National Shire Horse Centre,

 Yealmpton, Devon



This page is dedicated to the National Shire Horse Centre, Yealmpton, Devon, which sadly closed in 2000. It was tradition in our family (as with a number of things) to visit the Centre on a regular basis.

Baron, an old favourite.

The centre was opened in May 1978, among the first horses were Bellasize Margaret, Duke, Baron, Prince, Roy, Emperor & Sovereign. The centre was granted a "National" status in 1985 by the Company Registrar, confirming its position as the leading Shire Horse Centre in the country. As the centre expanded new stables were built in 1983.  My first visit was in August 1980 and visits became an annual holiday feature.

Roy *67 (left) and (below left) Bellasize Margaret *65 grazing in the fields.

Photos from 1986








Below: A study of King in 1992


Duke in show harness, being fed by a young man. This was a long time ago!

Duke died 05.05.1990, a memorial stone was located above the parade ring for him.


Duke, born in 1973, was one of the first horses on the farm. Duke, was at the time believed to be the largest horse in the Southwest of England.

Photos taken Nov. 1981. It was a very long way down!



In its heyday the National Shire Horse Centre offered a fantastic day out with a forge and blacksmith, a crafts centre with its own pottery, glass engravers, saddlers, harness makers & wheelwright, a butterfly farm, pets corner and birds of prey shows and several gift shops. Horse shows were also held in the main arena. Unforgettable was the commentary conducted by the late Mr. Tony Flower, who introduced the individual horses and gave a short history of shire horses and the farm to the public. One could "drive" the horses around the arena, later foals, mares and the geldings were left in the arena for close up inspections and  photos.


left: stallion: Boringdon Devon Friar, above: broodmare Lady



 Further, one could potter around the cart and machinery museum, garden centre, butterfly farm, pets corner, the falconry and many shops around the farm. A great attraction (for us) was the "death slide". This was before overprotective health and safety laws banned such good fun.

An excellent cream tea was on offer in the original cart and stable barn, this being the oldest building on the farm dating back to 1772.

Baron *75 and Sovereign *78 on a very wet day in April 1992

In fact, Baron was one of the old favourites. He would patiently stand outside the old stables, waiting for his time in the parade ring and afterwards would be left untethered for visitors to admire. Sometimes he would wander off to inspect the elderly ladies coming out of the gift shop, they would immediately surrender their ice-cream cones  to Baron as a peace offering!

Boringdon Black King *1978 was entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the Worlds Tallest Living Horse, standing a massive 19.2" hands.

On the day of our visit however, his preferred pastime was rolling in the mud and not posing for photos. (Nov. 1992)

The farm walk and nature trail took you through typical Devon farm land, an arboretum, along the river Yealm, and past an old limekiln. In Spring you were accompanied by the wonderful blue hues and scent of bluebells, in autumn the turning colours were a photographers dream.

Newspaper clipping of closure and this simply brings tears to your eyes derelictplaces

On a more positive view, there is still life in the place:

Boringdon Devon Friar was sold to the United States where apparently he has made quite an impact and a number of shires carry his genes.

Two shire horses made their way to Germany: Boringdon Bosun and Arclid Sir Thomas. Both were bred by the Flower Family. Bosun was a champion foal at the Royal Cornwall Show in 1994 and went on to be Germanys' most successful Show Shire Horse, winning the gelding class 5 years running. Sadly Bosun died in 2002. Arclid Sir Thomas was with the Erzgršber Family in Darmstadt and also participated in National Shows.

For more information on shire horses in Germany check out the German Shire Horse Society  Boringdon Bosun

all photos ©Karen January. 2018