Fell Ponies and Blennerhasset Manse

Members of Judith Bean-Calhoun’s family in front of Blennerhasset Manse in 1910. This photograph spawned Joe Langcake’s reminiscence. With thanks to Judith for use of this photograph.

Here is another story about a Fell Pony and a racehorse.  It is a reminiscence prompted by the recent article about Fell Ponies in The Whip.  Actually it was a photograph accompanying the article that prompted a response.  “That’s Blennerhasset Manse,” Joe Langcake said.  The photograph showed members of Judith Bean-Calhoun’s family with their Fell Pony in front of Blennerhasset Manse in 1910.

Joe’s association with Fell Ponies and Blennerhasset Manse dates to the 1930s or 1940s. Joe’s brother came to him one day and said he wanted to buy a racehorse for going point to point.  The two brothers talked about the problem of having enough money to buy one, and they hatched a plan.  They would go to Mr. Relph’s and buy a Fell Pony foal, raise it, break it well and sell it on.  The proceeds would then finance the racehorse dream.  The young men were shortly owners of a black Fell Pony filly with a white star, Birkett Bank Doll, whom they proceeded to teach to do tricks and to ride and drive.

One day Joe was plowing a field with horses adjacent to Blennerhasset Manse while his brother was off hunting with the hounds.  The vicar from the manse approached him, saying he’d seen Joe’s brother riding a pony.    The reverend at the manse had four daughters and was in need of a pony suitable for them.  Joe indicated that his brother’s pony was indeed for sale and would be suitable.  At the time, £20 was the going rate for a broken pony, but when the vicar asked what they wanted for the pony, Joe said – mindful of the purpose of the pony’s sale – that the price of the pony was £40.  The vicar agreed to the price, and they made arrangements for the pony to be delivered to the manse.

The Reverend and his family were thrilled with the pony and had fifteen years of enjoyment from it before all the girls married and moved away.  Joe remembers that pony as having ‘the nearest thing to a human brain of any horse I’ve ever met.’

Back on the day of the sale, when Joe’s brother returned from hunting, Joe told him that he’d sold the pony.  “What did you get for it?” his brother asked.  When Joe told him, his brother was stunned but pleased.  With the proceeds, his brother purchased a yearling racehorse named Major.  It went on to win quite a few races and was subsequently sold for £1000.  “That Fell Pony made the £1000,” says Joe.


About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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