An interesting old article regarding the new Burdett-Coutts Stables, which were originally part of Holly Lodge, where the current Estate is.
The Sketch, August 18th, 1893
When the late Lord Henry Bentinck held a post-mortem examination some years ago on a number of his horses which had died suddenly during the winter, he was amazed to find that they had succumbed to arsenical poisoning. Those were the days of dark traditions, when grooms were as fond of a bolus of their own concoction as ever was Mr. Pitvero's Deum, Arsenic to make the coat bright, hot stables to generate rolls of fat, which passed for muscle with the ignorant, dark boxes on the pretence that horses could rest better in them, vile drainage, absolute want of ventilation - these things were preached and prevailed even among men who had studied horse-flesh all their lives.
It is in comparatively recent times only that we have changed our system; and have brought common-sense and science to assist us in our stables. Such men as The Duke of Beaufort, The Duke of Portland, Mr. William Day, and half a score more whose names come readily to the memory, have been in the forefront as preachers of reform, and have reaped a rich harvest in the new reign of common-sense and of scientific development. We have learnt that a horse does not thrive and grow strong on muscous odours; that nature did not mean him to stand with his forelegs some inches higher than his hind legs; that he does not like dark; that he cannot do without a plentiful supply of fresh air; that such faults as cribbing and rolling are to be prevented.
We have built our stables accordingly, with plenty of windows and ample ventilation, with level flooring and safety mangers, sometimes even, as in the Badminton, with water troughs, and mechanical contrivances of much cleverness for racks and rails. And, more than all, we have applied to them exactly those principles of sanitation, which prevail in our own houses.
Much that is best in all reform of this sort is at the present moment to be seen in the Burdett-Coutts stables at Highgate. It is no exaggeration to say that those, in their own way, embody every sound principle of improvement which has been enunciated during the last ten years. The stable is a small one, yet exceedingly perfect, and it should be visited by every man who is thinking of building for himself. The first thing that strikes the visitor about it is the admirable provision of windows. The whole building abounds in them - no pigmy affairs of foot-square panes, but large apertures, fitted with fine glass, readily opened.
A stable thus provided must satisfy the first requirement of the reformer. It must be light. And the promise which is given without by the neat brick and the pretty style is in no way lacking in performance within. Here we find twelve stalls, two horse boxes, and one convertible loose box. This latter is a capital contrivance having a swing division and a moveable rocket-post, so that it can be used either as a loose-box or as two stalls. It is fitted, as are the stalls and other divisions, with an upper panelling of strong wrought-iron ventilating grating, the lower parts being boarded with pitch pine. The doors are panelled in the same way, but their frames are of iron, and they are provided with improved hangings, and patent flush slam-latches almost indispensable to a modern stable.
What one may call the safety provision is seen again in the large safety fronts to the mangers, these entirely preventing cribbing, that irritating habit that has spoiled the wind of many a good horse, and perplexed so many of the old-time masters.
The arrangement for the mangers and the hay-racks, is altogether excellent. The pans, which are enamelled and cleanly looking, are neither cramped nor too flat; they are of reasonable size and easy to feed from. The hay-racks are of wrought-iron, and the whole manger is boarded up in front to prevent that nasty trick of rolling which is possible in so many ancient stables. A very smart appearance is given to the stalls by the polished brass used for all the headstall and pillar-rein rings, the halter tieings being noiseless and on the approved safety plan. Indeed, the finish everywhere is most careful, and the semi-glazed vitreous tiles, which are carried over the head of the stalls and the mangers, all round the walls, and even through the passages in a pretty panel, have as cleanly and fresh a look as even Mr. William Day himself might have desired. These, with the pitch-pine linings and the Welsh bricks for the standings, complete as good a set of solid building as one may see in a day's march, or, for the matter of that, in a week's, and are the essence of that cleanliness which is the axiom of the modern breeder.
When we come to those larger questions of ventilation and drainage, we find the Burdett-Coutts' stable not a whit behind the very latest teaching on the subject. The open wrought-iron surface gutter runs the whole length of the stalls, and drains off into loose iron baskets, which catch any sediment or litter that otherwise might choke the pipes. This method most readily commends itself to those who have given thought to the subject, and while there are many faddists , each with his own notion, it is the method which is usually adopted now, and with every success. For ventilation, apart from the fine current of air which sweeps through the many windows, large syphon shafts have been carried up through the roof of the building, and ensure freshness at all times.
Old grooms, no doubt, would open their eyes at the idea of open windows and ample air in hot weather or in cold, but the new stable-builder smiles at them. It is no longer a doctrine that horses need an excess of heat. Nowadays we keep them warm, not by closing our windows and blocking ventilation shafts, but by putting more clothing on them. And this is the plan which is here followed.
There are many other things one would like to notice in the stables and out of them - the excellent paved standings for washing, the ingenious arrangement of barrier bars and cross-chains by which all the stalls can be separated at night, so if a horse broke loose he could not get at his neighbour, the bright-looking gangways paved with adamantine clinkers, and the abundant provision of taps and hose.
Suffice it to say that these are in keeping with the rest of the work, and that the whole has been carried out by the St. Pancras Ironwork Company, so far as the tiling, fitting, boarding, paving, and ventilation of the interiors go, in a way that does the company much credit. A more perfect little stable is not often seen, or one which might be more fittingly taken as a model by the man who is setting up a small stud, and does not thirst for acres of building and hundreds of brood mares. This, indeed, is the stable of the accomplished amateur, and as such is quite a gem.