The Riskies Welcome Bronwyn Scott!

(January marks another entry in the Castonbury Park series…Bronwyn Scott’s Unbefitting a Lady!  Bronwyn is visiting us this last weekend of the year to talk a little about the research behind the story of the horse-mad Lady Phaedra.  Comment for the chance to win a copy!!)


As the Duke of Rothermere’s youngest daughter, Phaedra Montague is expected to be the dutiful darling of elegant society. Too bad, then, that this feisty Lady has swapped her dance cards and silk gowns for racing tips and breeches!

With the arrival of gorgeous groom Bram Basingstoke, Phaedra can’t help but be distracted. He’s as wild and untamed as the stallion he’s training. But Phaedra is supposed to act properly at all times. Even if this dark-haired devil in a billowing white shirt is tempting her to a very improper roll in the hay…

1817, a great year to be a horse!

Giles Worsley writes, “The stable was a setting to showcase the horse, a physical expression of the horse’s importance.” The stables were a world of its own within the estate. The concept of a stable included so much more than just a barn. It included outdoor training ovals (a left over innovation from the mid 1700s), a carriage house or carriage bays, outdoor paddocks, the stable block and the riding house (indoor riding arena, often complete with a viewing gallery). With that in mind, it made sense to set so much of Bram and Phaedra’s story, ‘Unbefitting a Lady,’ in the Castonbury stables. 1817 is an exciting year to be in the stables because many English horse enthusiasts are in the middle of a stable revolution. It’s a great time to be a horse! People are studying and learning how to harness architecture to make stables healthier places. 1790-1830 is a time of great stable modernization. There are lots of renovations being done regarding ventilation and health. Let me share two of those innovations with you; the iron hayrack and the loose box.

The iron hayracks hanging from the walls of the stalls: According to Giles Worsley in his book, “The British Stable,” hayracks were originally nothing more than wooden managers that ran the length of the aisles. These took up a great deal of space. Once iron became more accessible, iron hayracks could be fashioned and mounted in the stalls, freeing up space on the floors and they were more likely to withstand horses chewing on them, unlike the wood mangers. Iron hayracks were definitely starting to be in use in the more serious stables by 1817 and Kedleston, the estate we modeled Castonbury after did indeed use iron hayracks.

Moving towards the loose box : The loose box is the style of stall we’re most familiar with now in our barns. But before this, horses had a three sided stall with the aisle end open and they had to face the wall. Loose box stalls were used only for isolating horses who were ill. But the racing industry around the 1790s began to see the benefits a loose box stall would afford a horse in general. There are some early architectural designs in 1803 and 1810 that start to show the proliferation of loose box stalls for stables at Normanton and Tottenham Parks. By 1816, just a year before Phaedra’s story, the Ashridge stables in Hertfordshire were designed to incorporate a large number of loose boxes and by 1829, the loose box had become the norm. This is a transition that took about thirty years to catch on. Grooms felt leaving the horse loose in a stall caused too many problems.

Other improvements that took place between 1790 and 1830 include ventilation and lighting but we’ll save that for another time.


About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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8 Responses to The Riskies Welcome Bronwyn Scott!

  1. Barbara Elness says:

    Interesting post, I enjoyed the tidbits on the stabling of horses. I’m looking forward to reading Unbefitting a Lady, it sounds like a fantastic story.

  2. What a fascinating post! Great information. And I have thoroughly enjoyed the other books in this series! When I was quite young I worked in a rather large stable in the little English village where we lived. It was built in the late 1800’s and as I remember it was quite luxurious with big loose boxes and wide aisles. I remember the size of those loose boxes because I was the one who had to muck them out!

  3. Kathleen says:

    What a great post. I love my horses and my barn but some days I wish a had a stable boy for all those chores. If the stable boy was gorgeous so much the better.

  4. SusanD says:

    Interesting tidbits on horses and their environments. I remember visiting some old historic turn of the century houses and their horse barns. They were awesome – huge, strongly built and I think almost nicer than the house humans lived in!

    This books sounds like a winner 🙂

  5. Lesley A. says:

    Very interesting article, it helps to learn about horses and stables when immersing oneself in the Regency! I’ve visited some very modern stables in the US but never abroad. I can imagine that many horses during the Regency, lived better than much of the population!

    Looking forward to starting in on the Castonbury series!
    Happy New Year!

  6. Linda Thum says:

    Interesting post. I’ve always wished to be able to ride but I live in the city & horses & riding are not commonly found.

  7. librarypat says:

    Thank you for the interesting post. We have visited many historic sites and I’ve noticed the differences in the barns and stables. I never seriously looked at the time line of changes and where these places fit along it. I figured it was a reflection of how well the home owner was doing that he could afford better facilities. In addition, better knowledge of animal husbandry over the years changed the ways we raised animals.
    It is nice to know some of the particulars behind those changes.

    Best wishes for a great 2013 and for the release of UNBEFITTING A LADY.

  8. donna harris says:

    I loved your post! It’s very interesting on how the stables came around in history. I’ve been around horses, use to own one when I was young, and barns. I never put to much thought into it then. Phaedra, she’s kind of girl, giving up her fancy gowns for breeches. lol! I look forward to reading “Unbefitting A Lady”!

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