A slice of history
Horse & Hound|September 24, 2020
A slice of history
Working yards worthy of an old-fashioned storybook aren’t always easy to come by, but when they do, their associated listed status needn’t cause the headache buyers dread, finds Madeleine Silver
Madeleine Silver

IN a woodland adjacent to The Durdans Stables in Epsom is the grave of 1838 Derby winner Amato. Joining him are fellow Derby winners Ladas, Sir Visto and Cicero. But the horses standing in the Grade II-listed stables today are blissfully unaware of their illustrious predecessors – or the longevity of the Victorian bricks and mortar around them.

A decade ago, Vanessa Johnson and her husband Brett, a dual Flat and National Hunt trainer, bought the yard to house the racehorses as well as their liveries.

“This place has amazing facilities with stabling for more than 50 horses and plenty of land [58 acres]. And because the stables are old-fashioned, they’re huge, so they’re really good for the horses that are in for a lot of the day,” says Vanessa. “In the summer, or on a really frosty morning, you do look around at the yard and think it’s incredible.”

The set-up was recently sold by Savills as Vanessa and Brett Johnson looked to downsize, but The Durdans is a rarity among equestrian properties.

“The mainstream equestrian properties that I see come on the market usually have more recent, purpose-built facilities,” says Louise Harrison, director of farms, estates and equestrian at Savills. “The original coach house and stables that might come with a big country estate are now likely to have been converted into a home office or extra accommodation, with perhaps a couple of horses stabled. But The Durdans original listed stable block and indoor arena are still all used by horses.”

The 18th century, Grade I-listed courtyard at Charlton Park Stables in Wiltshire is another that is alive with equine residents as originally intended.

“We live in a flat above the stables so when you come down every morning it’s like walking out into Downton Abbey,” says Megan Bailey, who took on the lease from the Earl of Suffolk in 2018, with her partner Toby Gardner to run as a livery yard. “They’re really well built and have obviously lasted incredibly well; for example, every stable has a drain in the middle that channels into a central drain. And because they have such thick walls and high ceilings, in the summer they’re nice and cool, and in the winter they stay quite warm.”

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September 24, 2020