Home to some of the greatest names in horse racing, the Windsor House Stables has a rich and varied history, dating all the way back to the 19th century. Initially the home of Dr Kennard, who was a surgeon and keen hunter with Craven hounds, Windsor House quickly became a hotbed for up and coming racing talent - a tradition which Harry continues today.
THE EARLY YEARS
Established in 1983, James Peace was the first trainer to use the stunning grounds and he had one of the largest stables in Lambourn with 32 boxes. He trained 52 winners in 1897, a very impressive figure at the time, and continued to produce winners until he retired to Chester in 1902. Arthur B. Thorp took over and despite having just two horses he managed to train a dozen winners before he stopped training in 1906.
Following World War One, Sir Charles Nugent moved into the stables after he left Bourton-on-the-Hill and during his time at Windsor House he trained Illuminator to win the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot and the Chesterfield Cup in 1921. He also collected the Stewards Cup at Goodwood in 1924 and the Wokingham Stakes at Ascot in 1925 with Compiler.
Following the death of Sir Charles in 1927, his grandson, Sir Hugh Nugent, took over the reins having been training at Windsor Cottage previously. He joined the two yards together and added 12 new boxes, making it a very impressive facility.
The Nugents were ardent Catholics and started the first chapel in the village in the upstairs rooms of the cottage. Here Sir Hugh served mass and amongst the congregation as a boy, was the famous Irish trainer Paddy Prendergast.
In 1931 Sir Hugh laid down the gallops at Limes Farm, Lambourn, better known as Mandown. Limes Farm and Rhonehurst were handed to his youngest son David Nugent on his marriage to Elizabeth Guinness, who continued to make improvements including the all-weather gallops and National Hunt schooling grounds.
Sir Hugh was a pioneer when it came to transporting horses, moving them facing forwards instead of backwards and he established the Lambourn Racehorse Transport Service, which was later known as Lambourn Ridgeway Transport [LRT], and was sold in 1990 by his son Sir John Nugent and it is now run by Merrick Francis, son of Dick Francis. LRT has carried some of the great horses including Nijinsky, Arkle, Golden Miller and Grundy.
WINDSOR HOUSE STABLES & WORLD WAR TWO
Sir Hugh continued to train at Windsor House until the end of 1940. On the outbreak of war he served as a Flying Officer in the RAFVR and was mentioned in dispatches. His overall influence on Lambourn and Upper Lambourn far exceeded his achievements as a racehorse trainer.
During World War Two the house and stables were requisitioned by the Army and taken over by American airborne soldiers of 101st Division, 501st Regiment. The officers lived in the house, the NCOs in the hostel and the soldiers nine to a box in the stables. There are still signs of the Tortoise stoves that the soldiers used in the boxes today.
On the eve of D-Day 200 soldiers flew out from Membury Airfield, where the M4 service station is now, and sadly 23 of them never returned. A brass plaque can be found on the wall in the yard to commemorate their stay at Windsor House.
THE POST-WAR ERA
When Sir Hugh Nugent retired from training and moved to Ireland the place was bought by Tom Rimell and he set up at Windsor House in 1946. He continued the stable’s excellent record in the Royal Hunt Cup, when Chivalry landed the prize that summer and he also trained Easter Bride to win the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Rimell’s son, Fred, went on to be Champion Jockey and Trainer.
After Rimell, Syd Mercer had a short spell at Windsor Castle and he was followed by Peter Walwyn who bought the site for £12,000 in 1960 when it had 30 boxes, 11 acres and two cottages as well as the main house.
One of Walwyn’s first horses was Golden Wedding, who won eight races and was one of the first runners abroad, finishing second in the Prix Perth at St Cloud. Be Hopeful also started his long winning career here and went on to win 27 races. Mabel was third in the 1,000 Guineas and second in the Oaks before winning the Yorkshire Oaks.
Due to demand for more boxes, Walwyn moved to Seven Barrows in 1965 and sold Windsor House to Mr & Mrs Peter Spicer who let the yard to Bryan Marshall, the two-time Grand National winning jockey who had a brief training career. After a few years with Marshall as a tenant, Roger Charlton bought the yard in 1970 and installed the Equine Swimming Pool, one of the best in the country.
When Roger Charlton moved, Nicky Henderson, who had been a top amateur jockey and assistant to Fred Winter, bought Windsor House in July 1978 for his first season as a trainer. He was Champion National Hunt Trainer twice while at Windsor House, from 1985-87, winning the Champion Hurdle three times in a row with See You Then during that time.
Between the two yards at Windsor House you can find the final resting place of Spartan Missile, runner up in the 1981 Grand National which was won by Aldaniti. Spartan Missile was owned, trained and ridden by one of the greatest amateur jockeys ever, John Thorne, the father of Nicky Henderson’s wife, Diana. She was the first woman to ever ride at Cheltenham.
In 1992 Peter and Bonk Walwyn did a swap with Nicky Henderson and moved back to Windsor House where Nicky had much improved the facilities with 20 more boxes. After the move back, Peter trained the very fast Hamas who won the July Cup and Duke of York Stakes as well as Nadwah, winner of the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot.
When Peter decided to retire in the autumn of 1999, he handed over to his assistant Ralph Beckett who trained Penkenna Princess to be second, beaten a short head, in the 2005 Irish 1,000 Guineas.
A new chapter in the history of Windsor House Stables began on 2nd October 2006 with the arrival of Harry Dunlop and he has continued the proud racing heritage of the stables by training horses to compete at the highest level.