Park House Stables

Notes about John Porters racing stables taken from Margaret Ingram's book
Kingsclere - A Place and its People (1987)

also see Park House Stables web site at www.kingsclere.com


John Porter was born in Rugely in 1838. Lord Westmoreland wrote to Sir Joseph Hawley asking if he would employ him as his trainer. When Sir Joseph saw him he said "Why you are only a boy", being 25 years old. But he did entrust his horses to him and he came to Cannon Heath in 1863 and later moved to Park House. Besides training for Sir Joseph Hawley, he trained for the Duke of Westminster, Lord Westmoreland, Lord Stamford and one or two others.
It was usual practise in John Porter's day for apprentices to use empty horseboxes to sleep in but Mt r Porter had dormitories built, a washroom with showers and hot and cold water and even a recreation room. The water supply was by gravitation from a water tower to which water was raised from a deep well. There was no shortage of water during the drought of 1921.
Mr Porter was a noted trainer, with seven Derby winners trained at Kingsclere - Blue Gown 1868; St Blaise 1883; Ormonde 1886; Sainfoin 1890; Common 1891 and Flying Fox 1899. Horses, which he trained between 1863 and 1905, won £793,192 in prize money. Of all the horses he trained Ormonde was probably his favourite for when he retired to live in Newbury he named his house Ormonde and this now forms part of the South Berkshire College.
At the end of the 1890's when Shotover and Geheimniss were big winners everyone from the village and neighbouring hamlets had a generous meal on the downs in two marquees. There were balloons and at dusk fireworks. The cost was shared by the owners and trainer of the two fillies.
John Porter had the stables built in the 1880's with three yards namely Baron Hirch's, the Duke's yard and Sainfoin Buildings or Stud Yard. The stabling was almost perfect in a quadrangle yard open to the south so that each wing received the sun at sometime during the day.
In 1892 Orme, the son of Ormonde, was ill. The vetinary surgeon diagnosed mercurial poisoning "the tongue protruded, the teeth had loosened, there was sloughing and the poor creature was unable to swallow naturally either liquid or solid food". For two weeks his hair came out in patches and he was so weak he could scarcely stand without assistance. The horse was not left alone but closely guarded. Newspaper reporters and a detective came. Orme's owner the Duke of Westminster offered a reward of £1000 for information leading to the conviction of the guilty person. Orme was nursed back to health and his winnings amounted to £32,726.
Some of the cottages have been named after classic winners, such as Phaleron Cottages, Troutbeck Bungalow and Sainfoin House.
Because there were so many racing stables within easy reach of Newbury, Mr Porter thought Newbury would be an excellent place to have a racecourse. The Jockey Club at first rejected the idea, but eventually the licence was granted. He also had Strattons built as a stud farm. He was one of the greatest trainers at Park House and he was buried within a few feet of the west door of St Mary's Church, Kingsclere.
Park House was sold in 1925 for £4,460. Major Bruce trained here before Mr Fred Butters. Mr Ormerod used it for, polo ponies and farming and then in Major Bruce's time it reverted to horse racing. After the Second World War when things had returned to normal Mr Evan Williams trained on the gallops. Mr and Mrs Williams purchased it in September 1943 for £27,000; he had ridden the Grand National winner in 1937. It was during his time as a trainer that Supreme Court won the Festival Stakes in 1951, with the largest prize money a horse had ever brought its owner in a race.
Captain Hastings-Bass followed in 1952 until his death in 1964; his best years were 1955, 1960, 1961 and 1963. Mr Ian Balding came to the stables in 1963
Kingsclere was really put on the map and on television through Mill Reef. American Paul Mellon bred him in 1968; his mother Milan Mill and his father Never Beni. He became Horse of the Year in 1971 when he won the Derby, the Prix d'Arc de Triomphe and the King George V and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. It as while exercising that he broke his leg and in August 1972 he had it set at Park House. People from far and wide sent get-well cards, Christmas and New Year cards and money to buy him things such as eggs. The surplus money was used to buy a rocking horse for handicapped children in a home in Andover.
In January 1973 Park House came alive with visitors from as far away as London as the public were allowed to say farewell to Mill reef who at that time was described by the local press as "Paul Mellon's wonder horse". Between 300 and 400 people visited the stables to see Mill Reef for the last time before he left the next day for the National Stud at Newmarket. It was reported in the daily press that he would earn £2,000,000 in stud fees and he has fathered Derby winners. He died last year [written in1987], but he lives at Park House in the form of a bronze statue.
Between 500 and 600 visitors came to park House when they had an Open Morning in August 1986 to raise money for the Kingsclere Tower Appeal. Nearly £1,000 was raised with entry tickets being "2.50 each. Visitors watched 33 horses being exercised including two colts by Mill Reef.
Park House can boast of ten Derby winners and seven of these were in John Porter's day. Midday Sun in 1937 was trained by Fred Butters and Mill Reef trained by Mr Ian Balding in 1973. It is the Racing Stables that brought Royalty back to Kingsclere. During John Porter's time Edward the Prince of Wales had his horses here and now [1987] the Queen has horses trained at Park House.
In recent years a swimming pool was built for the horses to help their limbs.