Monday, 2 April 2018

What to call your pony book

Have you written a pony book? Writing a book is one thing, but thinking of a title for it is quite another. Do you tell the reader exactly what they’re going to get, or do you hint at it? Publishers in the past worked on the fair assumption that if you were looking for a pony book, the word ‘pony’ shoe-horned into the title would probably do the trick.

And going by the evidence of the eighty years of so that the pony book has been going, they were not wrong.

What do we want? We want a pony (and there’s a title for you for free, because as far as I know, no one’s snaffled that one, nor, oddly enough, He Wanted a Pony). Diana Pullein-Thompson kicked off her solo publishing career with I Wanted a Pony and Peggie Cannam followed with She Wanted a Pony.

There were titles that addressed the fantasy of owning a pony: the iconic Wish for a Pony, followed by Dream Pony (a popular title, this one), joined by A Very Special Pony, The Magic Pony and The Paradise Pony and Jill and the Perfect Pony.

How were you going to get that pony you dreamed of? There was the prosaic, and for most people, accurate, They Bought Her a Pony and A Pony for Sale.

If you were going to have to rely on your own resources, well, then there was Quest for a Pony, The Pony Hunt and The Pony Fund.

Or maybe you could win one. Jackie Won a Pony. Wendy won one too in Wendy Wins a Pony, and so did Tessa in The Prize Pony. The Pony Raffle might have turned up trumps for you.

If you weren’t lucky enough to win a pony, and had to pay for it, Margaret Stanley Wrench was prepared to ask that question for you in How Much for a Pony? Answers came in the form of The Penny Pony, Pennies for a Pony and The Bob-a-Job Pony, and, showing the unfortunate effects of inflation, The Ten Pound Pony.

Some authors had more imaginative solutions than simply buying a pony. Lucy Daniels had A Pony in the Post. Myrtle Ellen Green came up with The Part-Exchange Pony, and one of my particular favourites here, A Pony – Doctor’s Orders! Would that have been a solution to Pony Madness, I wonder?

If only ponies were available on the NHS.

The word ‘pony’ was tacked on to all sorts of things: The Pony Picnic, Black Pony Inn, and The Wednesday Pony. There were Pony Tracks, The Pony Clue, Pony Plot and Pony Sleuths. There were Pony Jobs for Jill, and Sue had a TV Pony. And then two books which really should be shelved together: The Strawberry-Jam Pony and its friend, The Marmalade Pony.

There were titles telling you pretty much all you needed to know about the pony: Misty the Grey Pony, Asido the Mexican Pony, Sheltie the Shetland Pony, Molly the New Forest Pony (and Trusty our New Forest Pony), and another of my favourites, Hua Ma the Flower Pony. And The Pink Pony and Rebel Pony and The Wild Pony and the No-Good Pony. And there were ponies to pull on the heartstrings: Nobody’s Pony, Second Best Pony, and The Lonely Pony.

And if there were plenty of books devoted to getting that pony, there were certainly those where the opposite was true: The Lost Pony for a start. Mary Treadgold had No Ponies, where the ponies had disappeared in the aftermath of the Second World War. Sticking with the theme of doom, she wrote The Rum Day of the Vanishing Pony. Mary Gervaise wrote an even rummer story where ponies vanished through cracks that opened up in the ground into underground caverns in her The Vanishing Pony. Josephine Pullein-Thompson wrote I Had Two Ponies about a girl who sells both her ponies in the first chapter. And then comes to regret it. .More recently, there’s one of my personal favourites, Trixie and the Dream Pony of Doom which sounds like the sort of pony that if you had it, you’d want to get rid of it in the first chapter.

So there you are. All human life is there, tacked on to the word pony. What are you waiting for? Could you be the author who tackles He Wanted a Pony? And no one’s written The Instagram Pony yet.

Titles mentioned
In case you’re wondering how you can find the books mentioned in the piece, here is a full list of the titles mentioned and who they’re by, in author order.

Ros Asquith: Trixie and the Dream Pony of Doom
Judith M Berrisford: Jackie Won a Pony
Judith M Berrisford: Sue’s TV Pony
Judith M Berrisford: Nobody’s Pony
Mary Buckland: Trusty Our New Forest Pony
Beryl Bye: Nobody’s Pony
Peggie Cannam: She Wanted a Pony
Joanna Cannan: They Bought Her a Pony
Catherine Carey: The Pink Pony
Peter Clover: Sheltie the Shetland Pony
Primrose Cumming: The Wednesday Pony
Lucy Daniels: A Pony in the Post
Wendy Douthwaite: A Very Special Pony
Ruby Ferguson: Pony Jobs for Jill
Ruby Ferguson: Jill and the Perfect Pony.
Mary Gervaise: The Vanishing Pony
Mary Gervaise: The Pony Clue
Myrtle Ellen Green: The Part-Exchange Pony
Myrtle Ellen Green: A Pony – Doctor’s Orders!
Elinore Havers: Dream Pony
Elinore Havers: Pony Sleuths
Elinore Havers: Pony Hunt
Sarah Hawkins: The Lonely Pony
Sara Herbert: Pony Plot
Betty Horsfield: The Pony Fund.
Geraldine Kaye: The Pony Raffle
Cecilia Knowles: Hua Ma the Flower Pony
Sheila Lavelle: The Strawberry Jam Pony
Patricia Leitch: Rebel Pony
Patricia Leitch: The Magic Pony
Joyce Mary Lennon: Misty the Grey Pony
Rita Lyttle: Pony Madness
Kathleen Mackenzie: The Prize Pony
Linda Newbery: The Marmalade Pony
Olive Norton: The Bob-a-Job Pony
E H Parsons: Quest for a Pony
K M Peyton: The Paradise Pony
Christine Pullein-Thompson: The Lost Pony
Christine Pullein-Thompson: The Pony Picnic
Christine Pullein-Thompson: Black Pony Inn
Christine Pullein-Thompson: I Want that Pony!
Diana Pullein-Thompson: A Pony for Sale
Diana Pullein-Thompson: I Wanted a Pony
Josephine Pullein-Thompson: I Had Two Ponies
Josephine Pullein-Thompson: The No-Good Pony
Lucy Rees: The Wild Pony
Lady Kitty Ritson: Molly the New Forest Pony
Mary Sharp: Second Best Pony
Catherine Spencer: Pennies for a Pony
Elizabeth Sprigge: Pony Tracks
Mary Treadgold: No Ponies
Mary Treadgold: The Rum Day of the Vanishing Pony
Cecil G Trew: Asido the Mexican Pony
Veronica Westlake: The Ten Pound Pony
Constance White: Dream Pony
Barbara Willard: The Penny Pony
Dorian Williams: Wendy Wins a Pony
Margaret Stanley Wrench: How Much for a Pony?

Monday, 19 March 2018

A supermarket for horses: the Horse Bazaar of Baker Street

The vast shopping centre is something we’re all used to, but it’s not where you’d go if you wanted to buy a horse. In the early years of the 19th century, it is exactly where you would have gone, particularly if you’d wanted to mix with the fashionable. I must admit that before this week, I’d not given a great deal of thought to how horses were bought and sold in the nineteenth century, but I was asked if I knew about a riding school that had once existed in King Street, off Baker Street in London. I didn’t, but I investigated. I found that there had been a riding school which occupied the former King Street Barracks, established in 1822. And it was far, far more than a riding school. Whatever your equine need, the Horse Bazaar could meet it: horses, carriages, equipment – it was all there.

Horace Wellbeloved MA wrote an 1826 guidebook for visitors to London so that they missed none of the delights it had to offer. London Lions for Country Cousins and Beyond included the Horse Bazaar as something one must not miss, along with London Bridges new and old, Mr Busby’s self-moving Orrery and the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly.

The entire operation covered two acres of ground. It had space for around 400 horses and 500 carriages, all sold on the commission model. You could buy hunters and carriage horses, hackneys, ponies and ladies’ horses; phaetons, stanhopes, dennets, dog carts and pony gigs. There was a ‘capacious riding-house’, room to exercise horses, saloons for harness and saddlery, and plenty for people to do should they tire of inspecting the Bazaar’s equine glories. The London Courier and Evening Gazette advertised ‘a Diorama of the Picturesque View of the PASS of SALZBOURG, with WATER-FALL’ in August 1828 – just one of many on show.

From London Lions for Country Cousins
There were three coffee rooms that could supply you with tea, coffee, sandwiches, ices, confectionery and fruit. There was a waiting room, as well as private subscription rooms (the largest was 133 feet long and 47 feet wide). In one year, the operation was said to have turned over more than half a million pounds (around a staggering £35 million today).

The Horse Bazaar was staffed by an identically dressed army of grooms, who wore ‘white trousers, blue spencer jackets and blue foraging caps with white bands and top-knots – all silent as the members of a Carthusian convent’. The only sound to be heard was the tramp of horses’ hooves. This unexpected silence, wrote Terence Templeton, was due to the fact ‘no liquor is allowed to enter the bazaar’. ‘You may seek’, he said, ‘no other explanation of the mystery. A set of English ostlers and grooms would as soon think of talking without a tongue as without liquor to set it in motion.’ That the ostlers and grooms may have preferred silent communion with their horses to the chatter of tourists appears not to have occurred to him.

Horses and carriages were sold via weekly auctions: whether they were also sold outside these times, I am not clear, but I find it difficult to believe that a ready purchaser for a fine carriage horse would have been turned away. The auctions themselves were prey to at least some of the shenanigans that plagued horse selling then and now: a ‘Looker-on’ noted in the Sporting Magazine of November 1822 that two six-year-old horses were sold in quick succession as the sons of Sir Peter – a rare achievement, he remarked, as it was then 1822 and Sir Peter had died in 1811.

The Bazaar was a huge social success. Young bloods of family and fashion visited, together with those ‘whose passion for horse absorbs and supersedes all others’, and those who made their living from horses. Many ‘ladies in the first rank and fashion’ visited daily, although only after noon, so that the stables were perfectly in order. Royalty appeared. In 1830, the London Evening Standard mentioned that Prince Frederick of Prussia had gone to inspect the Bazaar.

All this glory was the responsibility of Mr George Young, the proprietor. Mr Young was not the owner of the whole: Templeton, in his long, long letter to his cousin Frank in the New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1825, hints that there was ‘another manager still more supreme.’ This was John Maberly, MP, who went spectacularly bankrupt in 1832, but the Horse Bazaar appeared to have found another owner, for it continued, with varied success.

Copyright Grace's Guide

The Horse Bazaar’s success with fashionable visitors does not appear to have lasted: perhaps public taste simply moved on. But the Bazaar carried on being part of public life, in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily predict. It was the first home of Madame Tussaud’s waxworks, the site of the Smithfield agricultural show, and housed one of London’s first indoor ice rinks.

The Bazaar played its own small part in the political history of the nation due to the space it provided for mass meetings. In October 1831 the Reform Bill was rejected by the House of Lords. The bill was intended to make elections fairer and remove some of the abuses of the electoral system that then existed. Rather than constituencies, the country was then divided into counties and boroughs, which returned MPs. Some boroughs had very few electors: in one notorious case, Sarum Hill in Wiltshire, none, meaning that its owners, the Pitt family, could return whoever they liked as MP, with no opposition whatsoever. Other boroughs had as many as 12,000 electors.

Neither was there any consistency in who could vote. Some boroughs required you to own land, with others merely requiring of their voters that they lived in a house with a hearth sufficient to boil a pot.

There was huge general enthusiasm for the Bill, except amongst those who had most to lose. After the Lords threw out the Reform Bill, a meeting was called for the parishioners of Marylebone to assemble at the Horse Bazaar to ‘address the King, support his minsters and consult on the present state of affairs ... the inhabitants are desired to devote Monday next solemnly to these objects, to suspend all business and shut up their shops.’ So many people turned up (around 30,000, it was said, could not get in) that the meeting adjourned to Hyde Park, and then on to Regents Park in case the meeting was declared as illegal as being outside the parish boundaries. Partly as a result of the considerable public support for the Bill, the Reform Act of 1832 was passed, removing rotten boroughs, and (slightly) extending the vote.

The Horse Bazaar’s extensive grounds allowed it to become home to the Smithfield Show (the country’s major agricultural show) in 1839, until the show moved to Islington in 1862. The show lasted four days, and attracted thousands of visitors, particularly after the Royal Family began to attend. Prince Albert both visited and exhibited. In 1844, a polled ox he had bred was bought for 60 guineas by Her Majesty’s butcher, and in 1848, he won first prize for the best Hereford ox.

By 1842, when Charles Knight wrote Knight’s London, horses were no longer sold, but carriages and harness were, as well as furniture and stoves. The premises were described as ‘too extensive’, which is presumably why the waxworks exhibition, and artificial ice Knight described were now features. The Bazaar site provided a home for Madame Tussaud’s waxworks from 1836, and by 1867, Tussauds occupied much of the site. The equine element continued to decline as furniture sellers Druce, and Madame Tussauds expanded. By 1908, most of the site was occupied by Druce and Madame Tussauds, though there was still room for the storage of ‘empty coffins, false bears, volatile dukes, lead and bricks in bulk …’ as reported by Donald Shaw in London in the Sixties.

Copyright Westminster City Archive
The Horse Bazaar no longer exists. The Druce site was bombed in 1940, and took several more direct hits as the war progressed. The site was cleared, and the Horse Bazaar was replaced in 1957 by Marks and Spencer’s then headquarters, and is now the site of a complex of offices and shops. Google Earth reveals now not the faintest flicker of a horse.

Some Horse Bazaar snippets
  • There is a piece of film footage of the fire after Druce’s was bombed. There’s no direct link, but you can see the piece here.
  • The Druce family were part of a famous Victorian court case: the Druce-Portland case, in which the wife of Thomas Druce claimed her husband had not died in 1864, but instead had resumed his life as the Duke of Portland. She therefore claimed her children were heirs to the dukedom. The case was dismissed.
  • Samuel Godley, a hero of Waterloo, worked at the Horse Bazaar after leaving the army due to ill health.
  • Copyright-free images of the Smithfield Show are surprisingly difficult to find, but follow this link and you’ll get some idea of what it looked like.
  • Another image of the Horse Bazaar here.

The information on the Horse Bazaar’s involvement in the Reform Act is from:
'Papers: 1831', in London Radicalism 1830-1843: A Selection of the Papers of Francis Place, ed. D J Rowe (London, 1970), pp. 34-48. British History Online [accessed 15 March 2018].
All other sources are referenced in the text.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Review: Jessica Naomi Rise - After the Pony Club

I’ve had this lurking on the Kindle for a while, but had forgotten about it until I was sitting at the vet’s with the cat. It’s a continuation of Josephine Pullein-Thompson’s Noel and Henry series, and as you’d expect from the title, looks at what happens now they’re at that interesting period between a secure school-based existence, and making their own lives. And thereby, I think, hangs whether you’re going to like this book or not. If you wonder what characters would be like outside the confines of a children’s book, then give this a go. I enjoyed it. If you’re not a fan of the Chalet Girls Grow Up kind of fanfic, which takes a set of beloved characters and gives them anything but the cosy existence they have in the books, then you’ll hate it.

The action centres around the Holbrookes’ house again, over the Christmas holidays. Dick is back from Oxford, and finds his father has sold his pony, Crispin, brutally, and without letting him know, for meat. Noel is doing some rather desultory riding reaching, and Henry is on leave from the Army. John is farming, and Susan is living at home, not doing a great deal apart from being irritated by her family. It soon becomes clear that there’s quite a lot more going on than that. Susan is unsure how much she likes John; Henry knows just how much he likes Noel, but something seems to have gone wrong somewhere. And Dick, poor Dick, is devastated by the loss of Crispin, and it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Without giving too much away, it’s Dick’s situation that you’ll need to swallow wholeheartedly if you’re going to have any sympathy with what the author has done, for Dick is struggling, and he is the pivot around which everything else turns.

While I’m on the subject of Dick I was surprised that his riding ability seems to have taken a dive, which is odd when he’s considered one of the more capable riders in the series.

But other than that, the author does a good job of making the characters sound authentically themselves, but just a little older. I particularly enjoyed Rose’s portrayal of their shifting perceptions of how they should live their lives, and that I think is the book’s greatest strength, because I didn’t doubt for one second that the characters would behave in the way she has them do.

If you do decide to take the plunge, let me know what you think: I’d love to know. 

Other stuff

Friday, 19 January 2018

If you were a pony-mad child in the sixties and seventies

(With more than a nod to Horse and Hound, who have done similar things for the 80s and 90s.)

Elephant-ear jodphurs were still a thing

The Jacatex page in PONY Magazine was something you poured over for hours at a time, trying to work out if there was some way you could magic together the enormous amount of shillings necessary to get the ‘Pat’ riding mac. Or the ‘Pat’ hacking jacket. Or the ‘Pat’ jodphurs. Anything, really, that wasn’t the elephant ear jodphurs that were about third-hand when you got them.

Reading PONY Magazine cover-to-cover, even Pat and Pickles, which somehow you never really took to.

Knowing Jill’s Gymkhana off by heart. And Jackie Won a Pony. And I Had Two Ponies. And No Mistaking Corker. And any other pony book you could get your hands on.

Riding ponies up from the field in just a headcollar. You had a hat as a small nod to health and safety.

Your riding teacher thinking that standing on the pony’s quarters as it was going round the field was a totally acceptable thing to do (after all, he’d done it in the Army).

Seeing said instructor demonstrating full scissors after you’d at last managed to master half-scissors, and knowing that you’d never, ever, get there.

Becoming aware that there was a bit of a disconnect between some riding instructors who were all about collection and dressage, and others who, well, weren’t.

You spent hours and hours trying to come up with a suitably witty slogan to win the tie-breaker on the WH Smith Win-a-Pony competition.

You looked forward to the school holidays when White Horses and Champion the Wonder Horse would suddenly appear on television.

Becoming conveniently deaf when it was suggested by your nearest and dearest that there were other things in life besides horses and ponies. But that’s universal, whenever you grew up.