Draught horses were at the very heart of the metropolitan economy,
underpinning the livelihoods of thousands of people. Industry and global
trade generated an astonishing amount of haulage work for horses, yet while
the expansion of waggon services has been studied, the vital intra-urban
haulage work performed by cart and dray horses has been overlooked. Carts
were used to carry a panoply of goods and waste between wharves, warehouses,
markets, shops, houses, pits and construction sites in Georgian London. A
wide range of tradesmen and shopkeepers came to depend on draught horses and
benefited from major improvements in their breeding in this period. The
Midland Black type of heavy horse became one of the most powerful symbols of
industrial progress in the city, playing a central role in the expansion of
London’s coal and brewing trades, spurred on by the adoption of steam power.
These animals were bred to withstand London’s unique work environment but
the intensification of demands thrust on their bodies also necessitated
improvements in their diet, stabling and care.