Restoration for royal horsebox

  • When Alan Warner, 64, visited Burton-on-Trent to buy a road roller, he could hardly have expected to end up purchasing a piece of royal history.

    But tucked away at Home Farm in the village of Kings Standing, Staffs, Alan found a dilapidated horsebox, which was built for King George VI in 1946.

    King George VI and the present Queen used the box for transporting racehorses until 1953. After its stint of royal duty the vehicle went to Leyburn in Yorkshire and then to Tamworth before ending up in Needwood.

    Alan explains: “The lady at Home Farm asked me whether I was interested in the horsebox. Her husband was a retired woodwork teacher and he had bought the box with the intention of restoring it but he died of cancer before he got round to it.

    “His wife and son put a sheet over the box and just left it. Unfortunately the sheet blew off and the elements got at the box so now it’s in a sorry state.”

    Alan has also acquired the vehicle’s original logbook and a photo of it in use outside Windsor Castle in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

    “The vehicle is unique, there’s no other one like it,” says Alan. “It was built on an AEC Regal bus chassis and made by Vincent’s of Reading. It cost me £50 an hour to get it home, as it had to go on a suspended tow truck.

    “It is 28ft long and takes three horses. There are groom’s quarters for six people, as well as seats for two more. It’s got glass lampshades inside. It really is a box fit for a king, especially when you consider it was built at a time when resources were very scarce. You were lucky if you had enough to eat, let alone a horsebox.”

    Alan’s mechanic friend Cyril Smith, 60, will be helping him restore the vehicle and they have already got the engine going.

    Alan said: “I’ve got an old lorry I’ve tinkered about with and we will do all the stripping down and so on ourselves. We’ve got most of the bits anyway, although some of the woodwork will have to be specially made.

    “It’s in a big barn now out of the elements so it won’t deteriorate any further.”

    Alan would like to hear from anyone with recollections of the horsebox while it was in royal ownership (tel: 01773 748129).

    *Pictures by Rob Ford*

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