsey websites showed that the colour and texture of droppings varies considerably. One factor is whether the dung is fresh or old. Another is the horse's diet. For example, I understand that low quality hay results in very brown droppings, while green grass will give you an olive tinge. Here's a selection, á la carte:

 

dung_styles.jpg.8dbd61dea6a5c1a38032bbf1736ffffd.jpg

Photos from Flickr Creative Commons. Credits clockwise from top left: Ben Schumin; Ben Schumin; David MW; Bernd Hutschenreuther; Jes; Jes.

 

 

True dung enthusiasts will therefore need to study the fodder composition of the companies they model, which incidentally also varied across time and place. For example, Tony Atkins writes in "GWR Goods Cartage", Vol. 1, p77:

 

Quote

The standard feed mixture made up at Didcot for country horses consisted of 22½ % oats, 10 % beans, 20 % maize, 41 % hay and 6 % oat-straw (chaff). For London horses, a slightly different mixture containing 2½ % more oats and 2½ % less hay was issued. The daily allowance of mixed provender varied between 27 lbs to 32 Ibs, depending on the individual horse. On Saturdays and Sundays bran and long hay were additionally fed to all GW horses. 

 

 

I didn't go that extent though. Basically, I just tried out some stuff. From earlier experiments I knew that, when tapped repeatedly, the little balls that form in pigment bottles will move to the front and can be gently shaken onto the ground. This is Vallejo Natural Sienna pigment (ref. 73.105).

 

001.jpg.e76b4b2d93192ad770c77bba26668b7a.jpg

 


The balls were secured by floating a little Woodlands Scenic cement alongside, letting the balls soak it up through capillary action. This binds the pigments together and sticks the balls to the ground. Once dry, a brushing of matt varnish sealed them further.

 

002.jpg.71ff344d84501b3bfd87129a2be4129d.jpg

 

 

Breaking up some of the pigment balls adds a more scattered impression:

 

003.jpg.57276fe5bf02ab02974360e2033288fb.jpg

 

 

A light dusting of Johnson's baby powder made for a drier, more discrete look.

 

004.jpg.667b465e74e21b9ee99aa40f8e353770.jpg

 

 

A lick of dry-brushed paint resulted in a darker and more compact appearance. An almost black shade would be quite common,  but that turned out to be rather distracting. Little black spots tend to catch the eye! So I went for lighter brownish shades. 

 

005.jpg.11449e5f201aa1d59e8857e5bf6c239a.jpg

 

 

Standard GWR stable blocks had channels that helped carry droppings and urine out of the stable block and into the sewer. So there I went for a glitzy Wet Dung look, using a bit of gloss varnish.

 

006.jpg.a78b441ce7539ac4d956a7769b004597.jpg

 

 

I used additional pigments around the edges to indicate a dissolving dropping.

 

007.jpg.a30c14baf541cb9bc2323fd78e64d1b9.jpg

 

 

Arguably, my droppings are on the large side (quiet at the back!). But I think a slightly stylized look can sometimes work OK, as it helps the viewer interpret what they are seeing. Also, have you ever stood next to a shire horse?

 

008.jpg.09cda0c469fc2a74bd957de581c97f3a.jpg

 

 

Not quite a shire horse. House-trained though. Let's see the Midland beat that!

 

009.jpg.8f71717fb8a2b7fb695f6e926854d175.jpg

 

 

Although I like an uncluttered look, it's probably all still a bit too clean.

 

010.jpg.bde28641456630a7209655c2ee9a4f78.jpg

 

 

I'm currently working on that. These are pigments brushed into the setts, after first adding a tiny drop of Woodlands Scenic Cement and letting it almost dry. The idea is to represent residue from past droppings. Must add some bits of straw too, as recently suggested by Matt.

 

11b.JPG.97e9eed035bee28749115e5f8da388f2.JPG

 

 

Meanwhile, Stableman John Rokesmith has had enough of it all. Not what he had in mind when he joined the railways. '"Romance of the footplate", my arse!'

 

012.jpg.57a4d623c9b4e1473864cb4bca9fa051.jpg

 

Edited by Mikkel

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Just "dropping" in to say, in best football manager style, "the boy dung good"!

 

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Fascinating. I'm rather pleased that horses were not so common in the 1960s. :P

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Mikkel,

As always your research and attention to detail is impressive and inspiring!

 

Duncan

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Superb modeling Mikkel. 

 

Detailed research, accurate observation and clever implementation. The end result looks spot on, that really does add to the look of a working stables. 

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“In villages, the manure would have been rarer” The farm over the way from us was still using horses, I was regularly sent out with an ancient shopping bag and a small shovel, as it was excellent top dressing for dads roses. Villages usually had keen gardeners who would be on the lookout for such treats. There was a traffic on the railway from cities to farms for manure, so maybe the produce from your stables would be collected up, wheelbarrowed into a corner until there was enough to make up a wagon load, so keep busy! 

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Only on RMWeb would you find such a topic.

 

Well researched !.

 

Adrian

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Mikkel,

Excellent!  It looks superb, and that horse looks quite embarrassed.

 

You probably know that in London, and probably other places as well there were men who went round with a bucket a spade to collect horse manure.  I am not sure if the council employed them or if they were self employed and had their own customers.  On one of the old films, of Tower Bridge, I think, it was certainly one of the bridges, a man with a shovel and a bucket walks past the camera.

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

On 15/05/2021 at 17:31, eastwestdivide said:

Just "dropping" in to say, in best football manager style, "the boy dung good"!

 

Ha ha :D Thanks. I had been hoping for my wife to take interest, as she tends to follow progress - but she has remained strangely silent in this case. 

 

 

On 15/05/2021 at 17:39, Mick Bonwick said:

Fascinating. I'm rather pleased that horses were not so common in the 1960s. :P

 

Vital though they were, they were clearly also considered a bit of a nuisance - in towns at least.  In 1894 the amount of dung was apparently referred to as "a crisis":  https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Great-Horse-Manure-Crisis-of-1894/ (edit: this crisis turns out to be a myth).

 

And when streets got paved there was the noise from thousands of hoofs. Oh the woes of urbanites!

 

 

On 15/05/2021 at 18:00, drduncan said:

Mikkel,

As always your research and attention to detail is impressive and inspiring!

 

Duncan

 

Many thanks Duncan, much ado about very little of course. But having heard all the stories about horse manure piled high in the streets, I thought it was necessary to check just how visible it would have been. In the end I've limited the number of droppings to a dozen strategically placed ones - as mentioned they can easily become a bit distracting!

Edited by Mikkel
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Some railways, the Midland was one I think, who had manure wagons specifically made, for transferring dung from cities to the countryside.

I am always amazed how clean and tidy model cattle docks look. I am sure that there were employees whose jobs included cleaning out the cow pats and other droppings, but I would doubt that every trace was shovelled away and the paving and fence posts hosed down and returned to the pristine as-built appearance seen in many layouts.

The staining and traces of fibrous matter seen in Mikkel's atmospheric (word chosen with care) depictions above would seem more likely. Given the disgusting state of many city streets, reported in public health documents well into the 20th century, it would be surprising if the railways didn't have at least some grimy corners.

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3 hours ago, Dave John said:

Superb modeling Mikkel. 

 

Detailed research, accurate observation and clever implementation. The end result looks spot on, that really does add to the look of a working stables. 

 

Thanks Dave! The more I look, the more it needs some straw too. Always a bit tricky to find the middle ground between "too clean" and "too filthy" on a layout, I think.

 

 

2 hours ago, Northroader said:

“In villages, the manure would have been rarer” The farm over the way from us was still using horses, I was regularly sent out with an ancient shopping bag and a small shovel, as it was excellent top dressing for dads roses. Villages usually had keen gardeners who would be on the lookout for such treats. There was a traffic on the railway from cities to farms for manure, so maybe the produce from your stables would be collected up, wheelbarrowed into a corner until there was enough to make up a wagon load, so keep busy! 

 

I've always liked the fact that dung and roses go so well together. Some deep truth in there! I need a proper stableman's wheelbarrow with a good load of dung and straw, as a result of mucking out. The GWR usually had manure pits next to the stable blocks, I'm planning one for the next module.

 

I still haven't found out exactly what happened to the manure after it was deposited in the pit though. I.e. whether the GWR used it themselves, or sold it, or what. 

 

 

2 hours ago, figworthy said:

Only on RMWeb would you find such a topic.

 

Well researched !.

 

Adrian

 

Thanks Adrian. Yes, I can't think of any other forum where such matters would be taken seriously. But not too seriously, there are limits! 

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

36 minutes ago, ChrisN said:

Mikkel,

Excellent!  It looks superb, and that horse looks quite embarrassed.

 

You probably know that in London, and probably other places as well there were men who went round with a bucket a spade to collect horse manure.  I am not sure if the council employed them or if they were self employed and had their own customers.  On one of the old films, of Tower Bridge, I think, it was certainly one of the bridges, a man with a shovel and a bucket walks past the camera.

 

Thanks Chris, yes she does look a bit embarassed. Or maybe just a bit jumpy - it's a hacked about Dart Castings item:

 image.png.7842270b121f08ea3d1f73bf8da634e2.png

 

 

As for crossing sweepers, yes you have mentioned them before (not seen the film though, I think). The idea was to employ one for the street outside the goods yard in due course. I forgot to model a crossing when I made the street, they often consisted of a few rows  of setts on which people could cross otherwise un-surfaced roads.

 

 

Edited by Mikkel
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There was a series of books published a good many years ago on various railway companies entitled "A Pictorial Record of ..... Stations".  Have you considered writing one with the title of this thread ?  

 

Seriously, I am most impressed.  It's a very convincing representation of the reality of the way things really looked in the "good old days" when we used "green energy" to power local transport.

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20 minutes ago, phil_sutters said:

Some railways, the Midland was one I think, who had manure wagons specifically made, for transferring dung from cities to the countryside.

I am always amazed how clean and tidy model cattle docks look. I am sure that there were employees whose jobs included cleaning out the cow pats and other droppings, but I would doubt that every trace was shovelled away and the paving and fence posts hosed down and returned to the pristine as-built appearance seen in many layouts.

The staining and traces of fibrous matter seen in Mikkel's atmospheric (word chosen with care) depictions above would seem more likely. Given the disgusting state of many city streets, reported in public health documents well into the 20th century, it would be surprising if the railways didn't have at least some grimy corners.

 

Good point about the cattle docks, they do tend to look very clean. Of course the cleaning of cattle wagons was taken quite seriously, so I assume also the cattle docks? I must look in the rule books to see if there is anything on cleaning of stables. 

 

As for visible stains in period photos, one thing did occur to me: Would it show in black and white?

 

011.jpg.342341ec7415e4094e910a17aaa16952.jpg

 

1179117212_011(1).jpg.abe30c3a4666155f44b85c5673add0da.jpg 

 

 

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ChrisN

Posted (edited)

Mikkel,

This one has been edited with modern shots alongside.  Just after 3:42 as the shot changes to on the bridge, two men go past in white jackets.  The second one appears to have a spade.  White jackets usually meant that they collected poo of some sort.  The night soil men who went around with a cart and shovelled the soil out of the outside earth closets wore white jackets.

Edited by ChrisN
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burgundy

Posted (edited)

I am impressed by your in-depth research on this subject!

Vintners' Yard included a mere token representation to create the atmosphere of horse drawn traffic. Evidently, I need to spread it about more generously. 

IMG_3827.JPG.6aa7287ceecd1072b2819fc3c1c92c96.JPG

Best wishes 

Eric  

Edited by burgundy
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2 hours ago, phil_sutters said:

 

I am always amazed how clean and tidy model cattle docks look. I am sure that there were employees whose jobs included cleaning out the cow pats and other droppings, but I would doubt that every trace was shovelled away and the paving and fence posts hosed down and returned to the pristine as-built appearance seen in many layouts.

They were disinfected (with lime wash originally) and presumably a stiff broom. Whilst not pristine, I imagine that they were fairly clean for both hygienic and olfactory reasons.

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I have vague memories of my father, a keen gardener, buying sacks  of manure off a chap that sold it by the bag, Delivered by horse and cart, I reckon mid 60s. Probably a business going way back to the start of gardens and allotments. 

 

There is the old story:

 

Two men, leaning on a fence watch a horse and cart go by. The horse generates a pile of manure. 

 

Says the first " och , ye should collect that and put it yer rhubarb " ...

 

Says the second , " nay, I always put custard on mine " .......... 

 

 

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Ingenious modelling based on close observation* as ever!

 

*Thankfully of archival material rather than of the prototype in the field.

 

"Let's see the Midland beat that!" - noted. But you saw @Tricky's 7 mm scale horse droppings?

 

10 hours ago, phil_sutters said:

Some railways, the Midland was one I think, who had manure wagons specifically made, for transferring dung from cities to the countryside.

 

I believe* these were for night soil contracts - not specifically horse manure. As the wagons were built in four batches of 20 - 32 wagons, I suspect four different contracts, one of which was with the City of Nottingham.

 

*On no firm evidence but inference from the Glasgow Police Department wagons mentioned by @Caley Jim or @Dave John.

 

10 hours ago, Mikkel said:

Good point about the cattle docks, they do tend to look very clean. Of course the cleaning of cattle wagons was taken quite seriously, so I assume also the cattle docks? 

 

8 hours ago, Regularity said:

They were disinfected (with lime wash originally) and presumably a stiff broom. Whilst not pristine, I imagine that they were fairly clean for both hygienic and olfactory reasons.

 

I have an idea this was discussed quite recently and I think it was established that railway employees were responsible for the cleaning of railway cattle docks as well as wagons.

 

I would expect the surface to make a difference to the decay modes of the dung. On setts or other hard surface - such as a London street? - the dung would not bind with the surface and so could be easily swept away. On an earth surface such as a village street, the dung would bind with the loose surface material, be harder to remove, and so just become part of the surface. But that's just Compound's Special Theory of Horse Manure.

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10 hours ago, Michael Hodgson said:

There was a series of books published a good many years ago on various railway companies entitled "A Pictorial Record of ..... Stations".  Have you considered writing one with the title of this thread ?  

 

Seriously, I am most impressed.  It's a very convincing representation of the reality of the way things really looked in the "good old days" when we used "green energy" to power local transport.

 

Many thanks Michael. The title was a nod to the books by J.H. Russell and Adrian Vaughan respectively, which are variously titled "A pictorial record of Great Western Engines/Coaches/Wagons/Architecture". As mentioned I did stop short of studying GWR manure specifically. I mean, that would be so niche :)

 

 

9 hours ago, Adam88 said:

You can take this sort of thing too far though, especially if you have a cavalry background,

 

Scatalogic Rites of All Nations

 

cropped up in project Gutenberg the other day.

 

Aha, "scatalogy". So that's what this is! That book is one of the stranger works I have come across. I love the chapter titles though! A search for "horse" shows a variety of uses around the world, mainly for medicinal or religious purposes or as building material. I note also its occasional use in cooking though, and this one:  "The prostitutes of Amsterdam kept horse-dung in their houses for good luck".

 

10 hours ago, ChrisN said:

Mikkel,

This one has been edited with modern shots alongside.  Just after 3:42 as the shot changes to on the bridge, two men go past in white jackets.  The second one appears to have a spade.  White jackets usually meant that they collected poo of some sort.  The night soil men who went around with a cart and shovelled the soil out of the outside earth closets wore white jackets.

 

Aha, thank you Chris. Night soil men, another modelling opportunity. Once you start modelling a street outside of the railway boundary a whole need world of opportunities open up. Must stay focused!

 

image.png.e548873e29518e55a46a4ddd40c84653.png

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Euphemism: it used to be "spending a penny"... for horses, only a Farthing.   

Kit PW

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Across the sea in Bruges they have a solution to fouled streets.

A tourist carriage in Bruges 11 6 2005_500px.jpg

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, burgundy said:

I am impressed by your in-depth research on this subject!

Vintners' Yard included a mere token representation to create the atmosphere of horse drawn traffic. Evidently, I need to spread it about more generously. 

IMG_3827.JPG.6aa7287ceecd1072b2819fc3c1c92c96.JPG

Best wishes 

Eric  

 

Thank you Eric. What a superb scene. Perhaps in principle it would need a bit more dung, but I would hesitate to add more to something so complete. It' easy to go overboard with this stuff, I think.

 

 

9 hours ago, Regularity said:

They were disinfected (with lime wash originally) and presumably a stiff broom. Whilst not pristine, I imagine that they were fairly clean for both hygienic and olfactory reasons.

 

Ah yes, the lime wash. I haven't seen mention of that in connection to stables. On the cleaning of stables, Janet Russell, in "Great Western Horsepower" (p197) writes about GWR Horse Superintendents, who:

 

"...toured their 'territories' regularly checking the condition of the horses, the quality and quantity of the feed, the cleanliness of the harness, stable yards, vehicles and the efficiency of the staff at all levels."

 

And:

 

"The stablemen worked within the stable, feeding and watering the occupants, harnessing and unharnessing at each end of the working day. They also cleaned the stables and replaced the soiled straw. Many single storey stables had small trap doors in the wall which allowed manure to be pushed through and collected from outside to be stacked in the manure pit."

 

On the outside, these trap doors led to the channel and drain illustrated above.

 

8 hours ago, Dave John said:

I have vague memories of my father, a keen gardener, buying sacks  of manure off a chap that sold it by the bag, Delivered by horse and cart, I reckon mid 60s. Probably a business going way back to the start of gardens and allotments. 

 

There is the old story:

 

Two men, leaning on a fence watch a horse and cart go by. The horse generates a pile of manure. 

 

Says the first " och , ye should collect that and put it yer rhubarb " ...

 

Says the second , " nay, I always put custard on mine " .......... 

 

 

 

I like that it was delivered by horse and cart. Perhaps a bit of topping up on the way then :lol:. I assume most manure traffic would have been local? As Phil mentioned, the Midland seems to have had actual manure wagons (edit: but see Compound's post above).  The GWR had, I think, only one dedicated manure wagon, a long wheelbase diagram of which I believe Mallard did a 4mm kit. 

 

This photo supposedly shows a GWR open used for manure - although as the caption mentions, I wonder if that is what it actually is. A bit too much straw? Unless straw was added to make it easier to handle:

 

https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/gwrc872a.htm

 

 

Edited by Mikkel
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Thanks, Mikkel.  It's the small things that bring scenes to life but all too often overlooked.  Impressive research!

 

You suggested droppings might be collected in rural areas.  Indeed they were, valued for vegetable plots (anyone remember the competition there used to be in rural shows?) and for roses.  Manure was also appreciated in some more built up areas.  My mother grew up in the Rhondda valley and she remembered droppings being competed for.  When a delivery vehicle or someone like the rag and bone man (there were no personal conveyances for their like) came along the street, the children were sent out with dustpan or shovel and brush to garner the sought after harvest.

 

Even today, I prefer a load of horse dung to cattle manure for my garden.

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