“Riding Through the Ridings”: Random Sketches of Yorkshire Coaching Inns was written and illustrated in 1947 by Joseph Appleyard. An unpublished book, it has found a home online through his son, David. The illustrations fit so well with my recent posts for post boys and the postal mail, that I was eager to share them with you,with Mr. Appleyard’s kind permission.
The website contains the full transcript and most of the illustrations for “Riding through the Ridings”, whose foreword by Major J. Fairfax-Blakeborough M.C. is telling:
Some of us are old enough to have talked with the last of the drivers of stage coaches, with post-boys and quaint old ostlers, who could recall the music of the fast-trotting horses and the note on the guard’s horn. Such have heard at first hand of all the bustle there was when the four steaming horses were to be speedily changed, relieved by others standing in readiness for the next stage. More there are who remember the long rows of stables, loose-boxes, saddle rooms and post-boy’s quarters — unused and maybe derelict — in the spacious yards of the old coaching inns. These have also lived to see the end of coach-horse breeding in Yorkshire and the passing of the fairs in the country, at which hundreds of animals were yearly bought to horse the coaches in various parts of the country. Later, in pre-motor days, the best carriage-horses were sold in large numbers at these same Yorkshire fairs; to buyers from all over the world. The horse fairs as they declined, were the swan song of the long ranges of stabling, which were an essential adjunct and integral part of every coaching inn. All this formed the last remaining links with the spacious, leisurely, picturesque coaching-days.
Major Fairfax-Blakeboroughsums up the illustrations nicely:
The beautifully executed illustrations in this book are marked by their accuracy in technique and detail — no easy achievement in view of the distinctive dress, horse, harness and so forth, which belonged to those days and to a great extent passed with them. Contemporary literature is pregnant with references to the particular care and pride those who played their part in the coaching era took with regard to all these details and how the young sons of patrician families, did not consider their education complete until they could tool a four-in-hand and dress the part with such meticulous exactness that they were mistaken for professional coachmen. The fascinating illustration on the succeeding pages emphasise more than any other of the previous volumes dealing with the epoch, the poetry and romance surrounding it and the important part the old posting houses plated in the life of the nation and as the very hub of their own immediate area.
The site also offers a short biography of the artist (1908-1960), and contains photographs, published works, sketches, drawings, book illustrations and newspaper articles of his life and career.
Joe Appleyard attended local evening classes at Leeds School of Art where his fondness of animals gave rise to his interest in Romany and Circus life. He worked full time in window display and general advertising, and painted the scenery of Airedale, Wharfedale and Washburn Valleys in his spare time. Appleyard first began showing his paintings at the Leeds City Art Gallery in 1934, and by 1947 had exhibited over two hundred different works. He co-founded Otley Arts Club, and today his sketchbooks are in a permanent collection at Leeds Art Gallery. His St Leger and racehorse portraits and studies are in a permanent collection at Doncaster Art Gallery.
David Appleyard writes about designing a website for his father:
The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, has three large oil paintings on permanent display, now well restored to remove fifty years of nicotine. The nicotine would not have bothered Joe for he liked his Three Castles cigarettes and as his self-portrait shows political correctness was not an issue in those days! Some twelve years ago I tried to publish “Riding through the Ridings”. My efforts were unsuccessful and the project lay dormant until 1999 when I decided to “publish” it on the Internet. With access to Joe’s remarkably good records the site has grown and showcases more than 200 examples of his work as my tribute to a wonderful father and talented artist.