Things to see in London this August

This week at Horse Guards in Whitehall, official artist Rob Pointon ROI was painting one of the troopers. Rob only paints from on location from life and the result is really impressive.

This month in London you can try your hand at producing some artwork of your own. The Sketch on the Square project has set up 30 easels in nearby Trafalgar Square. Every afternoon the public are supplied there with pencils and art crayons to produce their own artwork. They may be up to Rob’s level but you can have fun trying.

Some things you may not know about the Household Cavalry

The Horse Guards are on duty every day and are a favourite with tourists. There are two regiments in what is officially called the Household Cavalry. They are the Life Guards who wear red and the Blues and Royals who wear dark blue.

The troopers on duty are part of the British army’s armoured reconnaissance units. They complete normal basic military training then choose whether they want to perform ceremonial duties or not. Often, the troopers have never ridden before and are taught at Windsor. They ride sit trot only, not rising trot.

The soldier’s boots are rigid so they can’t feel the horse or stirrups and walking in them is very difficult. The boots have spurs fixed onto them so the spur will not slip and prod the horse accidentally. On the men’s helmets is a synthetic plume but officer’s helmets have one made of Yak fur.  

Their swords are of tempered steel which makes them very strong and flexible. They are made by Wilkinson Sword from an early C20th design.

The beautiful horses are ¼ Irish cross and have to be minimum of 16 hands high. They are kept by the military until they are 21-22 yrs old then they are sold to a good home.

Uniform display in Knightsbridge barracks

The Household cavalry use two barracks, Knightsbridge in London and one at Windsor.

At Knightsbridge barracks the Life Guards stables are on the ground floor, Blues & Royals on the balcony level. Sometimes we see the horses on the balcony as we drive past on coach tours. I have been lucky enough to have visited inside the barracks to hear about life there from the horses mouth 😉.

There are 320 horses at Knightsbridge barracks. A team of 14 farriers are based there as well. The farriers do normal army training before being allowed to apply to become farriers. It is a sought-after trade so would-be farriers take an entrance exam after which the army trains them.

The horse-shoes are hand forged from a straight piece of metal and changed every 2-3 weeks because they wear out on roads. A stock of machine-made shoes are kept for use during busy times.

What are they guarding?

This is a question I am often asked. The building behind their sentry boxes was the entrance gate to Whitehall Palace from the Mall so guards would have been posted on the St James Park side.

Whitehall Palace burnt down 1698 and afterwards the guards used the same building but faced out onto the street to guard the entrance to what became the main London royal residence, St James Palace. In 1760 the original gate building was replaced by the one we see today designed by William Kent and John Vardy.

If you want to get the most out of your visit and learn the truth about London sites, book a qualified and experienced Blue Badge tourist guide CONTACT ME.

To see more of Rob Pointon’s art go to http://www.robpointon.co.uk

About the author: Gail Jones

Tourist Guide

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