Consuming horses

in City of beasts
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London’s elite riding and carriage horses were in the thick of the consumer revolution: as highly sought-after luxury items, they supported a lucrative and innovative economic sector but they were also voracious consumers in their own right, compelling their owners to spend huge sums on food, architecture, manufactured goods, farriery and human labour. Initially dominated by Smithfield Market, the city’s horse trade fragmented in the mid-eighteenth century and expanded through its livery stables and specialist repositories, most famously Tattersalls. Elite horses were expensive to buy but their incessant demands proved even more costly, and London moved quickly to profit from this. The West End is often described as an innovation in urban living but historians rarely cite the construction of thousands of stables and coach houses, laid out in carefully planned mews, as evidence of this. These were much more than storage units, they were sophisticated horse servicing zones which employed and housed hundreds of specialist workers. These individuals were part of a labyrinthine equine economy which drew in men from across the social spectrum and fostered a horse sense that shaped the city’s culture in remarkable ways.

City of beasts

How animals shaped Georgian London

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