This is a rare example of a horse trough in Central London, situated at Smithfield in front of St Bartholomew’s hospital. There used to be hundreds of them and, boy, were they needed. At the beginning of the 20th century, London had a population of well over 50,000 horses which needed to drink to survive. It apparently took 12 horses a day just to pull a horse-drawn bus, and there were also 11,000 horse-driven Hansom Cabs.
All of which produced an enormous amount of manure. So much of it accumulated that in 1894 the Times predicted that 50 years hence every street in London would be buried under nine feet of it. This was dubbed the “The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894”. It didn’t happen because of the invention of an affordable mass-produced motor car. Thank you, Henry Ford.
We have to thank the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, based at 111 Victoria Street, for the proliferation of drinking fountains and horse troughs in London. It was set up in 1859 by two philanthropists, Samuel Gurney MP and barrister Edward Thomas Wakefield, to provide free drinking water for Londoners. In 1885, it extended its remit to providing troughs for horses, and for Smithfield cattle as well.