Diary of a Stable Boy - Allthatwehaveshared (2023)

Friday August 8th, 1806
Romney Cottage

I was outside the stables in my shirtsleeves, on this balmy summer afternoon, applying a rag and softener to some fine leather saddles, when I heard a nicker behind me. I turned and saw the lovely chestnut nose of Master Phillip’s horse, Lady Bes, stretched towards me appealingly. The mare inclined her nostrils to my hand, and I remained there for some time. I scratched the short hairs between her ears and along the bridge of her face, marvelling at the liquid depths of her enormous almond eyes, when I noticed other hooves trotting nearby, and the master of the house yelling with rage.

It appeared Sir Thomas was angry with his sons again, particularly the young one, Phillip. I watched from a distance how Sir Thomas gripped the whip hanging nearby at the stables and started whipping his son with all his might.

The older son, George, tried to intercede, trying to help his younger brother, but his father just lashed out with the whip to him, “You stay out of it!” And the whip clashed against his back because the older son quickly turned his back to his father.

“He needs to learn. He will learn how to ride a horse without tumbling off, he needs to! He has to!” Sir Thomas barked, while he continued whipping Phillip, who was protecting his head with his arms, the whip lashing on his back, the force of the clashes forcing him on his knees in the dust.

I had heard from the other servants that the young boy got a beating on more than one occasion, for not being perfect, for not excelling in fencing, boxing, riding, or shooting. For not fitting within his Father’s very narrow vision of English manhood. I heard that the beating usually occurred with a belt, over a shirt, which left no mark. Sir Thomas never meant to hurt his son, of that the servants were sure, but that was all he had ever done for the young one. Ever since his wife had died during childbirth, delivering their youngest, he had it in for the young boy, blaming Phillip for taking his wife.

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When Phillip was sent to Eton, a sigh of relief went through the servants, for it would mean he could at least escape his father’s wrath. It was the time I started working in the stables because I could not join the boys at Eton. Unfortunately, Phillip was back from school this summer and his father lost his temper once again.

I struggled for self-mastery when the master of the house continued whipping his son, my legs rooted to the ground, my heart beating in my chest at the injustice of it all. I had known both sons, when I was fortunate enough to share their governess, until the boys had to leave for Eton in London. My mother tried her best to continue my education, and I am so very blessed with her perseverance, for I love to keep this journal to write down my adventures or those misadventures of others.

When the whip sliced through Phillip’s shirt and drew blood, Sir Thomas did not stop. Instead, he turned even more savage and continued whipping and lashing out with his tongue as well, while my fingers balled like fists, whitening my fingers in anger.

The young son, only twelve years of age, took it silently, not a word uttered from his mouth, while his older brother tried to reason with their father at a safe distance. It went on until Sir Thomas grew weary and he tossed the whip aside. He grabbed the older boy, George, at his elbow and dragged him home, leaving Phillip on his knees in the dust, apparently not caring for him at all.

I set off across the sun-burned grass where I was polishing the saddles, the horse trotting alongside me, hastening myself to Phillip’s side, the horse bowing her head to her master in apparent apology. I suffered him to rest his weight against my shoulder, my arm around his waist, helping him to his feet. His breath hitched when my arm brushed his beaten, bloody back and I apologised profusely, making soothing noises to calm Phillip down, my heartbeat rendered the more rapid by being in close proximity to him.

Together, we set off for Romney cottage, at the other side of the wooded copse, where I lived with my parents. Unfortunately, they were called to a family emergency and would not be home for another day.

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Romney cottage was intended as a dower house, but the baronet had no use for such a place, his mother long since departed this life when he achieved his title. Thomas Crane had turned it over to my parents, his butler, Gunning, and his wife, when they were expecting me. That was fifteen years ago, and it has been my home ever since. I grew up under its eaves, and I loved living there. I had many boyhood rambles among the cottage's blackberry vines, at the boulder that I would climb as a young boy, together with the Crane brothers. Neatly whitewashed and half-timbered, the cottage was very picturesque in summer for a rose bush clung to its lintel, and a flagrant boxwood hedge flourished beneath its leaded panes.

I placed Phillip on one of the kitchen chairs, while I boiled some hot water and found a cloth. He still hadn’t spoken, lost in thought and pain, and my heart bled for him. I gave him some laudanum because I knew cleaning his wounds would sting. It was most important to make sure there would be no inflammation, which was a risk in this warm August weather.

My mother considered herself something of a herbologist. She had taught me how to care for wounds and other ailments, and now I used this knowledge to take care of Phillip.

He hissed when I placed the wet cloth on his bloodied back to rub the blood off gently, while I made soothing noises, hoping he would come out of his stupor.

By the time I rubbed his wounds with a mild ointment, Phillip broke down and choked on unshed tears. I had never seen him break down before, never even seen him cry, but now he gave way to his pain and sorrows.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice a mere whisper, his throat still choked, and his head bent low.

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“You would have done the same for me,” I replied, remembering how he had always helped me with my reading and writing, even when I was three years his elder. He was always patient and very caring. He showed such a tender concern for me, I had grown really fond of him. Maybe even more than just fondness.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” I queried softly, while rubbing more ointment on his back, giving him a chance to tell me without meeting my eyes.

“My father forced me to accompany him and my brother on the hunt. He jumped a hedge ahead of me. My brother made the jump, as well as could be expected, him being bigger and stronger and always better at all things sporting. I tried to follow, I really did,” Phillip’s voice faltered, while he recollected his thoughts and the events, before he continued. “You see, if I had not tried, my father would have branded me a coward and I would never hear the end of it. So, I galloped towards the hedgerow, but my horse reared up and threw me off. Lucky for me, I walked away without serious injury, but my father was livid, as you have just witnessed.” Phillip sighed deeply, his breath a bit wobbly and his face felt heated. He swallowed heavily, “I let my father down, by taking a tumble.”

I met his gaze with a furrowed brow in confusion at his tale, “But it was not your fault,” I countered quietly, seething through my teeth, still wondering how any father could hurt his son in such a brutal manner. My father had never laid a hand on me, and I knew for sure I had not been the easiest child. I realised my eyes started to water, I had heard tales of his misfortune but hearing him explain how easy his father took him for a beating made my heart clench, “I am so sorry, Phillip. I— had no idea,” I whispered, “But it’s not on you—“

“It must have been, why else—?” Phillip sighed again, still stuck in the only world he knew. He was not perfect and did not live up to his father’s expectations, while all that mattered was to turn into an honest and honourable man. From what I had witnessed up close, he was just that. Even as a young boy, he was honest and honourable.

I moved over to face him, cupping his cheeks, while my thumbs brushed his silent tears away. I lifted his head, wanting to lock eyes with him for what I had to say to him.

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You are not at fault. Your father is. You are honest and honourable and more of a man than your father will ever be.”
Phillip hiccuped into his tears, a faint smile curving his lips, his eyes searching mine in wonderment at my statement, and for the first time he might actually believe it himself.

“Thank you, William, that means a lot to me” Phillip murmured through his tears, and I gasped. I never knew that Phillip knew my full name, and it filled my heart. At the nursery, they always called me Billy, just like my parents did.

I always had a soft spot for Phillip, two years younger than his brother George, but eager to be as good and as tough. It was just a young boy's crush, looking up to someone like one does when surrounded by other boys. I had never told him about my feelings, and I never would. For now, it was enough I could take care of him, be close to him. To tell him, he was not at fault, never had been. I knew in my deepest soul there was a different life for him. It had to be.
“You need some tea and some food in you, to help with the healing process. You stay put.”

Phillip nodded, while I turned my back to him to boil the kettle again. I wiped my eyes with my shirt sleeve, not caring whether he noticed or not. He should know people cared about him. I cared about him. I made a cold repast and filled some mugs with a hearty brew.

We ate in silence, both deep in thought about how life can be different when we grow up. I wondered g if I could punish Sir Thomas for beating my friend, but decided it would endanger my parents' safety, including mine, even though I did not care for my own safety. I would do it, for him.

After our silent meal, I put more ointment on his wounds, before I handed him one of my night shirts. “I know you are used to finer comforts, but this is clean.”

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Phillip accepted my shirt with a heartfelt thanks. After donning my shirt, he pulled me close and just held on. I pulled him tighter, happy for the embrace, while he clung to me and snuggled his nose against my neck.

I lifted him up and put him to bed, where I lay beside him. He put himself safely under my shoulder, his hand resting on my waist, while I pulled the blanket over us. His breathing grew soon even, laboured, a sure sign he had drifted up to sleep. I could not sleep at all, not with him so close. I watched his angel like face with wonder and hoped he would find love one day. A love deserving of this gentle soul.


What is the job description of a stable boy? ›

A groom or stable boy (stable hand, stable lad) is a person who is responsible for some or all aspects of the management of horses and/or the care of the stables themselves.

What did a groom do in the 1800s? ›

Grooms and Stable-boys

The job of the groom was to feed, 'groom', and exercise the horses, and if there was no separate coachman, to drive and maintain the carriage. Each groom was responsible for a single vehicle and its horse(s), and was usually helped by a stable-boy.

What do you call someone who grooms horses? ›

Alternative titles for this job include Stable hand, racing groom, equine groom. Horse grooms are responsible for the care and welfare of horses, and maintain stables and riding equipment.

What did stable boys wear? ›

Stable jackets could be worn either simply over a shirt, or as a warmer waistcoat with sleeves beneath another coat. They were also occasionally tucked into to breeches, giving the jacket the cropped look that often appears in paintings of jockeys.

What skill does a steward have? ›

Steward Requirements:

Strong customer service and team working skills. Physical stamina to work long hours on your feet. The flexibility to work shifts, nights, weekends, and holidays. Strong communication and organizational skills.

What are the duties of a horse caretaker? ›

Daily tasks would include but not be limited to: feeding, stall cleaning, bringing horses to and from paddocks, general barn cleaning, paddock upkeep, horse exercising, grounds maintenance, and…

Did queens have a Groom of the Stool? ›

Under the rule of Elizabeth I naturally it was not at all considered proper that a male should attend the Queen in her most private business. Therefore instead of the term Groom of the Stool, a Lady of the Bedchamber was appointed.

What is a male bride called? ›

A bridegroom (usually shortened to groom) is a man who is about to be married, or who has just been married.

What are groom traditions? ›

Selecting thank-you gifts for his wedding party. Arranging—and paying for—lodging for his wedding party. Selecting a gift for the bride. Compiling the groom's part of the guest list and making sure that his parents provide their guest list. Planning the honeymoon—today, this is more of a joint venture.

What is slang for male horse? ›

A male horse over the age of four years old is called either a stallion or a gelding, depending on its ability to reproduce. Between the age of one-year-old and four years old, male horses are referred to as colts. You may also hear a male horse called a stud or a sire if it is used for breeding purposes.

What does rubbing down a horse mean? ›

Rubbing down a horse is simply the act of using a brush to clean your horse's coat. It's usually done after a ride to remove any dirt, sweat, or debris that may be clinging to his coat.

What do you call a male horse that is not fixed? ›

A stallion is a mature male horse at the age of four or older; a mare is a mature female horse at the same age. A gelding is a castrated male horse of any age. Stallions are also known as entire horses or uncut horses.

What is a stable position at work? ›

Job stability is the measure of how secure a job is in a company or industry or whether it has the potential to remain a viable position for the foreseeable future. For example, if you consider an accounting position, you may benefit from the stability of the demand for accountants.

What is the job description of a stable hand? ›

Stablehands assist with grooming, feeding and saddling horses as well as maintaining and cleaning stables. Stablehands are usually employed in stables that focus on racing, trotting, riding or breeding, in agistment centres or on farms.

What is a stewards job description? ›

A steward helps manage a restaurant or bar and keeps if clean and hygienic. They may assist with dishwashing and help other employees perform their job. A steward may also perform administrative duties such as answering the phone, taking reservations and providing basic information.

What is a steward job position? ›

Steward Duties and Responsibilities

Clearing, cleaning and setting tables. Ensuring serving stations are stocked with cutlery, napkins, trays, and condiments. Sweeping and mopping floors in the restaurant, bar, and kitchen. Scraping food plates, pans, and pots. Moving used linen in and out of housekeeping.


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