More on the Cadogan Riding School

I wrote this piece some years ago when I was writing my book, Heroines on Horseback, and struggling to complete the chapter on Ruby Ferguson and the Jill books. I am a grade A prevaricator, and like to prevaricate by researching anything other than what I'm supposed to be working on. I'd just bought a collection of Riding Magazines from the 1930s, and they provided rich, rich fodder for prevarication.

I wrote an earlier post on the Cadogan Riding School and what happened to it in the Second World War, and you can find that post here.


I have now finished my accounts, Holiday Club is behind me and I have therefore nothing to prevaricate about at all and no reason whatsoever for not getting on with wrestling some sense into my great thoughts about Ruby Ferguson, but like a horse turned out to pasture for the first time in the spring the freedom from duty has gone to my head, and my head has turned to the Cadogan Riding School, about which it wishes to know more.

The Cadogan Riding School was one of the major riding schools of the inter-war period. The Cadogan School taught beginners through to advanced riders: jumping, driving and evening classes. The school's premises were at the back of what is now the Carlton Tower, in Cadogan Lane. Besides this central London branch, it had offshoots at Richmond, and a hunting stables at Holyport, Maidenhead, which was managed in the 1920s by Dick Francis's father. Horace Smith, the owner, and his daughter, Sybil, taught the Queen and Princess Margaret to ride.

I still haven't managed to find a picture of the Cadogan school's indoor riding school (I do not know why I am so obsessed by this, but I am).* I have, however, tracked down an article Horace Smith, owner of the School, wrote for the first issue of Riding Magazine, which appeared in June 1936. In this he recommends that beginners spend at least six weeks learning in the indoor school before they are allowed out into the open. The picture below shows Mr Smith returning from a ride out in the Park, at, presumably, the Cadogan Riding School.

The present Queen and Princess Margaret were lucky to be taught by him: I wish some of my early riding teachers had followed Mr Smith's dictum:
The art of teaching lies in a good judgment of psychology; in knowing just how far to go, in giving confidence to the pupil by combining kindness with discipline, and by always being careful to see that when the pupils have finished their lesson they leave the school with a happy memory.
The picture below of one of Mr Smith's lessons exudes regimented calm:

The picture must have been taken in the indoor school, but none of the interior details are shown. The Cadogan Riding School was the last Central London school to have an indoor riding arena, and this and most of the school's buildings fell victim to the Blitz during the Second World War. The school returned to London, albeit in a reduced form, after the Second World War, and was finally closed when the pressure of traffic between the school's buildings in Cadogan Lane, and the entrance of Hyde Park which it used at Albert Gate became too much. The School then operated out of Holyport until it closed in the 1970s.

As a nod to my current obsession with the indoor riding school, here is an advertisement for another riding school. This one was in Kingsbury, in what were then the rural outskirts of North London. The advertisement appeared in the same issue of Riding as Mr Smith's article.

More on the Cadogan Riding School
* I did manage to track something down that might give us an idea of the interior of the riding school: this early advertisement for the riding school certainly shows an indoor school.
The Cadogan Riding School during the Second World War

Riding Magazine, June 1936
Joyce Bellamy, Hyde Park for Horsemanship, J A Allen, 1975
Horace Smith, A Horseman Through Six Reigns, Odhams, 1965


Angela Caunce said…
My father was employed at the Cadogan Riding school before the war although Im not sure when exactly. He later returned to his home town in Yorkshire - Halifax - and set up his own riding school there. At some point he actually rode to London and back and stayed over at the Cadogan school. I have a photograph that was published in a local newspaper on his arrival back in Halifax, showing him mounted on the horse he'd ridden, a mare called Wendy. I wish I had more details but he has been dead for many years and as so often happens, I regret not finding out more when he was alive.
Jane Badger said…
How fascinating! Your father must have been very enterprising. Did you grow up at the riding school in Halifax?
gina osullivan said…
I just typed a long comment- and then it was gone ARgggH :(

I learned to ride at the Cadogan Ridng School in Holyport Nr Maindenhead in the early 1960's. I was 4. It was run by Sybil Smith. I remember being taught to canter on a welsh pony called Merrylegs, and was on the lead line wth Mr Mead. We sang "here we go gathering nuts in May " as we rode along!
Jane Badger said…
Oh, I feel your pain. If you ever feel like doing battle with the comments again it would be great to hear your experiences. I have just mentally cantered round a ring singing "Nuts in May."
caroline eddolls said…
I was a working pupil at Holyport in 63/64 studying for my BHSAI as it was in those days. Gina I remember Merrylegs very well also Sorrento and Tonette who were in the small pony yard. Miss Smiths grey mare Myrtle was probably used by Mr Mead to lead you from. They were both brilliant at giving confidence to small children. I have so many happy memories of them and Ken and Nancy and my time at Cadogan. Horses have been my life and I still ride my bouncy 16.2 appaloosa every day. How lucky am I? Could spout on for ever but thrilled to find your post.
Anonymous said…
Hi I live in Holyport, and would love to know where these stables once were. I had heard that the Queen had once ridden here, and its nice to know some of the villages history.
caroline eddolls nee Dockar-Drysdale said…
Hi you wanted to know where the Cadogan riding school was? The road from the M4 as I remember
was pretty straight with houses on the left, you then come to a slight bend with a lane on the left and a track on the right which led to Miss Smith's bungalow and a back path entrance to the school. If you carried on down the main road the main entrance was about 200-300 yds on the right hand side, on the left of the drive was a huge indoor riding school, in my time used as storage. I visited some years ago and it's all been built on. Sad, but I have the memories!!
Jane Badger said…
Thank you very much! That's great to know. I had a feeling it might all have been built on now.
Carol Ayers nee/smallbone said…
I worked at the Cadogan riding school on Saturdays and during the school holidays about 1967 my grandmother knew Miss Smith and arranged for me to help out in the stables in return for riding lessons, I remember merrylegs, snowball, joroks, and especially Claremont a very highly strung Thouroughbred who got very exited at feed time scared me to death the first time I was sent to feed him. I remember Mr Mead with affection he often bought me and some of the other girls icecream.
It was after the fire that I was there and the stables were becoming quite run down, I remember the smell of the tack room to this day and all of the lovely old tack that lived thee side saddles etc....happy memories
Sally Meads said…
I am William Meads Grandaughter Sally and have many happy memories of the riding stables that were in Holyport. Also fond memories of Sybil Smith and her two dachsunds Freddie and Ferdie!
Merrylegs, Juniper, myrtle, Tommy and claremont are in my memory. Unfortunately the stables were demolished and Cadogan Close was built on the site many years ago.
Heneghan said…
Hi, I am William Meads Elder Granddaughter Hilary, and I recall Nancy (car number plate FUD 48?,) and Hilary Shaw. Horses that I recall: Marquis (had plaited reins and was always ridden by Ken (my Uncle)), Juniper, Merrylegs, Snowdrop, Heather, Patsy, Nutty, Magpie, Louis, Jorrocks ( who loved banana skins), Winston, Claremont, Sambo, Tommy to name a few. Claremont was about 16 hands and was trained to side saddle. I have home movies of me standing on the broad back of Myrtle pre 1970 in the main collecting yard in front of the Royal Crest.. I remember fetching the ponies in from the fields late 1960's and high stepping ponies being kept in really deep litter at stables at the end of the main set. There were also the stables behind Sybil's bungalow, towards the road, which were used as isolation stables just behind the 'caravan'. I never knew the indoor school because it had been rented out to ? but the man who we saw was Mr Driver. I have photos of me with Shanti Sybil's west highland terrier before Freddie and FerdieSo many happy memories
Jane Badger said…
Thank you so much for your memories - it's great to hear about the ponies and people who were there. The home movie sounds absolutely fascinating.
I'm visiting Holyport very soon (end Aug 2014) and want to have a good walk around with old photos to see what remains! Luckily Google on Sat gives a lot of info. I just wish that I could remember the names of the shops.
Evans - general store
Ashley? the corner shop that sold ice creams, may have done hair cuts? hairdresser? can't remember as I was too young with no pocket money to spend!
If any info on Hilary Shaw and Nancy come to light......
Jane Badger said…
I hope you manage to find something that rings a bell - it'd be very interesting to hear back!
Anonymous said…
Cadogan horses were well schooled. I remember one particular grey mare who gave me a 1st in Horsemanship and Efficiency in 1959. She listened and gave her very best and was a complete lady on a double. I still have the photo. She carried three 1sts on her brow band with great pride. I loved her manners. The horseman who made her was very skilled.
Frances144 said…
When I was a child, I learned to ride at Miss Smith's school at Holyport! That must've been in 1968. I was 6 years old and we used to go round and round in circles. It was brilliant!
Jane Badger said…
I did the circle thing too, though alas not at Miss Smith's!
Hilary Heneghan said…
Could the grey mare have been Cadogan Pearl? I hardly remember her but somewhere I have a photo of me on her at the tender age of around 8 months. I think that she came from the London stables at about the same time as Ladybird. There were several Cadogans (Prince, Princess, Brunette, Firefly, Victory, Topper, Blossom and Marina) - it became the stable name. Sybil had a fly switch made out of her (Pearls) tail hair that I remember her using whilst riding Myrtle and Tommy.
When visiting back in the summer, memories came flooding back. We stayed in our caravan at Stroud Farm - the people who run the site only just remember the stables and helping out with hay and straw supplies after the fire.
Does anyone remember Suzinna(?) Trapini (?)- I think that her parents may have run Skindles hotel in Maidenhead.
I have memories - and photos - of some sort of pageant where my grandad was wearing a drivers cloak and top hat. I remember oiling the horses hooves and, prior to the event, riding in a coach which Grandad drove around Holyport, Bray, Taplow area.
Also I have a picture of me on the back of Gray Owl (I think at the Taplow show) which was owned by Colemans of Norwich
I have recently had access to pictures from scrap books kept from Smith's stables from 1924 - 1950's. We will endeavour to scan some photos from the London indoor school on to your site - a lot of the pictures are of the exercises done on horseback which have no back ground detail, but there are some of the public gallery and some early jumping lessons. The scrap books cover newspaper and magazine adverts/interviews/lead articles relating to royalty or 'silver screen stars'. There are heaps of reports from the 'shows' ie Richmond - so from the 50's David, Cadogan Pearl and Cadogan Tonette, the trio that seemed to win every thing, to reviews from Taplow, Windsor....
I also found out that my uncle played the part of Dick Turpin when the Magpies pub was closed due to Heathrow airport being built and have found a photo of this event.
Gosh, seeing these photos ( also of several horses being put for sale with the Holyport yard background) brought back so many memories. Heigh Ho - do people want to know the history of the place where they live?
Please if this stirs any memories....

Hilary Heneghan
Jane Badger said…
I am so impressed that you have scrap books - it would be wonderful if you could scan some photos. I'd love to see anything you have, from London or elsewhere. Do you have connections with the family?
Effie Marinos said…
I came across this site as I was researching references to early events in Holyport and looking for references to Sybil Smith as we have a Sybil Smith Cup for the best Post-Vintage Car at Holyport Village Fair. This year is our 70th anniversary and we are planning a number of events as part of the Fair on 4 June 2016 including a Memory Booth together with members of the local Darby and Joan Club. Any photos of the Holyport stables that could be shared would be very welcome.
Jane Badger said…
I'm sorry - I don't have any pictures of the Holyport school at all, but good luck with your village fair. I had no idea there was a Sybil Smith Cup. It sounds as if she was interested in vintage cars as well as horses.
Hilary Heneghan said…
I will have a word with my sister to see if she can dig up some photos from the 1960's.
I know that the Smiths stables in London did run Rolls Royce hire and services after the first world war. They produced a leaflet advertising the riding school/lessons etc on one side and Rolls Royce hire on the other. The tariff was 20 miles or 2 hours for £1.00.00 going up to a maximum of 80 miles for 10 hours for £3.10.00 that is £1.00 to £3.50 in todays money. They also advertised that any make of car could be supplied and that they did overhauls and repairs to clients cars. Motor omnibuses for Station work and theatres etc were available.
I do have a picture from a magazine of the indoor school at Holyport which boasted to be the biggest in England at the time.
The Royal Warrant had been held since Queen Victoria's time until just before the stables were sold.
I will try to get some photos uploaded but as the scrap books are so old we will have to photograph and then upload.
As we will both be retired by June we will come down for the event and bring the scrap books - hopefully the caravan site at Stroud Farm is still going.
Sally Meads said…
I was really pleased that there is a fair at Holyport and that there is a cup named in Sybil's memory - she would have been thrilled.
Of course her first love was horses - I don't remember a love of classic cars. I do know that in her younger years she had access to a chauffeur!!
I do however remember an orange mini clubman estate. She was an appalling driver. My Auntie and I used to tease her that driving as her passenger was like riding the wall of death!!
Fond memories of a lady whos like just doesn't exist anymore.
We spent alot of time in Holyport as youngsters as our Grandad (William Meads) was Sybil's manager.
I will look up some photos from the 1960's.
Jane Badger said…
Hilary - it would be great to see some 1960s photographs. I've been reading some issues of Riding Magazine from the 1930s, and the one series of non-horse articles was cars. I suppose it was a logical move, as horses in the 1930s were still regarded as a form of transport, and the car was just another.

I'm not surprised that the Smiths did cars too. To have survived for such a long time in very difficult years they must have possessed extraordinary business acumen.

Sally - that's a great anecdote! If you can look up some photos it would be great to see them.
Ryan Bennett said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan Bennett said…
Came across this blog whilst researching Horace and Sybil Smith. My father has lived in Holyport all his life, he remembers the riding school very well. On it's site now is a small housing development around a central green, called Cadogan Close. An alleyway leads to the footpath that went to Sybil's bungalow.

We lived next door to Sybil in her later years when she became infirm and moved from her bungalow to a house on the main road. He often called in on Sybil and her carer Evelyn to ensure they were safe and warm or needed any odd jobs taken care of, things mended etc.

When Sybil passed away most of her possessions were sold at auction due to her having no children, but my dad received a few pieces of memorabilia from her shed from Evelyn, sadly quite water damaged. Among them is the original Royal Warrant granted to Horace in Queen Victoria's reign, voided in 1901 upon her death and succession of the King. As you can imagine it is in terrible condition having lain in her shed for decades. There is also a watercolour painting of Horace driving a carriage in Hyde Park, painted by Evelyn Watherston. My dad seems to recall him having something wrong with his left arm, can anybody shed any light on this?

Anyway thank you so much for this blog and information on Horace and Sybil, very interesting for an old resident of Holyport.

(edited for spelling)
Jane Badger said…
Thank you for clearing up what happened to the riding school. I suspected that it might now have been built on.

I'm afraid I don't know what was wrong with Horace's left arm. I don't think he mentions it in his biography, as far as I can remember (but I am quite happy to be told I'm wrong).

How wonderful that you have the original Royal Warrant. Damaged, yes, but I wonder how few similar things still exist?
Pringle99 said…
Fascinating to find this information. I too learnt to ride at the Holyport Stables. A few lessons in the ring with Miss Smith but mostly in the fields with Old Mr Meades. And then his son Ken. I started riding with the lovely Merrylegs and learnt to canter holding Kens thumb and singing Nuts in May :) I progressed to riding Winston and always remember using double reigns and doing exercises such as Round the World. I later had my own horse, O' Hara that was stabled with Ken and Jean Meades near Blacknest Gate Windsor Great Park. So many happy memories :)
Anonymous said…
My sister and I grew up in Farnham Common and learned to ride at 'Mr. Forester's' , a riding school between Stoke Poges and Fulmer from 1968/9 and 1974. Miss Smith had 2 ponies there - Merrylegs and Juniper and a quite grumpy strawberry roan, hogged and docked called Tommy. She taught some private lessons to 2 children a girl and a younger boy who arrived by chauffeur. The boy brought a western saddle with him. I'm assuming that Miss Smith moved these horses to Mr. Forester's after her riding school closed? We were always a little bit in awe of Miss Smith who we thought was just about the oldest person we had ever met!
Jane Badger said…
Lovely to read your memories Pringle. I wonder how many people had a Merrylegs in their childhood?

Fiona - the more I read about Miss Smith, the more fascinating she sounds. I think I need to do a post on her.
Kathryn said…
It was lovely to read about the Cadogan Riding School and see mentions of Ken and Jean Meads. I worked for them at Blacknest Gate, Titness Park straight after training at Benenden for two years full-time and then part-time for several years and have always kept in touch (although Ken died some years ago).

I have happy memories of my time with them and Jean's sister, Ruth, and remember Ken talking about Sybil Smith so it's great to read some of the background.
Jane Badger said…
Lovely to hear from you - I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.
Anonymous said…
Any one know about Horace Smith and his 1923 Rolls-ROyce car? We have just acquired the car (no longer with original coachwork) and would love to see photos of him with the car or memories. The registration number was XP7542
Sue Jones - RealCarCo
Jane Badger said…
I'm sorry - I don't have anything that will help on his car, but I wish you luck with finding information.
Robert Burn said…
My parents married just after the war and due to the chronic housing shortage my father's employer let them rent one of the flats over the stables in, was it Cadogan Mews or Close? Anyway that's how as very young children my sister and I got to know Miss Smith, William, Evlyn and Ken. William, I always remember as being everyone's idea of what a stables manager should look, Evlyn welcoming with a cup of tea quietly moving among the piles of Horse and Hounds stacked on every available surface, and Ken with his wicked sense of humour. Miss Smith (I would never have dreamed of calling her anything else!), I remember as one of the most down to earth people I'd ever met and never embarrassed about telling stories that showed herself in less than the best light. I can still recall the smell of the stables and light twinkling on a revolving chimney cowl through the kitchen window.

The last time I saw Evlyn and Miss Smith was in the 1970's after they moved to Holyport following a traffic accident involving one of the horses. Neither seemed to have changed one jot only the piles of magazines had spread to the kitchen chairs!

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