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
Baron, an old
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.
left) Bellasize Margaret *65 grazing in the
Photos from 1986
Below: A study of King in 1992
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Newspaper clipping of closure
and this simply brings tears to your eyes
On a more positive view, there is still life in
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
For more information on shire horses
in Germany check out the
German Shire Horse Society
all photos ©Karen