Whit Monday there was the cart horse parade. The starting point was Bury Meadow or Higher Barracks. First in the lead were usually the Mounted Police or a band. Next came the heavy draft horses; the council horses; Claridge timber horses; the railway horses; Great Western and South Western; then the light van horse and cobs, the mill round horses and ponies, followed by any private owners, mostly juveniles who owned.
The drivers and owners were responsible for decorations and spent hours in grooming. Tails and mains were all traced with coloured ribbons, brasses shining like gold, and hooves all polished and the horses' coats glistening. It was a beautiful sight.
The judging took place before the start and the winners carried their diplomas around with them so that they knew the winners as they passed . There was no such thing as over time in those days. The drivers were fond of their horses they would almost sleep with them the night before.
My brother worked for coal merchant who had his coal depot in the old railway siding in Queen Street. Every year he entered his horses in the annual parade which was a big day in the city. It was always held on Whit Monday up to the time of the First World War.
The day before the parade my brother and his boss would take all day scrubbing the horses down with warm soapy water; then hard brushing to make their coats shine. The hooves were polished and the names and tails plaited with a red, white and blue ribbons. Then the stables was scrubbed out and my brother had to stay in the stables all night to prevent the horses from lying down and getting dirty.
On the big day they were harnessed up to carts which had also been scrubbed and polished. The hardness was shining and the brasses had been polished; they look a proper picture. Best suits were worn that day with a bowler hat and he'd carry a long whip with a ribbon tied on the handle.
My husband worked for St Anne's Well Brewery which was at the bottom of North Street. He drove a large brewery dray. His horse is called Acty and they always entered the horse parade. Acty behaved very well until the band started to play. Then he would sway to the music is if he were dancing. He also stepped out proudly in the parade as if he really enjoyed the whole thing.
There were various awards at the judging; trade entries and private entries were judged separately. There were cups and the rosettes. It was a great day and of course a celebration at night if any prizes had been won. It was a big honour to win.
These memories are taken from the contribution of several Exeter citizens to the People Talking project that was created by Jenny Lloyd in 1976. The full transcript, and other People Talking memories are available at the West Country Studies Library or the Devon and Exeter Institution.
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