The London Horse

The British Museum have just opened a new, free, exhibition "The Horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot". The exhibition seeks to demonstrate that "The history of the horse is the history of civilisation itself".


Well I don't know much about the history of civilization beyond the M25 but surely no other creature has done so much to shape London or been employed here in so many different roles.


So to celebrate the opening, whilst wearing my best London blinkers, I thought I would share some rare images of horses in London. All of these come from the late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century.


Even in the 1920s and 30s horse were transporting the majority of the Capital's goods.


A London Horse delivering newsprint - 1920s
A London Horse delivering newsprint - 1920s

Here are cart horses enjoying a drink at one of the many drinking fountains that can still be found in London today. This one (on the corner of Mark Lane and Tower Hill) was provided by The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association.


Horses at a drinking trough - 1920s
Horses at a drinking trough - 1920s

Horses could be a source of pride as well as of labour.


Judging at the annual Cart Horse Parade in Regent's Park - 1920s
Judging at the annual Cart Horse Parade in Regent's Park - 1920s

Horses were crucial for transporting people.


Horse-drawn trams at Elephant & Castle, circa 1880
Horse-drawn trams at Elephant & Castle, circa 1880

Horse-drawn bus circa 1900
Horse-drawn bus circa 1900

Cab, circa 1890
Cab, circa 1890

Long after hunting ended in the Royal Parks horses were, and still are, being used for leisure.


Riding in Hyde Park - 1920s
Riding in Hyde Park - 1920s

Being admired on Rotten Row, Hyde Park - 1920s
Being admired on Rotten Row, Hyde Park - 1920s

A meeting of The Coaching Club on the Ladies Mile, Hyde Park, circa 1896
A meeting of The Coaching Club on the Ladies Mile, Hyde Park, circa 1896

Equestrian sport has always drawn crowds.


Derby Day at Epsom, circa 1896
Derby Day at Epsom, circa 1896

Polo at Ranelagh - 1920s
Polo at Ranelagh - 1920s

Horses are still employed in so many ceremonies.


The State Opening of Parliament, circa 1926
The State Opening of Parliament, circa 1926

The Changing of the Guard at Horse Guard's, circa 1926
The Changing of the Guard at Horse Guard's, circa 1926

A Lifeguard at Horse Guard's - 1920s
A Lifeguard at Horse Guard's - 1920s

The British Museum exhibition The horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot is part of the Museum's Diamond Jubilee Celebration. It is open daily from 24 May – 30 September 2012 and admission is free.