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Harrison Barber—Horse Slaughterers

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  • Matilda Alma Palmer (nee Jessup) was the wife of a horse slaughterer. Her sons, George and Albert, followed in their parents' hoof steps.

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    • This gives some idea of the relative values of horseflesh and bone to a knacker operating on an industrial scale.

      250lbs of flesh was worth about 30 bob, the equivalent weight of bone was worth approx. a quid*. This does not take into account the value of the 'oil' that was extracted from the bones.

      *30 bob was 1.5 quid

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      • Hippophagy

        "There was one remarkable attempt to revive horse-eating in Europe, but it failed miserably. Surprisingly it came in the middle of the last century at a time when the Victorians were at their most sentimental about animals. It was caused by official concern over the bad diet of the poorer classes. Since many people were suffering from serious malnutrition, the enormous waste of good horseflesh that was common at the time was viewed as unacceptable and serious attempts were made to glamorize this freely available but scorned source of meat. In 1868 a special society was formed in England called 'The Society for the Propagation of Horse Flesh as an Article of Food'. An amazing and much publicized dinner was held at the august Langham Hotel in London. The menu included the following items among its nine courses:

        Horse soup; fillet of sole in horse-oil; terrine of lean horse-liver; fillet of roast Pegasus; turkey with horse-chestnuts; sirloin of horse stuffed with Centaur; braised rump of horse; chicken garnished with horse-talons; gladiator's rissoles; tongue of Trojan horse; lobster in old-hack-oil; and jellied horses' hooves in Maraschino. There was also a buffet of collared horse-head, baron of horse and boiled withers.

        The sober, economic side to this curious propaganda was that widespread epidemics had cut a swathe through the cattle population and beef prices had soared. If horses - then numbered in their millions as a means of transport - could have been exploited at the end of their trotting days, an immensely valuable new meat supply would have become available - if only people could have been weaned on to this new (or, to be more correct, ancient) form of food. But they could not. Pockets of acceptance were established in some countries, especially France and Belgium with their chevaline enthusiasts, but in general the attempt was a failure. The magazine Punch summed it up by giving two definitions: hippophagy - the eating of horseflesh; hypocrisy - saying horseflesh is very good.

        A Cambridge don, in an attempt to avoid assailing the nobility of the horse, turned his attentions to the more humble donkey. He had a nine-year old animal fattened and butchered for the Master's table at Trinity College, but the idea never caught on. Its failure was aided by Oxford dons who were quick to remark that for the head of a Cambridge college to devour an old donkey was tantamount to cannibalism."

        Taken from here:

        http://www.berkscountyrc.co.uk/index...=horsewatching

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        • A. S. Bicknell was the driving force behind the hippophagy movement in England. He hosted several well-publicised horse banquets, but his efforts were in vain, the English stubbornly refused to develop a taste for 'chevaline'. He was, however, highly regarded by the French.

          This is from 1875:


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          • I have come across another horse slaughterer business that passed through several generations of the same family. But they were the proprietors not workforce, so it is understandable that the business would be inherited.

            I will post up the details when I get a chance.

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            • Originally posted by Edward Stow View Post
              I have come across another horse slaughterer business that passed through several generations of the same family. But they were the proprietors not workforce, so it is understandable that the business would be inherited.

              I will post up the details when I get a chance.
              That'll be interesting. Some of these proprietors, Ben Nichols and William Barber for instance, started off as workers and became proprietors. Where the knacker held the yards on a lease (most that I know of) there was little to pass on beyond the skills and reputation of the business. Why my lot never inherited HB, I'll never know.

              I get the impression that in the early days a knackers yard was on a par with a car breakers today. I imagine a lot of stolen horses passed through with a nod and a wink. Even the great Jack Atcheler, the Royal Knacker, indulged in a few shady practices.

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              • I went to the Bishopsgate Institute armed with the name of the business that the Lechmere's obtained their horses meat from prior to 1943.
                The surviving Lechmere great grandson provided the name of Hart and I was only given it a few days ago.
                I am suspicious of relying on oral history but so far everything he has claimed has checked out.

                He said Hart’s were based in a railway arch off Cambridge Heath Road and at the bottom of Entick Street – which was where they lived at the time.
                He said he saw the big slabs arrive from Hart's. They were taken into the back garden and boiled down. He used to help wheel a barrow up to Broadway Market where they had a cat’s meat stall which had been run by the family since the 1920s.

                An eagle eyed forum member might have noticed that Charles Hart was listed on the 1938 Directory which I posted up earlier under Railway Place. By 1940 Railway Place was renamed Malcolm Place – which it is still known by.

                Here's a list of Horse Flesh dealers from the 1940 London Post Office Directory.
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                I thought it was interesting that out of the 16 firms listed, no less than five had businesses located within a few hundred yards of each other around the different railway arches either side of Cambridge Heath Road.
                There is another cluster of five in Tottenham.

                It is clear these firms are actually Horse Flesh dealers – suppliers, rather than embarrassed Cat’s Meat sellers.
                Obviously Hart’s aren’t listed as slaughterers – is there an explanation?

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                • Before Charles there was a William Hart.
                  Here he is at the same railway arch in 1901 - as a Horse Slaughterer!
                  Gor Blimey.

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                  • Let's jump back a bit to when Old Ma Lechmere was running her horse flesh dealership - 1892.
                    Who was traiding as a horse slaughterer from that arch at the end of Entick Street?
                    Well it wasn't a Hart - this time it was some guy called George Smyth

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                    • Something funny is going on here surely?
                      In 1886 we saw a listing of firms that were swallowed up into Harrison Barber.
                      What about 1887?

                      Oh no those bloody Harts again. Another Charles! Is this three generations of non Harrison Barber horse slaughterers operating in the East End or what?

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                      • What about... 1888?

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                        • Originally posted by Edward Stow View Post
                          Something funny is going on here surely?
                          In 1886 we saw a listing of firms that were swallowed up into Harrison Barber.
                          What about 1887?

                          Oh no those bloody Harts again. Another Charles! Is this three generations of non Harrison Barber horse slaughterers operating in the East End or what?

                          [ATTACH]15430[/ATTACH]


                          Was that the end of the list?

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                          • Oh - in 1887 there was a horse flesh dealer sharing the arch with the horse slaughterer.
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                            I have images from Post of Directories for year after year of Hart horse slaughterers operating from that railway arch - with a brief interlude of Smyths.

                            I wonder if they supplied Old Ma Lechmere, just as they supplied her son and grandson.
                            The premises under the arch were rather cramped. I tend to doubt this small business would have been as able as Harrison Barber to render their knackered horses to pulp.

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                            • Yes that was the end of the list that year.

                              Any thoughts?

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                              • I suspect what we have here is an independent trader - an independent horse slaughterer rather than a company. Harrison Barber was the result of an amalgamation of the existing companies - not independent traders. Hence the long term survival of the railway arch slaughter yard. Just around the corner from Doveton Street.

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