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The (Horse) Doctor Will See You Now

Last week saw the nuptials of the two inhabitants of Miscellany Mansions, so we now have a piece of paper to say we’re lifelong partners. We had both decided that the day would be a quiet and low key affair with a small guest list and very little in the way of fuss or worry in the organisation. I wholeheartedly embraced this laid back approach, so much so that it wasn’t until two days before that I decided to dig out my passport for the impending honeymoon in Amsterdam.

Which is why on the first day of the honeymoon we found ourselves in a wet and very cold Bloomsbury in London, with talk about passports and their expiry dates a bit of a touchy subject.

We were staying not far from Russell Square underground station and although I knew the area quite well, a foray to get some breakfast lead to a small discovery.

Just around the corner from the station is a small road / large alley known as Colonnade. This is a slightly grandiose name for a thoroughfare that at one time housed the living quarters for the coachmen and later chauffeurs for the grand houses that sat either side on Guilford and Bernard Streets.

Today there is still some residential use, but most dwellings have been converted into small business premises. However, as you walk along it’s cobbled surface it is quite easy to imagine a time when the street would have rung to the sound of horses hooves. In the 19th century when the area was being developed this picture of equine storage would have been mirrored across the surrounding area, and one landmark still visible today points to the importance of the horse in everyday life.

As you enter Colonnade a large red brick building angles towards you at the junction of Herbrand Street and although the building retains the same name as in the 19th century it current use is far removed from it’s predecessor.

Today the building houses a rather avant-garde theatre and arts company, but two hundred years ago it appears to have been the one stop equine shop of it’s day.

It was originally built by developer James Burton in 1797 as stabling, a sort of 18th century NCP car park for those houses who had more horses that could be accommodated in their own stables. Just after the turn of the century a veterinary practice was set up catering mainly for sick horses belonging to the many cab drivers that filled the roads. Later it also housed a Farrier, Saddler and Feed Merchant making it indispensable to the local equine community.

Times change and so does the mode of transport. With the coming of the motor car there was less dependency on horse power and by the turn of the 20th century the stables and associated businesses had disappeared to be replaced by Francis Lakeman & Co, printers.

Although I’ve not been inside, I believe that the building, which is Grade II listed is notable for its unique stone tiled floor. Access to both floors is by concrete moulded ramps, the upper floor ramp is fitted with hardwood slats preventing the horses from slipping.

And what of your quest for breakfast I hear you ask, well just along from the Horse Hospital there is a fantastic little place called Fortitude Bakehouse. I like to big them up as there are a number of capitalistic multinational outlets in the vicinity and these guys are an independent one off. They produce great baked products and make good coffee, so I grabbed an apple and custard morning roll and an apricot danish in an effort to increase my meagre reserves of Brownie Points with the trouble and strife. It was a start anyway. If you’re in the vicinity take a look around the back streets near to Russell Square underground, there’s a great mix of buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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