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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Red House Stables & Working Carriage Museum

Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007

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Red House Stables & Working Carriage Museum -Darley Dale

`One of Derbyshire's most unique and popular attractions'

One of Derbyshire’s most unique and popular attractions is provided by Caroline Dale Leech at the Red House Stables and Working Carriage Museum, Old Road, Darley Dale, which has one of the finest historic collections of horse drawn vehicles and equipment in Britain.

The unique collection of carriages and accessories from a bygone age was started by Caroline’s grandfather, Mr. William Smith, a prominent horse breeder and dealer who came over from Ireland during the early years of the twentieth century.

“My grandfather was very particular about the authenticity and impeccable condition of each carriage, and he set the standards for the business, which at one time had a stable of almost forty horses” says Caroline.

The business – and the tradition, was carried on by her father, and since then by Caroline, who has spent her entire working life with horses and driving carriages.

The Carriage Museum is a popular and unique tourist attraction, and husband Peter Leech is the expert who provides the cabinet making, carpentry and metal working experience necessary for the maintenance and restoration of the historic collection of vehicles, whose residual value increases with age.

But as he pointed out, “The rarity value increases, but vehicles for salvage or restoration become increasingly difficult to find and many are quite dilapidated, and of course, there are no spare parts available these days!”.

Unrivalled & Unique Collection

`The present collection of carriages is almost priceless...'

The present collection of carriages is almost priceless and includes one of the very few surviving original Hansom Cabs, a Stage Coach, a Royal Mail Coach in full livery, two genuine Landaus and numerous other private and commercial vehicles.

Red House Stables is also a Horse Riding and Carriage Driving Centre, and it takes a great deal of knowledge, experience and skill to prepare, harness and drive a team of up to six horses. But Caroline Dale Leech is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts – and she is certainly one of the most qualified!

Well known and respected throughout the carriage driving world, Caroline is Hon. Secretary and Founder Committee Member of the Carriage Foundation and holds all the British Driving Society qualifications up to Level Four; she is also a Light Harness Horse Training Board Driving Instructor, N.V.Q. Assessor and a City & Guilds Examiner who in 2002 received the British Driving Society Medal of Honour in recognition of her long service to the society, and was also invited to become a member of the prestigious Ladies World Coaching Club.

She can frequently be seen driving a team & carriage and adding a splendid nostalgic and picturesque ambience to the pastoral scene along the pleasant country lanes around Darley Dale, and many of the vehicles are available to hire for carnivals, displays and promotions and are especially popular for traditional weddings.

Sightseeing Tours to Chatsworth & Haddon Hall!

Visitors can book a sightseeing tour to Chatsworth Park and Haddon Hall, stopping at country hostelries for refreshment, and there are carriage driving courses catering for beginners, right through to the highest standard of driving singles, pairs, tandems and teams.

Horses for Hire.

Horses can also be hired by the hour or day for hacking through the beautiful surrounding countryside, and there is a spotless tack-room with a vast array of harness and tack on display, examples of collars and travelling chests from down the ages, and a fine collection of coach horns. Of course, as with every other aspect of her expertise Caroline also blows a mean Post Horn…. in fact, she is the only woman ever to win the Coach Horn Competition at the Royal Show!

Caroline stresses that this is a working museum:

“The carriages are regularly out on the road being used, and not just locked away behind closed doors. Visitors are invited to browse around at their leisure and both the stables and museum are accessible to the disabled and make an ideal all year round venue as much is under cover”.

Excellent B&B and Caravan Club Site.

The complex also provides excellent bed & breakfast with en-suite accommodation at ground level and doubles as an AA Recommended Site and a Caravan Club C/L Site.

Educational visits and school parties prove very popular and children especially enjoyed their visits: Says Caroline:

“Of course, they love the horses, and enjoy seeing them being groomed and they are fascinated to see the blacksmith at work. I suspect that many of them are thrilled because they will have seen the horses and carriages on television in children’s programmes like The Tweenies and the Telly Tubbies, and earlier this year we made an appearance on BBC Television’s `Restoration’ series, featuring Arkwright’s Mill at Cromford”.

Other television appearances include BBC’s `Inside Out’ programme, Central TV’s `Heart of the Country’, `The History of The Horse’ for BBC North-East, `Stig of The Dump’, `Bargain Hunt’, and `Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire’ - and Caroline was recently featured officially opening the Pennine Way Driving Trail for the Countryside Agency on BBC TV.

Equine Film Stars!

Carriages and horses from Red House Stables currently star in the latest big screen adaption of `Pride & Prjudice`, but `Women in Love’, directed by Ken Russell was the first feature film to be filmed here, and Caroline has appeared in many of them since. She has rubbed shoulders with film directors and stars alike – even received a bouquet of flowers from Edward Fox after the filming of Charles Dicken’s `Hard Times!’

However, the real stars in the galaxy at the Darley Dale complex are the horses, and especially the beautifully restored carriages and coaches which have appeared in over thirty major films since their debut in the 1958 screen adaption of Thomas Hardy’s `Far From the Madding Crowd’ - and which are set to boost tourism in Derbyshire and bring the fans flocking to Darley Dale when they appear at a cinema near you sometime later this year!

 
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