The stables were an important part of any stately home. They weren’t always as extravagant as the ones I envisaged for my fictitious estate, of course, being that not all peers could afford to keep such a large number of horses. When I devised the estate for my trilogy, however, I aimed for the best there could be. These stables I’m about to describe are what a country seat of some standing might have boasted of in those days when horses were the only means of transportation and fox-hunting one of the cornerstones of their social calendars.
The Cambray Stables and their inmates, the hunters, were magnificent. Extensive was too mild a description to describe this outbuilding. No hunter in England enjoyed the luxury and excellence of care as did those at Cambray. The Stables Main Gate was in itself an imposing structure.
The stables were outrageously extravagant both in size as well as in comfort for their residents. Their opulence showed that no expense had been spared in their construction, signifying the immense worth they beheld for their owners. In one stone-fronted building of over three hundred and sixty-six feet in length, there were stalls for fifty hunters, and eleven loose boxes for sick or lame horses. Nearby stood the great Cambray Kennels, equally as opulent and studious in their design and beheld in equal measure as the stables.
The Stables Courtyard and Gates
The stables courtyard was a very spacious enclosure holding the surrounding stables within its confines. The stables were built in a semi circular horseshoe pattern around the courtyard.
A wide entryway was the only visible prospect from the Cambray Hall grand portico, of the nature of the massive structure, which was otherwise enclosed by the stable buildings, themselves forming into a high boundary wall. This was the common entrance to both the Stables Courtyard and the Kennel Courtyard. The Stables Main Gate was in itself an imposing structure. It resembled a fortress and was cleverly designed to camouflage any unsightliness within its walls.
A similar gated entryway on the opposite end of the courtyard lead to the great lawn at the back of the Hall. Although this was actually the rear entrance to the stables, it was the most commonly used for hunting and riding purposes, while the Main Gate was more frequently used for the coaches.
The stables courtyard was the place where all horses and carriages were cleaned and prepared in readiness for use by His Lordship and his family before they were then sedately driven to the Hall’s grand portico to perform their task.
The Harness Room
The Harness Room was an independent building at the entrance of the Stables. It housed all the trappings to prepare the hunters for riding. In front of the dress harness hung on the walls were leather hat boxes, boots, various riding tack, a horn (for the hunt meets), and other riding accessories and cleaning equipment.
Trappings used for State occasions were:
- eight-horse trappings
- two sets of six-horse and one set of four-horse trappings
- two sets of six-horse trappings for semi-State occasions
- six-horse trappings for the Glass Coach
- eight-horse trappings belonging to the late Viscountess Elizabeth de la Valette, Montague’s mother.
The northern end of the Cambray estate was separated from the Northacres farmland by some large paddocks leading out from the Cambray Stables.
This is where the hunters and other horses were put to pasture and to exercise free of restraint. Each paddock was a field of grassland enclosure secured against flight and for safety by miles of wooden fences.
Photo copyright of Graham Rains
Stock photos of Evershot at PicturesOfEngland.com