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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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2 hours ago, phil_sutters said:

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

A tourist carriage in Bruges 11 6 2005_500px.jpg

 

And further afield in Switzerland, back in 2013, the posh tourist horse-drawn post coach over the Gotthard pass was in town, complete with a man in a van for the luggage, who also had a shovel for cleaning up afterwards:

1424189597_Andermatthorseandcarriage.jpg.d336a0f032ced6820d44688e0cebf3e5.jpg

 

162088509_Andermattmanwithvanandshovel.jpg.08aea54cc8ab5c21478357ee382294e8.jpg

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"After The Lord Mayor's Show"
 

When the parade's moved on
After the crowds have gone
After the last hurrah
The last ta-ran-ta-ran-ta-ra!
When the glory boys depart
That's when the real work starts
After the Lord Mayor's show comes the donkey cart

I watched the marching bands
I saw the children wave
Now on this street I stand
And it's as silent as the grave
And it's time to do my dance
Time to perfect my art
After the Lord Mayor's show comes the donkey cart

Parades will come and go
Every year a new star of the show
Girls scream as they go past
But they, they never seem to last
When the glory boys depart
That's when the real work starts
After the Lord Mayor's show
After the Lord Mayor's show
After the Lord Mayor's show comes the donkey cart

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  • RMweb Gold

My father tells me that when a horse and cart went down the street, kids would be sent out with a bucket and shovel to collect the dung, for use of the allotment.

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My grandfather used to horrify us when were young, by collecting sheep droppings in his cloth cap (which had a plastic liner); after he'd transferred them to a hessian sack in the water butt, he'd simply shake his hat 'clean', and put it back on. He used to claim it made his hair grow..

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6 minutes ago, Fat Controller said:

He used to claim it made his hair grow..

 

If it works for roses, why not for hair!  Perhaps mine will come back if I try it?:scratchhead:

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3 hours ago, Mikkel said:

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

 

I believe it is or was usual to combine straw with dung to produce manure - the straw being another waste product that could be recycled once it had decomposed. The manure has to be well composted to kill off bacteria in the dung.

 

As an aside, I hadn't noticed before how interesting the wagon under that load of manure is - axleguards mounted outside the solebars and self-contained buffers point to it being a conversion from broad gauge. By comparison with the adjacent wagons, it looks to be four planks rather than three; my notes from Atkins indicate 201 such conversions, all numbered in the 11xxx block.

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

But you saw @Tricky's 7 mm scale horse droppings?

 

Thanks Stephen. It would seem that I did. Should have saved it in my bookmarks! Of course like everything he does, it looks fantastic. Although in 7mm that kind of texture might be a bit easier. My own method came from fascination with the balls that the pigments form, and the colour. Believe it or not I also tried instant coffee, but the shapes are too jagged and guess what happens when you add liquid glue :rolleyes:

 

1750052334_IMG_20210502_091216566_HDR(1).jpg.62de27f7d764d7d0d3e9a63d0408bb60.jpg

 

 

4 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

[snip]

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.

 

That makes good sense. The extent of cleaning must have been a critical factor though. In another discussion, flyingbadger mentioned the 1875 Public Health Act, which set out to deal with the general chaos and pollution of cities. I wonder if that mentions horse manure, must see if I can retrieve it.

 

Edited by Mikkel
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  • RMweb Gold

I have heard the phrase used in business circles, most memorably when a Senior Vice President (ex-Sandhurst and ex-Guards) yelled down the phone at an errant manager, "You're talking horse sh1t!" but he we are, literally not figuratively doing the very thing. I have waited 27 years for this!

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Doorways to houses and shops used to have an iron boot scraper by the front door so that you could scrape off whatever you'd trodden in.

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I remember reading a book about market gardeners in Paris in the 19th and 20th centuries. Apparently, after delivering in Central Paris, they would backload horse manure to their gardens in the outskirts. Rather than simply composting the manure, they stacked it in 'hot beds', where the heat from decomposition enable them to get a head-start with the the more cold-sensitive crops. Apparently, this meant they could harvest up to seven times in a normal year. The rotted-down manure would be used to enrich the soil.

There was another use for horse manure; as a component of the moulds for casting. It would serve to bind the moulding sand together. More recently, molasses has been used.

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  • RMweb Gold

I believe that many of the railways had quite a traffic in horse manure heading out from major conurbations, especially the GER with its agricultural hinterland.

 

"Hot beds" tend to create a lot of smell. I remember the rose beds outside the administration offices at Leicester University being treated to this early one year, as the top ranks wanted early roses to bloom outside their windows in the summer. I shall never know whether the manure was particularly fresh by accident or if one of the high-ups had upset the gardeners...

 

(By the way, I think the roses grow so quickly as much to get away from the stench as anything else...)

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17 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.

I can't help thinking the first chapter must be a p1ss take!

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1 hour ago, Fat Controller said:

There was another use for horse manure; as a component of the moulds for casting. It would serve to bind the moulding sand together.

 

It is still used in bell founding. I used to have on my desk a plug of it from the casting of our bells; it was, of course, perfectly sterile and odourless.

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1 hour ago, Welchester said:

It is still used in bell founding.

Aha! 

 

What's brown and sounds like a bell?

 

Dung!

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6 hours ago, Regularity said:

My father tells me that when a horse and cart went down the street, kids would be sent out with a bucket and shovel to collect the dung, for use of the allotment.

Living in Ripon around 1950 our milkman had a horse drawn milk float. My mother was always darting out, with the coal shovel, after a delivery, to get the droppings for our garden.

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

The more I learn, the more fascinating this topic is. Scatologists unite!

 

I'm trying to work out how much manure a 12-stall stable block such as the one at Farthing would produce daily - and thus how many wagon loads that would amount to over time.  So I found the following data for "a 1000 pound horse" on this website.

 

image.png.3c7528ef9e4f6612041adda5df7e95e1.png

 

Now to get the calculator out. And to look up stuff in rule books. Good grief, this is growing!

 

Edited by Mikkel
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The volume (cubic feet) figure will be the more useful one I feel, the material has a relatively low density, at 65lb(24.26kg)    / 2.4ft3 (0.068m3)  = 357 kg/metre cubed, more or less around half that of coal.

 

Wagon capacity is thus more likely to be limited by the volume than the weight.

 

this is a most interesting rabbit hole.

 

btw, rabbits emit about 7W as heat.  Handy to know if you’re planning rabbit powered central heating.

 

atb

Simon

 

 

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17 minutes ago, Simond said:

btw, rabbits emit about 7W as heat.  Handy to know if you’re planning rabbit powered central heating.

 

A bad idea. You'd be overheated rather rapidly. We've all seen Father Ted.

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1 hour ago, Mikkel said:

The more I learn, the more fascinating this topic is. Scatologists unite!

 

I'm trying to work out how much manure a 12-stall stable block such as the one at Farthing would produce daily - and thus how many wagon loads that would amount to over time.  So I found the following data for "a 1000 pound horse" on this website.

 

image.png.3c7528ef9e4f6612041adda5df7e95e1.png

 

Now to get the calculator out. And to look up stuff in rule books. Good grief, this is growing!

 

One might say it was mushrooming..

In my home town in South Wales, a centre of the tinplating industry, not only was horse-muck was reused.. Urine was collected from local pubs (of which there were an awful lot) and despatched to the tinplate works to use in the pickling of sheet steel before coating with tin. 

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And in medieval days, urine was a major source of saltpetre, used in making gunpowder.

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... and of course also used in tanning. Right up to the late 19th century, having the menfolk of the town drinking in the pubs every evening was essential to the economy.

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  • RMweb Gold

Having the output from London's huge manual work force in Victorian times helps to explain why there were dozens of stinking tanneries very close to the centre of the city, between London Bridge station and the Bricklayers Arms goods depot. If you look at the 1879 layer of the Southwark mapping service you will see them all over the place, but especially in that area. https://geo.southwark.gov.uk/connect/analyst/mobile/#/main . (Find 1879 in the 'Base Map' menu at the top right.) It was the centre of the country's leather trade, with the London Leather, Hide & Wool Exchange at its heart. The sculptures show the workers, but not the source of the materials! The 1896 OS map layer does show the public houses, as PH, and there were a fair few of them in the area too. Tanner Street remains as a reminder of the industry, running under London Bridge station's approaches.

 

Leathermarket built c 1878.jpg

Edited by phil_sutters
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Posted (edited)

There are quite centrally located tanneries in Fez, Morocco - or at least there was in the 1980s. I remember wondering at the time why it had originally been placed so centrally.

 

 

10 hours ago, Mikkel said:

The more I learn, the more fascinating this topic is. Scatologists unite!

 

I'm trying to work out how much manure a 12-stall stable block such as the one at Farthing would produce daily - and thus how many wagon loads that would amount to over time.  So I found the following data for "a 1000 pound horse" on this website.

 

image.png.3c7528ef9e4f6612041adda5df7e95e1.png

 

Now to get the calculator out. And to look up stuff in rule books. Good grief, this is growing!

 

 

So I checked to see what the average weight of a GWR stable horse might be. There would be different sizes of horse, of course. Earlier I set up this photo showing some of my Dart Castings horses:

 

718950190_28841956088_3ab10e8360_o(1).jpg.39f34e134bda49321d15357ce0b7eb5d.jpg

 

Assuming that Dart have got their heights more or less correct, I checked approx. corresponding weights here:

 

1485330682_horseweight.JPG.4deb20fcbc894e79f9251b0ad7a1e2a1.JPG

Source: https://equine-world.co.uk/info/horse-care/horse-body-weight

 

But of course it isn't that simple is it. Horses are differently built depending on type, so height isn't the only factor. And a stable would probably have both heavy draught horses and lighter "trade horse" types for e.g. the parcels vehicles...

 

image.png.2e074be7b910cd287d64660401847332.png

Source: https://www.horsemart.co.uk/community/article/how-to-health/what-is-the-average-weight-of-a-horse-

 

Never mind then, it's getting too complicated and we're just after rough estimates here. So for ease I'll go with an average horse weight of 1000 pounds for the Farthing stable. Conveniently, that matches the example of daily manure output provided by the College of Agricultural Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University.

 

Going by the internal dimensions of a GWR four-planker to dia O5 in Atkins et al, I arrived at the following volume for such a vehicle:

 

752203451_4plankcubic.JPG.42221b261fb71c5320cce2de4378ab85.JPG

 

Comparing that to the Penn State University data, it looks like it would take 12 horses 8.9 days to fill an O5 4-planker to the top of the wagon (or 1 horse 106.7 days!). We know that wagons were often loaded well above their height, so 1-3 days more would not be unlikely. And I assume the volume of the manure would decrease somewhat during storage in the manure pit. So a wagon every fortnight then, more or less - but again this is a large 12-stall stable, most GWR stable blocks only had a few stalls.

 

Be warned that I have only had one cup of coffee so far this morning, I normally require three to be awake. Also, cubic feet do my head in.

 

Edit: The intention of all this escapism is to calculate how often I could run a wagon loaded with manure out of Farthing. That is based on a scenario that a 12-stall stable would merit such outgoing traffic. I am not at all certain that this would have been the case in reality. It does not seem to be a well documented theme.

 

Edited by Mikkel
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Well, once the stationmaster, signalman and head porter had sorted out their roses, allotment and the station flowerbeds, I reckon there would still be enough for a wagon or two every so often.  Presumably they had a pit or midden, and emptied it every month or two?

 

atb

Simon

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