The claim was once made that the history of England was carried on the back of a horse, and some echo of the important part horses have played in our culture is still with us in many of our licensed premises, whose names bear witness to this fact. Names such as “Waggon and Horses”,“Carters’ Rest”,“Horse and Jockey” and “Bay Horse” together with another half-a-dozen similarly named pubs are still with us.
Some of us can still remember farriers, saddlers, shoeing smith, veterinary surgeons, wheelwrights and feedstuff merchants in Rochdale. Ramsbottom’s shoeing forge which stood where the public lavatories now stand near the Wellington Hotel, was a Mecca for small boys, the star attraction being, of course, the skeleton of a horse which was exhibited there.
Horses of every size and shape were seen on our streets and roads, from the doctor’s dashing cob which pulled his gig when visiting his patients, to the wonderful Clydesdales which made daily journeys between local textile manufacturers and the warehouses and docks in Manchester. Pictures come to mind of a string of lorries in a February blizzard, loaded with bales of cotton and making their way along Rochdale Road, Hebers, which was quite open country at the time. The carters each took their turn to do a stint at the head of the convoy, breaking trail for their flagging horses.
The incident depicted here is similar to one which I recall after accompanying my own father with a load of machinery to Todmorden in 1913. It was on our way back, somewhere near Bird i’th Hand, a well-known ‘drawing off place’, beyond Summit, Littleborough.