Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Cadogan Riding School and the Second World War

I wrote a while back about the fate of the Cadogan Riding School in the Second World War, and had thought that its destruction was a terrible tragedy, but this wasn’t owner Horace Smith’s attitude at all.  The War came, he said, when there was a “very bad depression” in the horse world, affecting both Cadogan's dealing and riding school businesses.  Their outgoings in 1939 were very high indeed; they had 250 horses, a large staff and high overheads.  The outbreak of war was actually a help as the Government bought nearly all their horses, though Cadogan lost money on them.  Unlike those owners Josephine Pullein-Thompson described, who shot their horses rather than see them taken for military service, Horace Smith made active efforts to shift his.

“Each county had a different purchasing officer, and if a certain officer cast any of my horses for some small reason - such as their being either too small, or too big—I sent them into another county for inspection by a different officer; and thus I disposed, in time, of all my ordinary hunters and riding school horses."

A (very skinny) remount being measured for the French Army at Cadogan Stables

Horace Smith kept back around 20 of the most valuable horses in order to keep the business going, and the empty stabling and coach houses were let as storage or business premises.  Their largest buildings, which housed over 80 horses as well as offices, were bombed, and two horses and an employee were slightly injured.  The destruction, Smith said, was a “blessing in disguise.” The school's lease had less than a year to run. The delapidations they would have had to meet at the end of the lease would have been very heavy, but all this was avoided after the premises were bombed. 

The indoor Riding School in Cadogan Lane, which had escaped the earlier bombing, was demolished in 1943 by a flying bomb:  Horace Smith had moved his belongings out of the flat above on the day before.  

If you haven't read A Horseman Through Six Reigns, Horace Smith's autobiography, I can highly recommend it.  It is a fascinating picture of a man who lived through, and managed to keep his business going through, the complete turn around from travel by horse to travel by car.  The book is long out of print, but is very easy to find secondhand.

1 comment:

Country Cottage Chic said...

That sounds like a very interesting read.

Jayne