A BRIEF HISTORY 1886 - 2000
Over a Century of Support for Equine Welfare
The foundation of The Home of Rest for Horses was largely due to the efforts of one lady, Miss Ann Lindo, who was appalled at the treatment of many of the working horses on the streets of London. She canvassed support and on 10 May 1886, it was agreed that a home of rest for horses, mules and donkeys should be started. The first patient was an overworked cab horse that Miss Lindo arranged to be cared for at a farm at Sudbury, near Harrow.
By 1908 the Society had flourished and was able to buy Westcroft Farm at Cricklewood which despite only being 4 miles from Marble Arch, enjoyed 20 acres of good pasture and an impressive range of loose boxes.
Horses at Cricklewood
The 1914-1918 war brought forage rationing which restricted the number of horses that could be cared for. However the Society was able to provide a fully equipped horse ambulance to help the evacuation of wounded horses from the front line in France. At the same time Her Majesty Queen Alexandra agreed to recognise the work of The Home by becoming Patroness and she took an active interest in its work until her death in 1925 when Queen Mary accepted the invitation to continue the royal patronage. The Home continued to be successful and whilst the number of London cab horses declined, there were still thousands of tradesmens horses requiring help and The Home provided rest and recuperation for approximately 250 horses a year.
Urban spread soon reached Cricklewood and in 1933 Hampstead Council put Westcroft Farm under a compulsory purchase order for development.
In 1962 The Home was able to rent an additional 30 acres of land adjacent to Westcroft Stables enabling it to accommodate over eighty horses at any one time.
By the mid-1960s The Home had become sufficiently well known and supported to enjoy an income that exceeded running costs. With a reduction in the number of working horses the Committee decided to seek new ways of extending The Homes activities rather than using its resources to expand what it already did. With the blessing of The Charity Commission it was agreed that grants could be made to other charitable organisations concerned with the welfare of horses. The first recipients of these grants for stabling and equipment were The Royal Veterinary College and The Equine Research Centre (now The Animal Health Trust) at Newmarket. Shortly after this The Homes Chairman, Gerald Critchley instigated the formation of The Riding Schools Act Committee and The Home became the principal financial supporter of The Riding Schools Inspection Team for the next 17 years.
By 1968 the relentless urban sprawl of London had encircled the stables at Boreham Wood and it was necessary to look for new premises again. The search led to a 130-acre freehold property known as Speen Farm in the Chilterns midway between High Wycombe and Aylesbury. The sale of the Boreham Wood site for housing development allowed a new complex, including 85 loose boxes, to be built at Speen Farm that was firmly in the green belt and enjoyed unspoilt views over the rolling Chiltern countryside. The new Westcroft Stables at Speen Farm were officially opened on 15 July 1975. The Home is still based at Speen Farm today and will remain there for the foreseeable future.
A fortunate by-product of the forced sale of the site at Boreham Wood was a modest profit, which was to become a cornerstone of The Homes activities over the following 25 years. Wisely invested, this money has produced good capital growth and healthy dividends, which has progressively enabled The Home to assume its current position as the leading funder of equine welfare projects. Since those first modest grants in 1965, to The Royal Veterinary College and The Animal Health Trust, The Home has given over £10 million to a wide variety of projects and, at the time of writing, has on-going commitments of over £4 million. The main beneficiaries have been the university veterinary schools either in the form of grants for improved facilities or the funding of scientific research projects. More recently, The Home has introduced veterinary postgraduate clinical training awards known as residencies or clinical scholarships.
The guiding criteria for successful grant applications has always been that they must be of potential long-term benefit to all types of horse and that any research or investigation must be of a non-invasive nature.
The Homes support of equine welfare projects has not been at the expense of The Home itself that continues to function as a sanctuary for cases of hardship and as a final dignified resting place for a number of old favourites who, after a lifetime of service provide a living example to the public of exemplary care and responsible ownership. As the Millennium comes to a close, The Home can be justifiably proud of its achievements and the way in which it has adapted to the changing demands of welfare of the horse.