Of more than 2000 different recorded horse brass designs, the most desirable are traditionally the so-called ‘merit awards’ given as prizes at working horse parades.
The parades, traditionally held on Whit
Monday (the first by the London Cart Horse Parade Society in 1886),
were part of a movement to improve the conditions of the thousands
of working horses on Britain's roads, but they also marked time in
an era of great rural and urban change.
The RSPCA were among those who issued the
simple 'best in show' awards. They were highly prized by the
carters who received them, but also by an altogether different
class of society for whom collecting horse brasses became a highly
popular pastime in the 1890s.
Many institutional collections of brasses,
such as that in the Castle House Museum in York, were created in
this period and it gives some idea of the erstwhile popularity of
the collecting hobby that the first mention of fake horse brasses
appeared in an article in The Connoisseur magazine in
Today horse brass collecting is rather less
centre stage but just occasionally rarities can command headline
The Reading carriage specialists
Thimbleby & Shorland's (12% buyer's premium) still conduct
regular sales of tumblers, rein hangers, brewery studs, hame
plates, blind halters, face pieces, martingales et al. And
heremembers of the National Horse Brass Society converge.
T&S's March 6 sale included two reward
brasses, one simple shield-shaped brass stamped Dunmow, Horse
& Cart Parade, 1907, First Prize, E Richardson,the other,
a large bell-shaped brass with raised centre depicting a horse
inscribed Awarded to Prize Winner of the Pennsylvania Work
Horse Parade Association, June 3 1908.
While the average Victorian or Edwardian
horse brass can now be bought for under £10, a similar valuation
here would be somewhat wide of the mark. They sold for £800 and
From a rare copper post horn that folded to
fit in the pocket (£480) to a fine holly driving whip with ivory
handle by Callow (£420), this was a sale that celebrated Britain's
Leading proceedings was a milk churn with a brass top and tap
engraved Trefonen Dairy. These display pieces can often
command several hundred pounds but this one sold to a collector at
a punchier £2000.