Swingletree Stables

John Parker

Swingletree Stables is set in the historic village of Wingfield, on the Norfolk/Suffolk boarders, and is a British Driving Society ( BDS) approved harness horse driving training centre.  Swingletree was established over 40 years ago by John Parker and his partner Susan Townsend.  John Parker is a  British Driving Society Light Harness Horse Instructor ( LHHI) and BDS All-Tests Assessor, and is one of the world’s leading experts in harness horse driving, traditional horse drawn vehicles and harness and in the history of horse drawn vehicles.  Susan Townsend is also an expert Driver in her own right, an LHHI and BDS All-Tests Assessor and also a very experienced harness maker.

 

John and Susan own over 30 horses and ponies, ranging from young horses preparing to be trained to work in harness to mature working horses, and ‘ old age pensioners’ enjoying their happy and well-deserved retirement in Swingletree’s lush paddocks.  

The horse, in all its forms, was fundamental to the culture of the countryside until relatively recently.  It is only just over 100 years ago that motorised vehicles became a familiar sight on country lanes, and many older people will remember their milk, bread, meat, vegetables and even coal being delivered by horse drawn vehicle.  

Swingletree boasts a unique collection of historic horse drawn vehicles.  These include the famous Norwich/London Royal Mail Coach, which is  one of the last working Royal Mail Coaches in existence today.  The Norwich Mail Coach was once the fastest method of passenger land transport , until the advent of the railways in the 1820’s, and was in fact the last ever Royal Mail Coach to regularly carry passengers and mail between Norwich and London, finally ceasing its last official journey in 1846.

Other vehicles include:  a Demi-Mail Phaeton dating from around 1840; a country-style horse drawn hearse c. 1900; a Private Drag; a Sociable c. 1860; a horse drawn sleigh; French Town Coach c.1880; and one of the last surviving horse drawn Post Office Vans, which carried mail all through the Blitz.

John Parker is Chairman of the British Driving Society (BDS), which is the national not-for-profit organisation responsible for all harness horse driving activities in the UK.  The BDS is dedicated to promoting all forms of harness horse driving and harness horse welfare.

John is one of the world's leading experts on harness horse driving and Coaching.  He holds two world records ( Guinness Book of Records) for long distance harness horse driving - having driven the Norwich/London Royal Mail Coach from Bristol to London to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first ever Royal Mail Coach journey in 1784, plus the 150th anniversary of the last Mail Coach journey from London to Norwich in 1840. He also holds the world record for the Quick Team Change, which stood at 64 seconds from 1888, and which was broken by John in an incredible 21.6 seconds - televised by BBC Record Breakers Programme.

Swingletree offers Introduction to Driving Days and individual lessons, as well as short courses and full training programmes leading to nationally-recognised Vocational Qualifications.  No previous experience with horses or driving is necessary for beginners.  John Parker also offers group guided tours of the Coach and carriage collection, and talks on the history of horse drawn transport.

Visit the website at www.swingletree.co.uk for further information, or telephone 01 379 384 496.