Explore the Stables at Uppark

Acorn shaped posts on the partitions inside the Stables at Uppark House and Garden, West Sussex.

Horses were incredibly important in the 18th century - not just as transport, but for recreation and sport, particularly among rich land owners. As a keen horseman, Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh was quick to commission these stables not long after moving to Uppark.

Originally built around 1750 with seven stalls, the stables were later converted to the current layout of two loose boxes and three stalls, with dividers topped by carved acorns. Although acorns are actually poisonous to horses, they've long been regarded as symbols of good health and luck, strength and power. The grilles in the ceiling are thought to have originally connected via tubes to vents in the roof tower to allow ventilation.

Acorns were a symbol of health, luck, strength and power.
Acorn shaped posts on the partitions inside the Stables at Uppark House and Garden, West Sussex.
Acorns were a symbol of health, luck, strength and power.

Keeping horses was an expensive business. In 1758, Sir Matthew's accounts revealed that he'd spent over £602 on his equine pursuits, well over £100,000 today.

Keen racers

Sir Matthew raced horses from 1756 until 1763, his most successful being a horse named Henricus who won two races in 1762. His son, Sir Harry, was perhaps more successful with a racing career spanning 1778 to 1795. His horse Flash won nine races, five of which were at Newmarket.

When the Prince of Wales visited Uppark in 1785, Sir Harry threw a three-day party that included horse racing on nearby West Harting Down. In a race of two heats, Sir Harry rode Epaminondas himself, and won. His prize, The Princes Cup, can still be seen in the Servery today.

These racing cups are on display in the Dining Room at Uppark
Three of the racing cups from the Dining Room fireplace at Uppark, West Sussex
These racing cups are on display in the Dining Room at Uppark

A carriage for every occasion

For the later Fetherstonhaugh family, horses became more about transport. An inventory drawn up in 1874 listed three carriage horses and a range of carriages including a landau, dog cart, four-wheel basket chaise, brake carriage, chariot and a wagonette.

Victoria phaeton carriage used by Lady Mary Ann Fetherstonhaugh, photographed 1890.
An old photograph of Lady Fetherstonhaugh's Victoria at Uppark, West Sussex
Victoria phaeton carriage used by Lady Mary Ann Fetherstonhaugh, photographed 1890.

This style of carriage, known as a pony phaeton or pony bath chair, was often called a Victoria phaeton as they were popular with Queen Victoria. They were easy to drive and get in and out of, allowing a lady to drive herself to social calls. Many, however, chose to carry a groom either on a perch seat or walking behind.

The stable block included an apartment in the attic for staff such as George Cutler who worked here in the 1880s. A census taken in 1881 recorded that he lived here with his wife, Amelia, their three daughters and three sons.

Horses as art

Perhaps not surprisingly given Sir Matthew's love of horses, the house itself is full of works of art with equine subjects. Paintings such as John Boultbee's 'Prophet and Surprise' adorn many a wall, while the pair of ormolu (gilt bronze) horses in the Staircase Hall are smaller reproductions of the Marly Horses on display in the Louvre.

Gilt-bronze reproductions of the Marly Horses in the Staircase Hall.
Pair of ormolu reproductions of the Marly Horses signed by Pierre-Francois Feuchiere
Gilt-bronze reproductions of the Marly Horses in the Staircase Hall.