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ROF Lecture: Prize Stallions and Beasts of Burden: The Horse and the English Country House

  • The General Society Library 20 West 44th Street New York, NY, 10036 United States (map)
George Stubbs, RA, Hambletonian, Rubbing Down. Mount Stewart ©National Trust Images Chris Lacey

Prize Stallions and Beasts of Burden: The Horse and the English Country House

Presented by Dr. Oliver Cox

Horses are an integral part of English social, political, economic and cultural history. From the Middle Ages through to the aftermath of the WWI, they were used for agricultural development, the military, transportation, industry, and, of course, sport. Horses were crucial to sustaining life in the English country house. Horsepower brought stone to build the house, pulled the wagons filled with art expressing the owner’s taste and sophistication, pulled the ploughs that farmed the estate, and most importantly carried house guests who marveled at these symbols of power and influence. Until the early years of the 20th century, without horses the country house would have ceased to function. As a result, stables were often as elegant as the main dwelling—such as the Robert Adam designed stable at Kedleston. Artworks displayed in country houses also revealed a fascination with horses, and especially for horse racing. Horse racing has always been one of Britain’s most popular sports. Horse racing attracted the full spectrum of British class and society who went to the races to gamble and socialize, to plot and scheme, and to flirt and fight. In his richly-illustrated lecture, Oxford historian Dr. Oliver Cox, will talk about the long history of horses and the English country house, while leading us on a tour of some of Britain’s grandest country houses, with stops at the iconic sporting spectacles of The Derby, Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival. Looking beyond the top hats and fascinators, Oliver will explore the roots of the British love for horses and horse racing while showing great houses, from Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland to Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire.

Dr. Oliver Cox is Heritage Engagement Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he is responsible for developing strategic partnerships with the UK and international heritage sector. Oliver is co-lead of the Oxford University Heritage Network, and part of the team delivering the university’s strategic partnership with the National Trust. Oliver also advises privately-owned country houses on how to develop research partnerships and has recently acted as a historical advisor to Chatsworth House Trust. Oliver is a historian by training and received his undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Oxford. Oliver’s recent publications include contributions to The Country House Past, Present and Future: Great Houses of the British Isles (supported by The Royal Oak Foundation), The Country House: Sport & Leisure (2019) and academic journal articles exploring the politics of horse racing in eighteenth-century Britain.


A part of the Royal Oak Foundation's Fall 2019 Lecture Series.

Registration opens 21 August.
St. George’s Society members receive $10 OFF the standard ticket price! Contact us for discount code.

For more information, please call Kayla Smith at 212-480-2889, ext. 201.

Earlier Event: October 2
A Taste of Home
Later Event: October 29
New Member Meet & Greet