The Fell Pony Museum: 17th century
The Fell Pony Museum
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Ponies and Horses sold in Appleby

Thanks are due to Mrs Gowling of the Upper Eden History Society, who directed me to Appleby's Records of the Ancient Corporation, Memoranda/Minute book, Volume 1 (WSMB/A) in the County Record Office in Kendal. Sales entries are scattered through the volume, which though titled 1614-1661 actually contains some information from the 1590s - and not all of the entries are chronological!

Three ponies sold at Appleby in the early 17th C were like our modern Fell pony in size and colour:

1623: Sold the same day in open market by John Toppin of Castle Sowerby in the County of Cumberland, yeoman, to Peter Taylor of Dufton in the Co. of Westmorland - one little mayre coullor blacke bay (? slit or bitted or other ear mark?) in the inner eire. Paye sume xxxiij s iiij d 33s 4d
1626: sould the same day in open market by Wm Story of the said ... in the parish of Eske in the County of Cumberland, one little mayre coullor blacke browne and saddle claimed to Rowland Hardman of Crosby in the Co. of Westmorland, xxvii s 27s
8 October 1648: Sould the same daye by William Gask to Robert Nicholson of Marrton, in county of Westmorland, one little nagg, colour bay, with one cutt in the far eare, of the age of 9 yeares, for the prise and somme of 31 shilliings 31s

Some of these entries may refer to the Appleby Horse Fair in June, but there are records of horses being sold throughout the year, month by month. Some entries record sales and swaps between men from very much further afield than the farms around Appleby; we see direct evidence of trade between Scotland (Dumfries), Northern England (Chester, York), and even South-west England (Somerset); and men moving their business from Northern England across to Ireland (Downpatrick) to buy and sell horses. 

4 June 1638: Sould the same daye by one John Make M??? in the countie of (? Armagh?) in the kingdome of Irelande to Launcelot Harrison of Kirkbythore in the Countie of Westmorland, one white gray nagge 6 yeares.

Civil War (1641 - 1651)

The buying, selling and exchanging of horses, and the settling of civil disputes, continued to be recorded during the Civil War, with men still travelling long distances to sell.

2 February 1643 Exchanged the same daie between John Powley of Appleby, and John Stamper lait of the Parish of Allhallows, at a pace called the Whole House, neere the Whitehall in the Countye of Cumberland, one black bay mare of the said Johns, for a red bay nagg of the said John Stamper, white mained, with a little star in the forehead, given in exchange by the said John Powley to the said John Stamper iij s iiij d (three shillings and fourpence). 3s 4d
June 1643 (probably at the annual Horse Fair): Thomas Simple of Dumfries in the kingdom of Scotland, one maire, colour  [unreadable; dun? leaden?], of the age of three yeares or thereabouts, full mained and cutt tailed, to Thomas Smith of Asby for the somme of XX vii iij (twenty pounds seven shillings and three pence). £20 7s 3d
Aprille 1644  Sould the same daye by one George Cox of Walton in Somasset unto Robert Parkin of Appleby in the Countye of Westmorland, one maire colour brown bay under bitted in the far eare XXX vj (thirty pounds and six shillings). £30 6s 0d
July 1644 Sould the same daye by Henry Ai--- of Warcopp, to Thomas Sewell of Culgaith, one blacke bay nagg, burnt (branded) on the right shoulder, of the Age of seven yeares, for the prise of twenty seven shillings. £1 7s 0d
May 1646: John Grassine of Boulton (Appleby) to ----, Ebor (York), one black maire iij.vii £3 7s 0d
July 1646: Sould the same day by Adam Bayly of the parish of  --- in the county of Cumberland in the open fair --- one maire colour gray --- to John Mossop of Crookerigg in the County of Yorke  
18 October 1648:  Sould the same daye by Lieutenant Colonell A---Standaye to Mr Edward Mowson, one lead coloured maire, wall eyed and her fore hoofs hollow, of the age of four yeares for the prise and somme of X ii vi (ten pounds two shillings and six pence). £10 2s 6d
2 December 1648:  Sould the same daye by Tho Birch of Lensam (Ledsham?) in the county of Chester, to Frances Bainbrigg of Kirber, one gray horse of the age of six yeares, for the prise of XXX (thirty pounds) £30 0s 0d


February 1643:  one black bay mare... a red bay nagg, white mained...  
March 1643:

One maire cutt tailed colour bay of the age of nine years...
April 1643: One maire colour brown bay...  
July 1644:  one geldinge colour baie, starred in the forehead and marked with an I in the buttock and black taile, XX vi viii (two pounds six shillings and eight pence)... £2 6s 8d
July 1644: One blacke bay nagge ...  
August 1644: One roaned geldinge with white --- down the forehead ...  
August 1644: One horse with a white face, three white feet, wall eyed and cutt tailed ...  
November 1645: One brown mouse roaned maire ...  
May 1646: One gray maire... One pybauld maire and one black maire 5. 7. 6 (five pounds, seven shillings and six pence)... £5 7s 6d
... one black maire for the soome of 5. 6. 6 (five pounds six shillings and sixpence).  £5 6s 6d

Black, black bay, black brown, brown bay, red bay (with a white mane), bay, mouse brown, gray, lead-coloured, roaned, piebald. It's interesting that I haven't yet turned up an example of the term "chestnut." OED cites it being used as a term for a horse colour in 1636; Shakespeare used it as a hair colour for people in 1600 in As You Like It, so it was in use in Southern England some 50 years before these sales were being recorded. But "sorrel" or "sorelled" are not there either. I wonder what the "red bay" horse with the "white main" looked like.

Note also the absence of any measure of height in these later entries. "Maire" and "geldinge" are obvious gender descriptions and "horse" probably means "an entire" (stallion), rather than "a tall equine." The word "little" is not often used here, and unlike the sales made at Adwalton, over in Yorkshire in 1631 (Dent) the animals' gaits are only rarely recorded (see Galloways 2). A "nagg" is a riding horse. 

Ages and prices

The average age of the horses recorded in the Minute Book as sold at Appleby is 7 years. The youngest was 3 years (only one animal); 9 years was the age at which more horses were traded (3); the oldest stated age is 10 years (1) with 1 horse "aged", ie over 9 years. Prices ranged from 3 shillings and 4 pence (to make up value in a part exchange); 1 pound and 7 shillings for a straight local sale, up to 27 or 30 pounds for horses coming from a distance (Dumfries, Chester, Somerset). The sellers who were willing to travel evidently knew their market.

Eating the Horses: the Siege of Carlisle, 1644

Carlisle was a Royalist stronghold in the Civil War between the supporters of King Charles I (Cavaliers) and those who supported Cromwell's Parliament (Roundheads).

Isaac Tullie recorded in his journal many details of the Siege of Carlisle, which was occupied by Sir Thomas Glenham, the Royalist northern commander, with his forces in July of 1644. In October, Carlisle was besieged by the Parliamentarian General Lesley with a detachment of the Scottish army. Lesley was more determined than a previous commander who had given up after a few weeks; he sat it out all winter, and life was hard within the walls of the city. (Lysons)

Tullie records that foraging parties from inside Carlisle were able to capture cattle from around the outskirts of the city and bring them in as meat for the soldiers and townspeople, until the end of April 1645; but from April 3 "they had only thatch for [food for] the horses, all other provisions being exhausted."

May 10: "A fat horse taken from the enemy sold for 10s a quarter."

June 5: "Hempseed, dogs and rats were eaten." The horses had been kept alive as long as possible, in case the army needed them for battle, though what help they could be once both men and horses were starving, is difficult to see.

June 17: "Some officers and soldiers came to the common bakehouse [where roasting of meat and baking of bread took place for those who had no oven] and took away all the horseflesh from the common people, who were as near to starving as themselves."

June 22: "The garrison had only half a pound of horseflesh each for four days."

June 23: "The townsmen petitioned Sir Thomas Glenham that the horseflesh might not be taken away, and said they were not able to endure the famine any longer ... " With tears in his eyes, Glenham replied that he was unable to help. However, on June 25, when all provisions had gone, he admitted defeat, and the city was honourably surrendered to the Commonwealth forces. The siege was lifted, the city officially fell to the Parliamentarians, and the inhabitants were well treated after their long defence.

Origins of The word PONY, from the Oxford English Dictionary Online

[Probably from Middle French poulenet, a little foal (1444, in an apparently isolated attestation; from poulain POLEYN n.2 + -et, diminutive suffix, although the chronological gap and the absence of early English forms with poul- or pol- make this problematic. Compare French poney (1752; from English). Irish ponai­ and Scottish Gaelic ponaidh are from English.]

1659 Diary 18 June in N. & Q. (1883) 6th Ser. 7 163/1, I caused bring home the powny & stugged him.
1675 W. CUNNINGHAM Diary 24 May (1887) 54 Sent to Glasgow for a gang of shoo's to Cuninghamheid's pownie.
1710 True Acct. Last Distemper T. Whigg II. 19 : Daniel Defoe describes characters riding on "Bastard Turks, half-bred Barbs, and Union Ponies, a Kind of Horses foaled upon the Borders, and occasionally owning either Country". That might mean he is thinking of Scottish Galloways or predecessors of the English Fell. However, since Defoe was sent to Edinburgh in 1706 to worm his way into the confidence of the Scottish Parliament and help secure the Union of England and Scotland, he may simply be poking fun at himself and at recent political history. In any case, later in the pamphlet he remarks, "it is not my business as a Historian, to be over sollicitous about the Truth of Facts" (unusual honesty on the part of a secret agent and a journalist). Perhaps it's safest to assume he has his tongue firmly in his cheek, and just to note his use of the word "ponies".

Pack Ponies in Kendal

A Traveller's Diary

At the turn of the 17th to the 18th century, Celia Fiennes ("Fines") made several journeys round England on horseback. (Explorers and actors of the Fiennes family have earned fame in the 20th C, for example Sir Ranulph, Ralph and Joseph.)

Celia was one of the explorers. She was single, aristocratic, and a forthright observer.

In her journals covering the years 1685 - 1712, published as "Through England on a Sidesaddle" she describes packhorses carrying panniers in Kendal: "They use horses on which they have a sort of pannyers, some close, some open, but they strewn full of hay, turff and lime and dung and everything they would use." (ref). 

John Ogilby, the map maker, "recognised only four roads in Cumbria on his map drawn in 1675. One road from Kendal to Carlisle via Shap, and a second one from Egremont through Whitehaven to Workington, Cockermouth, Bothel to Carlisle. These two roads were linked by a crossroad from Cockermouth to Kendal via Keswick and Ambleside. Finally, he denotes a road between Newcastle and Carlisle; this route crossed the Eden at Corby and continued eastwards through Castle Carrock. It is unlikely, however, that any of these roads were usable by wheeled traffic at this time, and most goods were carried across country by pack horses." (Williams)

The panniers in the museum

The museum's panniers are the "close" kind with lids. The canvas covered lids would be dropped and pinned shut for travelling. This style of pannier was certainly used for bringing grouse down from the moor in the early part of the 20th C, but they would have had many other uses. More open varieties of panniers would have been better suited to the carrying of "hay, turff and lime and dung".

Other patterns were developed for peat and metal ore. Copper, for instance, mined near Coniston, was transported by packhorse to Keswick for smelting. Lead ingots or "pigs" went by pony from Alston Moor and Allendale to the east coast, to be loaded onto the sailing ships of the River Tyne.


The packhorse men

Loading and travelling with the pack trains was a skilled and tricky job, and one exposed to all types of weather. Packhorse men, who were small independent businessmen, wore a distinctive style of clothes: hodden grey coat (undyed, waterproof Herdwick wool), knee breeches, woollen stockings with garters and a ribbon hanging down from them; clogs; and a low crowned "beaver" hat made of rabbit skin.

They used similar routes to the cattle drovers but called-in at different places; on the whole they kept clear of them. Their valuable and often perishable goods were part of an entirely different trade. Whereas the drovers in the main were just passing through with their goods "on the hoof" the pack men could buy and sell as they went and were no doubt as important to the rural economy as the "travelling motor vans" were in the middle of the 20th century.

Black pony with panniers and actress in Quaker Costume: Vespa stars in TV drama

Quaker times

One Fell pony has earned fame in an unusual way.

This is a high quality pony, Tebay Vespa, working for the TV programme "Janet's Progress" which dramatised the story of a Quaker woman from the Howgill area, whose small grandchildren were taken away down to London, went to find them with a Fell pony. In the story, she brought them back in the pony's panniers. We have applied the Museum's panniers so you can see how they would have looked. The pony wears a breast collar to stop the load sliding backwards

The panniers used for the journey described would probably have been open ones in which small children could have sat and watched the countryside through which they were travelling.

Medieval and later Friesians

Friesian horses were known in England in medieval times (see "Horses in Cumbrian Medieval Romances"); they were popular carriage horses in the late 16th C; and Friesian horses accompanied Dutch engineers into Norfolk and Lincolnshire during the drainage of the Fen country in the 17th C. These horses are said to have influenced the Norfolk trotter, and the Old English Black (later the Shire). If there is any Friesian influence at all in the Fell breed, then it may really have come in modern rather than Roman times. However, if this is the case, it came very circuitously indeed, via a few 19th C breedings, that traced back through Norfolk and Yorkshire cobs, to the horses of East Anglia, and thence to the Dutch imports.

References for these readings are on the Thanks page.


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Last updated 23 May, 2021 .
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