What are Stables and Other Similar Associated Buildings?

By the 1800s, in the city, most houses were devoid of stables, whereas most country homes were equipped with one. Stables offered lodging for horses, protected them from the elements, and provided them with a ready food and water supply. Stables could also be detached or attached to a house depending on an owner’s preference, and they came in a variety of sizes, with the size of a Stable usually being commensurate with the size of the establishment.

Stables Built in 1802, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Stables Built in 1802. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

People like Jane’s Austen father George might have a single Stable. If a person was rich like Eliza de Feuillide‘s godfather, Warren Hastings, there might be a large Stable and it might be subdivided into several sections to hold a variety of horses. For instance, one section might hold carriage-horses, another section might be set aside for riding horses, another for hunting horses, another for visitor’s horses, and still another section for post-horses.

Stables had individual stalls inside for the horses. The optimal stall size was said to be 6 feet wide by 9 feet deep with an ideal Stable size about 18 to 19 feet. Stalls were usually separated by partitions that were no shorter than 5 feet and usually no higher than 7 feet high. If economy was necessary, stalls could also be designed with a central passageway and have a row of stalls on either side. Another important stall was a Loose-Box, which often constituted a considerable portion of the total horse accommodations. Loose-Boxes housed lame, sick, or injured horses and were large stalls, usually larger than 8 feet and enclosed with a door. Sometimes the Loose-Box was located in a one-stall Stable.

Light, temperature, and ventilation were important elements of any Stable. For lighting, windows were used or sometimes skylights. Horses also needed cool temperatures in summer and temperatures that were not too cold during winter months. A Southward aspect usually helped to control the temperature because in winter it allowed sunshine and in the summer excessive heat could be relieved by opening windows or louvered blinds. Additionally, to prevent Stables from being too hot in winter and too cool in summer, it was advisable to have some sort of loft. Ventilation was important too, and, by the mid 1800s, there were several types of artificial ventilation, including several types of ceiling ventilators that carried air through tubes into the loft and to the outside. Yet, the advice on the easiest ways to ventilate a Stable was to build it so that it was lofty — no less than 10 feet high (and better at 12 to 15 feet high). Another reason for good ventilation was to lessen flies, particularly if the Dung-pit was situated close to the Stables.

Horses also needed a floor that provided good footing. At the same time, floors needed to be smooth but strong enough not to break. The floor could not be absorbent either. First, a non-absorbent floor prevented cold air from permeating the area, and, second, it reduced offensive odors. Besides the floor being non-absorbent, the walls also needed to be too, and, so, rough brickwork was preferable to plastering. Additionally, in early times, stable floors sloped from the back of the wall to a gutter to allow good drainage. It was decided later that a level floor was better for horses, and if there was a slope for drainage, the slope was very slight and angled towards the center of the stall. The dryness of a floor was another consideration because it needed to be damp free in order to encourage a healthy Stable environment.

Storage of food and other items sometimes occurred in the Stables. For instance, the food the horses ate was often placed in the Stable with their corn-bins paced in a corner, under a window, or in the loft. When bins were in the loft, a wooden shoot with slides allowed the feed to drop onto the Stable floor. Other times a spare stall might be used as a Fodder-bay to store both the corn-bin and the hay. To store grooming items, there might be a small cupboard that held currycombs and brushes. Often times there might also be harness-pegs fixed to the wall. However, these pegs were not used to store any leather items because they would become unusable after a time due to heat and moisture.

Other office buildings associated with Stables included the Carriage-house, Cow-houses, Dung-Pit, Fowl-houses, Grooming-shed and Horse-bath, Harness-room and Saddle-room, Hay and Corn-loft and Boiler-house, and Stable-yard, Ride, and Water-supply.

  • Carriage-house: Near the Stable was the Carriage-house that held coaches, carriages, and other horse-pulled vehicles, along with leather items, which was why it was important they be clean and dry. Another important element of a Carriage-house was its floors. Floors needed to resist the wear created by wheels and so were often created from paving bricks or stones, although sometimes they were also created from wood. Walls and ceilings were usually plastered. Doorways in Carriage-houses tended to range from 7 to 9 feet wide, and it was recommended they be at least 8 feet high. If several carriages needed to be accommodated, there might be several doors separated by timber posts or stone pillars. The depth of a Carriage-House was usually 18 feet and an airy height was said to be at a minimum, 10 feet. There also needed to be sufficient light. This was usually achieved by windows. To prevent dampness, Carriage-Houses often had stoves or if a Harness-room adjoined it, the stove, or the required fireplace for the Harness-room might be placed so as to heat both. The Carriage-house was also usually placed in front of the Stable-Yard, although sometimes a Post-carriage-house might be placed there instead if there was a Post-horse Stable in the yard. Wherever the Carriage-house was placed, there was usually a bricked or stone spot—called a washing-pavement. This had drainage and was the spot used to wash the carriages. In small Carriage-houses there was usually no Harness-room, and, so, the Carriage-house accommodated harnesses on pegs. Additionally, a small cupboard or shelf held cleaning items. Because carriages were hauled in and out of Carriage-houses, there also needed to be way to ensure it happened easily and that carriages were not damaged. For these reason fender-stones were placed by posts to not only protected the carriages but also to prevent carriage wheel abrasions. When carriages were particularly heavy, there might also be some sort of wheel-tracks that helped guide carriages in and out of the Carriage-house.

    Fanciful rendering of the interior of a carriage house from am 1898 theatrical poster. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

  • Cow-house: These buildings were different from Stables. Cow-houses tended to have a central passage with wide doors at either end. Feeding troughs were often fixed along each side of the passages, but the same considerations used in a Stable — non-absorbent floor and walls — was also applied to a Cow-house. There might also be some sort of separate division for cows with young calves, so as to protect them after birth. If a large number of cows were kept, there was usually also a Dairy. Click here to learn more about Dairies.
  • Dung-Pit: Dung-pits were used for animal waste. Cleaning the Stables could be easily accomplished by filling wheelbarrows with dung and toting it through the Stable doors, which were usually at least 4 wide and 7 feet high. The placement of a Dung-pit was important because you didn’t want it to become a nuisance. Additionally, if possible, removal of the dung needed to be contrived so it did not pass through the Stable-yard. Stable drainage could also drain into the Dung-pit with a cesspool formed underneath for liquid manure. Sometimes Dung-pits were situated so that dung could be dropped through a hatch or shutter next to the Stable. However, this arrangement only lasted for a short time because once full it became unusable. When that happened, reverting to the wheelbarrow was the only option. People also found it advantageous to have the Dung-Pit placed in a separate yard where it could be turned over until it was fit for use in a garden.
  • Fowl-houses: These buildings housed fowls, such as ducks and chickens. It was important these enclosure be constructed to ensure proper sanitary conditions. Perches were usually fixed on a sloping frame, so that the fowls could not roost one over the other, and the place for sitting hens was usually separate to allow birds to sit undisturbed, although there could also be nests on the ground. One important aspect of a Fowl-house was making sure it was properly supplied with fresh hay or straw and an adequate and clean water supply, often accomplished with iron troughs. Floors also needed to be cleaned once a week and fresh sand or earth laid down.
  • Grooming-shed and Horse-bath: In small establishments, the groomer was responsible to clean and rub down the horse outside of the Stable. However, in large establishments, this might happen in a Grooming-Shed. Such a shed was usually placed near the Stable doors and made sufficiently large enough to accommodate one or two horses at a time. The Grooming-Shed could also serve as a Vestibule to the Stable and was always open in front. By the mid 1800s, Horse-baths were a luxury that were sometimes included inside the Grooming-shed. These collapsed against a wall when not in use and required nothing more than a cistern overhead, a drain to take the water away, and a shower/bath apparatus.
  • Harness-room and Saddle-room: The primary objective of a Harness-room was to house harnesses. Such rooms needed to be dry, and, so floors and walls were often created from wood. Sometimes the walls were lined with wood to the height of the harness pegs and then the remainder (including the ceiling) plastered. Fireplaces were needed in these rooms to help keep the contents dry, and, these rooms often had an inner door to the Carriage-house but not one to the Stable because of moisture. At the same time, the Harness-room needed to be readily accessible to the Stables. To hold equipment, Harness-rooms were often arranged accordingly: Saddle-trees were placed from 6 to 8 feet from the floor and hooks and brackets placed under them to hold bridles, girths, and stirrups. There might also be a row of collar-brackets for carriage horses and hooks and brackets for pads, bridles, reins, etc. Each harness set was kept by itself and often had the wearer’s name inscribed on it. Near the fireplace was usually a glass case that held curbs, bits, spurs, chains, and other small steel accessories. There might also be another glass case that held more valuable harnesses, such as those relating to state carriages. Whips, lamps, rugs, and horsecloths were also stored in this room. A large table often occupied the center of the room and had drawers to hold small items like brushes. Sometimes there might also be a Cleaning-room, with a sink, attached to the Harness-room. If the establishment was large, the Saddle-room might be completely separate but still attached to the Harness-room. Saddle-rooms were under the dominion of the head-groom or outrider and the Harness-room was under the dominion of the coachman.
  • Hay and Corn-loft and Boiler-house: A Hay and Corn-loft might be placed above the Stable-offices to store hay and corn. One main consideration if it was over Stable-offices was that the wood floor be as tight as possible to prevent hay and corn dust from falling down onto the floor below. Adding contents to the loft was accomplished by doors that opened from outside. These doors needed to be located in a spot easily accessible for the delivery of hay and corn. Oats and beans were also deposited into these lofts but they were usually kept in sacks or bins. To access the contents from the Stable, usually a trap-ladder was placed between the two areas, although sometimes if there was separate Corn-loft, a stairway was used to gain access. In large establishments, sometimes there was no Hay and Corn-loft. Instead, these items were stored at ground level between two Stables in what was called a fodder-bay, with one fodder-bay being used for each Stable. Boiling-houses were also sometimes used to prepare certain types of food. These were usually moderate-sized apartments on a ground floor and bins held the beans, oats, linseed, or chaff, and coppers were used to boil them.
  • Piggeries: Pigs where often housed near cows. Piggeries were generally constructed of brick or stone wall enclosures. They also tended to have raised roof and impervious floors, with drainage if possible.
  • Stable-yard, Ride, and Water Supply: A Stable-Yard was required for outdoor work and located near the Stable and Carriage-House. Yard dimensions were from 40 to 100 feet wide by at least 40 by 50 feet long. The site for these was determined based on the connection needed for the house, and an entrance was usually achieved in the Stable-yard with a gate. The idea was that after a home carriage stopped at the Porch to deliver passengers, it could proceed to the Stable-Yard without having to leave the principal approach. If the Stable-Yard was close to the house that usually required a second entrance into the Stable-Yard, and if it was at a distance, then usually one entrance was sufficient. Stable-Yards were usually either entirely bricked, had stone pitching, or were graveled. This helped to keep down dust and did away with mud during the rainy season. One common element often seen in Stable-yards was a Clock-turret used to note time. In large establishments sometimes there might also be a roadway termed a Ride. A Ride provided the ability to exercise horses during bad weather or when they were sick. A Ride went around the entire Stable-yard and was about 10 feet wide, with extra wide rounded corners to prevent accidents. It was also important to have a Water-supply in the Stable-yard, and, with small Stables, this could be accomplished with a single pump. Large establishments usually had several water supplies: One for each Stable (for cleaning reasons), one near the harness-room, one in front of the Carriage-house, and one near the Boiling-house. Drainage also needed to be considered when accommodating these water supplies.


  • Kerr, Robert, The Gentleman’s House, 1865

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