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History of Russley Park

c. 1700s, always a sporting/hunting estate.

c. 1899 old house demolished and new one built, race horses trained there.
1907 purchased by William Hall Walker, later Baron Wavertree thanks to later
donation. Third son of a brewery magnate, obsessed with horoscopes which
he drew up for all new foals. At Irish stud, included lantern roofs so the
stallions could be affected by stars and moon.
1915 sold by Colonel William Hall Walker to Secretary of State for War as
agent for the Board of Agriculture. Inc Tully in Ireland which became Irish
National Stud, and donated 2 stallions, 30 broodmares, 10 yearling fillies, 20
foals, 8 horses in training and some cattle. They erected a large farm and
stable complex SE of house, initially for use as stud farm.
March 1916, discussions in House of Commons re. use: aim for Russley to be
a stallion depot with nucleus of stallions to provide half-bred cavalry horses.
Some of the racehorses leased to Lord Lonsdale, two go to stud at Tully.
Complaints that what is really needed is light draft horse stock, and TBs not
up to being troop horses which need to carry 15 to 16 stones. But they still
need cavalry horses, and the best are part-bred hunters, which necessarily
means racing blood.
1931 sold to private owner.
Cavalry and Horses
Much of military top brass insisted on continued relevance of cavalry, and on
maintaining numbers throughout the war.
Infantry meant to make the gap in the line, and cavalry charge through to
crown it all. Sometimes used alongside tanks as they could move faster.
Mounted infantry vital and scored crucial wins in the Middle East. Some
terrible massacres, like Hindenberg Line at Arras.
Horses (esp) hunters requisitioned in UK, Ireland, later from Australia
(Walers), Canada, USA (1 million) and Argentina. Thousands of horses
killed when being shipped over. Kitchener said they must be over 15hh to
protect the ponies of children.
When war broke out in 1914 the British Army had only 25,000 horses. They
were essential for pulling heavy guns, transporting equipment, supplies and
the wounded, and for riding. As the war progressed 469,000 horses and
mules left the British countryside for the front, but still more were needed.
The Remount Department looked for help overseas, eventually spending over
36,000,000 buying animals around the world, especially from America. In
todays money that would be about 1,550,160,000.
British Army Remount Services provided stallions for farmers. Smaller
cleveland bays, TBs, walers etc, larger horses took more maintenance.
About six million horses overall - cavalry and draft. Spent a fortune 67.5
million in requisitioning, purchase and training.
25% of horses lost were lost in battle, remaining exhaustion and disease.
Specifically targeted by infantry and artillery. BUT overall losses of about
17% a year was not much above that in peacetime - 10% and much better
than 120% in Boer War - lessons learned in husbandry and veterinary care.

Britain lost one horse for every two men overall.

Horses ate 10x as much food by weight as a human. Logistical nightmare.
Extensive veterinary treatment 725,216 treated, 529,064 healed.
Used for recruitment posters. Much loved.
History of Women's War Work and the Women's Land Army
Small voluntary organisations in 1915, 1916. Training farms, govt grant in
1916. Women's National Land Service Corps (WNLSC) formed 1916 to deal
with emergency work. Need acute by end of 1916, men called up: Women's
Land Army was instituted early in 1917.
Three sections to Land Army: Agriculture, forage, timber. Non military
organization though had uniform, rallies and system of awards
(bands/patches added to armlets). Most agriculture workers were milkers or
fieldworks, but some were carters, ploughwomen, market gardeners.
Women's Land Army Gets underway relatively late in the war: January 1917,
due to reluctance to ask women to work AND reluctance from male
workers/farmers to pay higher wages and to potentially be replaced by
women. Not as total as in WW2. September 1917, 247 training centres,
some 4 to 6 weeks training. Had to pass medical and interview.
Some learned farriery, mole trapping, milking, thatching, lumberjack work,
saw mills. Rallies might include pruning competitions or horse ploughing
Uniform: breeches, knee-length tunic, boots. Village women often continued
to wear skirts. Quote from rally speech, "Just because you dress like a man,
just because you wear no skirts, we want you to behave like a woman."
Ideal of "steady ... pure-minded... attractive". Many adverts for face cream
and chic working outfits in the Landswoman magazine.
Generally upper class women and nice girls were involved in fundraising,
refugee help, organising parcels for soldiers, handicrafts.
Much press coverage cheery novelty, distracts from news from front.
23,000 women recruited overall. 180,000 plus "village women" and then some
temporary holiday workers in addition. Disbanded November 1919.
Evening Ledger, Philadelphia, Friday June 8 1917. Speaker, Mrs Hamilton
Osgood, from London, headline etc mainly preoccupied with sane, sensible
attire.Its a divineness of spirit thats making little frail-handed girls groom
cart horses and marchionesses wait on table in little restaurants all so that
England may give her men... English women are doing marvellous work on
farms, and mind you they dont dress up in absurd pantalettes to do it. They
wear neat khakhi skirts. ... Well-to-do girls who have never soiled their
hands before are doing well, almost unbelievable work. ... Let me read you
the letter of one little girl who, with either other women, is managing the only
all-women remount depot in England. ... This morning, she read, I was
grooming an eighteen-hand-high cart horse, of whose character I knew
nothing. We get one pound a week here and get ordered around like
everuything; no fancy get-ups, either. But we dont care. Were just glad to
be serving.

History of Women in Remount Depots

Depots for rehabbing horses from physical injuries or shellshock. Depots for
preparing new horses. Depots dealing with vicious horses/mules.
The initial idea of hiring women to do mens work was coined by the MFH and
popular sporting artist, Cecil Aldin (whose work as an illustrator included an
edition of Anna Sewells Black Beauty).His first thought was to call up girls
from the local hunt who had sufficient equine know-how to learn on the job.
The War Office paid a set weekly sum for the maintenance of each horse
out of which came their fodder, tack expenses, standard veterinary
treatment and the cost of their grooms, who received 15/ to 30/ a week,
depending on whether they had to find their own accomodation or not. Aldin
eventually oversaw three such yards, two in Bradfield and one in Holyport
near Maidenhead all of them superintended by women.
Aldin was an enthusiastic sportsman and a Master of Fox Hounds, and many
of his pictures illustrated hunting.
Army report: impossible to list all depots where women employed. That such
ladies should undertake the whole of grooms work, and do it as well if not
better than their own servants, is one of the revelations of the times.
The horses sent him were mostly convalescents from the large veterinary
hospitals in the vicinity of Aldershot, and a very mixed lot they were, but the
ladies proved to be excellent nurses, and the equine convalescents quickly
regained their health and vigour, according to a contemporary army
document now stored in the Imperial War Museum. When the need for
convalescent care for the Aldershot horses dropped away, the stables
closed, and the women who had worked there were deployed to other
remount establishments around the country. Mrs Rigby, a Cheshire-based
Shetland pony breeder in peacetime, transformed her own property into a
reception for recuperating horses and also staffed it with the young girls
whod been cutting a dash over the Cheshire hedges before the war. Mrs
Rigbys devoted and excellent work have earned her the unqualified praise
of all who have seen her establishment, commented the army report.
Special establishments near Chester and at Elsenham Hall Paddocks in
Essex catered for horses and mules suspended from service as incurably
vicious. Here again, the Land Army girls showed determination and quiet
pluck to send the animals back to the Army not only cured but fool proof.
More in IWM doc.
S R Church piece, a Womens Remount Depot somewhere in England.
Daily Mail, c. 1916.
Women grooms. How we look after the horses. ... I am very sorry for the girl
who tries to deceive our boss about her knowledge of horses.
On your first morning, to arrive in the cold, grey dawn, after rising at the
unusual hour of 6 oclock to pass through the door into the blackness of the
riding school, where 60 horses are tethered in a double lineto look around for
someone with authority in the few glaring spots of light that throw strange
monster horse shadows onto the gaunt wallsand then to be told, start
watering from that end.
It is disconcerting enough in any case, as you slip by a pair of possibly
tactless heels to where you get some horse may own a head and headstall,
and then to lead him to the trough, where other dim figures are holding other

animals, tramping, snorting, biting, kicking. You are not nervous (absurd idea!)
But the effect is weird, grotesque in the darkness, and, as I said before, I am
sorry for the girl who comes as a pretender.
But, then, nobody could deceive our boss unless with pen and ink; never
face-to-face. I would wager that, is losing meant eating our hundred horses
one by one, with their shoes thrown in! A wonderful woman she is, with the
keenest green eyes in the world and straight brows, almost startlingly black,
against her pale face and soft grey hair. She has voice so deep and powerful
and clear that you shut your eyes and almost say it is a mans voice, and then
you realise a tender tone in it that no man could have, and you just say to
yourself, as I say 100 times a day, what an absolute topper she is!
It would be a pleasure to go on writing about her, but perhaps you have said
all when you have said that she can do anything with any horse and that there
is not a girl in the place who does not enjoy obeying her. She is a born
commander. And it is so rare an instinct in woman that I doubt if there be one
in a thousand who could command such absolute, unwavering confidence.
Fearless horsewomen.
And it is her personality backed up by her knowledge that has made our depot
the successful concern it is. The more you know of horses, and especially of
the raw, rough brutes, many of them thoroughly vicious, which are bound to
be among any lot picked out at random from the army type of animal, the
more wonderful it seems that we should run them without a man on the
premises. Wonderful. Why, it comes near to being incredible! And without her
it would be incredible. Some of our girls are fine, fearless horsewomen, and
before they have been here long were all fairly competent grooms; but it is
she who tackles the dangerous horse first, she who is always on the spot in
every emergency, and she, too, who organises everything from ordering the
tons of hay, oats, bedding etc, to noticing that are stray cats get a saucer of
milk in the harness room at teatime. Nothing escapes her vigilant eye nor ever
seems to perturb the humour in her face.
With a savage horse she is a marvel, and so calm about it into the bargain.
She tamed one who came to us with the cheerful reputation of having halfkilled six men running till nobody dared go into his box. Only the other day I
was absolutely defeated by a black fellow we called the Snorter or the
Warhorse. He bit, he kicked , he struck at me with his forelegs. ... He seemed
as supple as indiarubber, and his wicked hoofs came crashing around within
an inch of me time after time, till at last I went limping off on one foot and a
half to say I couldnt get near him. Well, she came and talked to him and
showed him (only showed him) a little short thick stick, and he stood like a
lamb after the first five seconds.
No picnic
For the Remount Depot is not a picnic. Now that we have roused the curiosity
of a larger public than the small boys who came tumbling out of the cottages
and the grinning motorists in passing cars, to whom our string of horses
ridden at exercise by ladies on cross saddles was an object of amusement,
were always seeing ourselves in illustrated papers labelled Smiling Dianas,

or something equally foolish.

If we are Dianas, we get far hotter, dirtier, and more tired than would be at all
dignified in a goddess. Of course it looks very jolly to see us all going out for a
pleasant ride in the country. Those girls are having the time of their lives,
people probably say when they see us. So we are. I cannot deny it. But I think
some of our friends who last saw us, say, in a London ball-room would realise
the other side of the picture if they could look in one morning at a time when
they are generally in bed and see the erstwhile fine lady in her riding breeches
and shirt, with the sleeves rolled up over her elbows, busily engaged in
cleaning a dirty old carthorse, or a charger back from the front with filthy coat,
or raking refuse out of the stalls. Our boss has no room for the type of
applicant who loves riding, dont you know, but couldnt possibly do stable
Love of the horse
We are doing mens work, as much of it as men could do and considerably
more than men would have done in those dim, distant days before the war
had taught most of us to put our backs into a job of work and keep them there.
It seems a long, long while since one strolled out after breakfast in well-cut
habit and shiny boots to where our well-mannered hunter awaited us in the
yard with a stud groom and a helper or so in attendance.
But everytime our back aches under a truss of hay or a sack of oats we are
braced up by the thought that we (and we hail from New Zealand, Ireland, the
North country, as well as England proper) are taking our share in the work
that they are doing across the sea there where our hearts are. And in that
thought we go on cheerfully as before.
For we are a very merry crew, mostly under twenty-five I should imagine, and
we get to love the horses as if they were our own. There is beautiful Venus,
the chestnut mare, for whom I always steal a few minutes from my other
charges to make her coat glow in the sunlight. And old Pasha, who looks like
a cross between a camel and a clotheshorse, and he knows at least
seventeen methods of either nipping or kicking you, even he has his genial
moments at the drinking trough, for instance. And Satan, who never goes
out except with our rough rider; it takes several of us to hold him like a rising
balloon till she jumps into the saddle, and then away they go in the maddest
series of rushes across the paddock. And Baby, how our young carthorse,
who weighs 15cwt or so and comes bounding down the riding school to her
morning drink in charge of a wee wisp of a girl you could almost pick up in
your hand.
Yes, when all is said and done, I suppose it is mainly our love of horses for
their own sakes that brings us and keeps us here, although I shall be late
for the evening feed if I write another word.
But it is the love of the horse.

Large amount of skilled manpower needed to run remounts, about 700 men

to 3000 horses. As more men are called up, need for more women.
December 1915 Times article, mentions 3 large depots run by
"Some of the ladies have been brought up on Australian and Canadian horse
ranches, but most of them are hunting women.""I have seen a number of
them, riding astride, exercising a long string of horses like the trainers of the
racing stable."
Up at 6.30am, fall into baths in digs.
Felt hats, breeches.
Though Remount Depot life is healthy and interesting, the work is very hard
and there is a rough side to it, wrote the author of Work at a Ladies
Remount Depot, Fortunately there have been few serious accidents or
broken bones, but kicks and awkward falls are not unusual. The hunting
girls rose to a new challenge and did so with no fuss or fanfare, perhaps
without realising what an impact their pioneering efforts would have. The
ladies are out to do a mans work and release him to join a fighting unit, the
reports author explained, before adding with British self-effacement, It is all
in the days work and they ask for no favours.

Women at Russley Park

preparation of chargers. Lady Birkbeck is superintendent, head groom Mrs
Ironside. Ladies accommodated in stable lads dorms and have their own
mess room and kitchen.
each lady has three horses, and in summer young Irish horses out at grass
waiting for vacancies in the yard. Fit horses sent to Reserve Cavalry
Regiments at Tidworth or to Southampton for Transport to France. Some infoal mares. Vet is the only male involved.
Mrs Ironsides work is that of a responsible and very competent stud groom
the care and feeding of some 70 horses in stables and at grass, the care of
foaling mares, the dressing of wounds and contusions, the dressing of
ringworm spots, the giving of balls and drenches, taking of temperatures,
rasping of teeth, etc. etc. are all in her hands and no man ever did it better
or with sounder judgment.
The standard of efficiency of this establishment is that of a first-class hunting
stable attention is paid to every detail, horses clean and bright, stables
spotless, windows cleam, no cobwebs, brass shining and even the
pitchforks burnished.
December 1915 report by The Times. "ladies with a practical knowledge of
horses" from local hunts, "turn that knowledge to good account." "The
inspectors of remounts who periodically visit the depots say they have never
known horses to be so well attended to by men." NB class difference - not
working class grooms working for a pittance. Headline: "Useful work by
hunting women."
It transformed horses fresh off the boat from Ireland into chargers for service
on the front line. It was overseen by Lady Mabel Birkbeck, the wife of Major
General Sir William Henry Birkbeck, who was Director of Remounts from
1912 to 1920. Another illustrator of Black Beauty, Lucy Kemp-Welch, visited
and painted the young women at work. In The Straw Ride: Russley Park

Remount Dept, Wiltshire, three young women grooms ride and lead pairs
of high spirited horses round a covered exercise ground in a whirl of milling
legs and tossed heads. In The Ladies Army Remount Dept, Russley Park,
Wiltshire, 1918, the gentlewomens shirtsleeves are rolled up and scarves
cover their hair. Their horses step out two-by-two along a farm track in a
long file that disappears off the edge of the painting, some obedient, others
fighting, all full of animation.
The doughtily-named Mrs Ironside was head groom at Russley Park and each
of her girls was responsible for three horses at a time. The only man involved
was the vet who visited once a week. The routine was as follows:
early morning stables 6 to 7.30, when the boxes are thoroughly washed
out and the horses rubbed down, watered and fed. Breakfast follows, and the
string then turns out to exercise on the downs. Midday stables on return from
exercise and dinner at one oclock. At two, horses that require special
schooling are taken out and clipping and singeing and other odd jobs are
taken in hand which occupy all hands till tea at 4.30.
Evening stables 5 to 6, and then the cleaning of saddles. Supper is at eight
and the whole establishment is in bed by nine. Mrs Ironsides work is that
of a responsible and very competent stud groom the care and feeding of
some 70 horses is [sic] stables and at grass, the care of foaling mares, the
dressing of wounds and contusions, the dressing of ringworm spots, the
giving of balls and drenches, taking of temperatures, rasping of teeth,
poulticing, bandaging, fomentation etc. etc. are all in her hands and no man
ever did it better or with sounder judgment.
The standard of efficiency of this establishment is that of a first-class hunting
stable attention is paid to every detail, horses clean and bright, stables
spotless, windows clean, no cobwebs, brass shining and even pitchforks
Lucy Kemp-Welch (18691958) was a British painter who specialized in
painting working horses. She is best known for her illustrations to the 1915
edition of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. The Lucy Kemp-Welch estate has
been represented by Messum's Fine Art since 1975.
Glamorous most land girls working in dairies or fieldworkers, writing uplifting
songs about chilblains or how to look after pigs. These women weren't just
looking after horses, but cavalry chargers, the creme de la creme of the
army. Soldiers always ready to be wowed by cavalry regiments, shortly
before they were cut down.
Novelty most land girls working for farmers, here entire structure is female.
IWM footage, August 1918. Women at RP were in Agricultural Section.
Training, acting as grooms.
Have list of Land Army women in Wiltshire given good service medals at end
of war.
Radio 4 documentary says officers chargers rehabbed there. Some fresh
horses from Ireland? Gentlewomen. Andrew and Ellie Kingsmill - owners.
Only 14% of horses in UK went to war. Not one of the larger remounts. Main
stables no longer there.

1880s on, more women beginning to hunt. More socially acceptable, better
riders, safer saddles.
1890s, woman riding astride with Devon and Somerset Staghounds, mocked
in Punch. Earlier women travellers.
1870s, Anna Sewell so knowledgeable some refused to believe she was a
woman. Mrs Hayes, Mrs Power O'Donoghue books, magazine columns,
proving selves steeplechasing and in hunting field.
1908 women shown at exhibit riding astride at Olympia, but must be
sidesaddle in the arena.
1910 already quite a few women riding astride in West and North Country
1913 Queen Mary tries to ban women riding astride in Hyde Park.
1914 King refuses to watch women ride astride at Olympia. Some doctors in
favour, some against. Belief that women's legs too weak, or that adductor
muscles will be strained and will draw organs out of shape. There were
already several women running hunts, others took over while men away at
war. Kaiser says officers' wives must not ride astride. Arguments against
sidesaddle - bad for horse's back.
riding one of few areas where women held on to gains made in war (vote