A lone survivor at the heart of the Capital...


When something unexpected falls under the category of  'curiosities' on the internet, sometimes you cannot help but be intrigued.

In this particular instance it had not been something I had specifically been looking for, but, it did fill my mind with 'curiosity as the heading had said - and I wanted to find out more.

The object in question was a ' horse ' and not a live one as you might expect - but one proudly and stoically set in bronze!

Equine statues in London are not in themselves a rarity. The great and the good - plus the more unfathomable - can be seen with, or astride, many a trusty steed.  Boadicea at Westminster Pier,  Richard the First outside the Houses of Parliament,  and Earl Haig ( falling into the latter category perhaps)  gracing Whitehall,  are just a few. 

What strikes you with all of these statues is that their purpose is to purely promote the virtues of the rider aloft . The horses themselves are secondary figures, merely there as an extension of the riders ego and sense of self importance. 

But, situated in Southwark is a lone horse who's purpose is  very different - Jacob.

Jacob is fairly young arriving in Southwark in 1987, but he represents the history of the area going back over two and a half centuries. He stands on the site where the Courage dray horses were stabled that served the Anchor Brewery at Horselydown by Tower bridge, and as such is a fitting tribute to the part they played in brewing's past.

Before the days of Steam Wagons and mechanised road transport the Shire ( along with other breeds such as the Cleveland ) were the back bone of a brewery playing an essential role from start to finish.  From originally grinding the malt for use in the Mash Tun through to delivering the finished product to the pub, their role was immeasurable and they were held in the highest esteem, and a source of pride.   

                             Jacob breathing down the traffic of Queen Elizabeth Street !

The name of the area itself Horselydown derives from ' Horse - Lie - Down '  which according to the plaque beneath Jacob goes back to the time when the horses would lay down and rest before going over London Bridge and into the City. Over the centuries there have been various spellings, from ' Horseye Downe '   ' Horsfly Down ' and ' Horsadowne '   through to the current spelling, and the name itself probably held a wider context,  relating to an area where the horse and cattle of the people of Southwark  and Bermondsey could graze their animals in open pasteur.

When John Courage purchased his brewery in 1787 from John and Hagger Allis he purchased a brewery situated at Horfly Down Old Stairs, Southwark.

The horses owned by Courage were famous throughout London, as Alfred Barnard in his 'Noted Breweries of Great Britain' of 1889 tells us with his usual attention to detail and zeal. " There are stabling for seventy nine horses and, besides these, several well - fitted  and ventilated loose boxes. The splendid quadrupeds belonging to this firm are so well - known that we need scarcely describe them. Mr. Lawson informed us that he purchased them chiefly in North Wales and Cheshire, and that he considers that breed of animals very clean, with plenty of bone, and healthy. Messrs. Courage's horses generally run sixteen and a half hands high, will draw two tons each, and cost on an average £80 a piece. Some of them took prizes at the Olympia and Albert Palace Shows in 1887, and, in the year 1886, the firm took four prizes at the Battersea Show..." 

W. J. Gordon in ' The Horse - World of London ' published in 1893 referred to the Courage dray horse as " a splendid animal, the most powerful as a rule of London's heavy brigade ".

Jacob's location in Elizabeth Street, SE1 forms the centre of Jacob's Island where residents and workers alike cannot help but be reminded of the small but essential part the horse played in the brewing industry - and acts as an effective focal point.

Jacob's presence does however lead onto one other aspect of history that is lacking in London, a museum that acknowledges the part that brewing has played in the capitals history.

Some of the greatest, and scientifically innovative names in brewing history, such as Barclay Perkins,  Charrington's, Mann Crossman & Pauline, Truman Hanbury & Buxton, Whitbread, along with Courage's itself  have all been important players here during the past, but have little or nothing to represent them in the city of their birth today.    

Such history is important for current and future generations to understand the importance and wealth ( both health and monetary ) the brewing industry brought to the capital. Beer was an essential fabric of everyday life for millions in terms of life saving health properties it offered over unsanitary drinking water, and the sentiments of prosperity echoed by Hogarth in Beer Street showed the industry itself was held in the highest regard.

Whilst we seem to pander to tourism with such privately owned attractions as Vinopolis  ( ironically also within Southwark )  we seem to ignore an indigenous industry at the very heart of the capital. 

 Perhaps it is time for Jacob to kick start that Revolution!



Photography by Nina Roussinova, and particular thanks to TG.

Go to:  http://pmsa.cch.kcl.ac.uk/CL/CLSK17.htm


                                                                                                 TO RETURN TO ARCHIVE CLICK ON ARROW TOP OF PAGE

Make a Free Website with Yola.