After 36 years, Southwold's dray horses pull their last load

Click to follow
The Independent Online

One of the most picturesque traditions of one of England's most picturesque towns comes to an end this week when the dray horses of Southwold are taken out of service.

The formidable beasts have been pulling the beer wagons of Adnams brewery in the Suffolk resort for 36 years, but on Friday they will deliver their last load. The brewery's new distribution centre, three miles away, is too far away for the two heavy horses - Percherons - to haul the beer barrels to the six pubs they currently deliver to. Furthermore, the road is so busy the animals could cause a traffic hazard, so they are being retired,

One of the horses, 15-year-old Sam, will go to a local farm where a new stable will be built to enable him to live out his remaining days in peace. His younger colleague, Monarch, will be sent to a farm in Spalding in Lincolnshire, where he will continue to work.

The Percheron, which comes from the Perche, the far south-east corner of Normandy in France, is one of the best-known of theheavy draft horse breeds that include Clydesdales, Suffolk Punches and Shires. Since horse-drawn ploughing died out, they have traditionally been used for pulling brewery drays, but there are fewer and fewer of them to be found.

Sam and Monarch have been a well-loved sight in Southwold, adding to the charm of a town which seems to have come from a Dickens novel, with old inns and rows of cottages. The head horseman at Adnams, Chris Orchard, says British farmers who served in France in the First World War became impressed with the Percheron's ability "It's the temperament that counts most of the time," he said. "It's making animals stand still which is usually the hardest part. Our two don't move, and they're good with children around the town. They get a bit excited when they're offered carrots, but otherwise they're brilliant."

After Friday, Mr Orchard, 55, will switch to delivering beer by lorry.

"This is not cost-cutting," said Andy Wood, Adnams' commercial director. "This is to do with the health and safety of the horses, who would have a longer journey." He did not rule out the possibility that the horses may come out of retirement for special occasions.