King Salmon – Abberley’s famous 1930s equine connection

Lady Brooke and villagers... celebrating King Salmon's run in the Derby?  Click on the image to see it in greater detail.

Lady Brooke and villagers… celebrating King Salmon’s run in the Derby? Click on the image to see it in greater detail.

Amongst the historic photos scanned early in the Abberley Lives project was one of a group of people standing in rows outside the original WI hut.  At front and centre was Lady Brooke, of the Elms, and both she and the other ladies are shown wearing summer dresses.

Kate Andrew found this photograph to be very intriguing and set off to investigate over Christmas.  Here are her findings…

By the 1930s, as the fortunes associated with the Jones family at Abberley Hall had waned, so Lady Brooke of the Elms, and her husband, Sir Richard, 9th Baronet of Norton Priory, Cheshire, assumed the mantle of local squire and his wife, largely since they were the inhabitants of the remaining ‘Big House’ in the parish. The Brookes kept racing stables at the Elms and brought on many fine horses (the stables are still there but are now used as farm buildings).

The original attribution of the photograph was that it had been taken to celebrate Sir Richard Brooke’s horse, King Salmon, winning the Derby.  When we viewed the image in a larger format than the original 6″x4″ photo, we could see that the men in the back row had small rosettes or badges in their button holes.

King Salmon, Sir Richard Brooke's most famous racehorse

A cigarette card depicting King Salmon, Sir Richard Brooke’s most famous racehorse

Several local people were able to confirm that the famous horse owned by Sir Richard was King Salmon, but there was uncertainty over the which race it was reputed to have won.  Angela Thompson’s research showed that King Salmon did not win the Derby at all.  When Kay Ballard saw the photo, she said she thought the race had been the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which prompted me to re-visit the internet.

An entry in the online database of racing horses, available on the website of the National Horse Racing Museum at Newmarket, Suffolk, gives a short biography of King Salmon shows that he was only ever a runner-up in the Derby, but did not give the year.

A further rummage in a racing paper now also available on line and some cross checking to other Derby winners means that I was able to work out that King Salmon actually came second in the 1933 Derby to Hyperion, ridden by Tommy Weston for Lord Derby.

Sir Richard bought King Salmon after the 1933 Derby for more than a thousand guineas.  On 25th July 1934, King Salmon once again came second in the Derby, losing to Windsor Lad, owned by the Maharaja of Rajpipla.

You can watch film footage of the 1933 Derby (silent) and the 1934 Derby (with commentary) on the British Pathé website.


King Salmon was a fine horse on the flat, and, ridden by Harry Wragg, he won the 1934 Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park, beating Windsor Lad on that occasion.  He did well in other major races including the St Leger before being sold and put out to stud in Brazil.

Abberley continues the horse racing connection to the present day with the Juckes stables.

So, to return to the date of the photo – it was very probably taken on or shortly after 25th July 1934, on the event of King Salmon being runner up in the Derby and those little button hole badges are possibly  race enclosure badges.

It’s worth looking closely at the men in the back row – they seem to have celebrated quite a lot before the photo was taken!  Did they listen to the race on a large communal radio perhaps, or watch a screening of the Pathe film footage in the hall?

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