British Mules in the News, vol. 2

This may seem like a much shorter time frame than in Volume One, but there are a great deal more mentions to sort through in the 19th century section of the newspaper archive – over 6,000 in the 1800-1809 period alone! Many of these were the computer software incorrectly identifying words, or red herrings such as the spinning mule used for weaving (I curse the inventor who named such a thing), but as there were also some really fascinating snapshots hidden amongst them I couldn’t afford to scroll idly by.

I hope you enjoy reading about some of the mulish exploits that occurred during these nine years; as before, I have reproduced the text exactly, including capitalisations and spellings.


19th century – general

Saturday, 2nd August 1800
Cambridge Intelligencer
“Amongst the visitors at the Free Mart, at Portsmouth, is the justly celebrated philanthropist, Wm. Dacres, of King’s Cliff, Northamptonshire. He travels with Tunbridge ware, carried by mules and asses; and is meanly attired, with a beard upwards of six inches long; he appears about forty years of age, and has distributed between 30 and 40,000l. amongst indigent people in various parts of the kingdom, besides the produce of a fine farm, which he annually divides among the neighbouring poor families, according to their respective wants. He denies himself everything but the real necessities of life, employing his fortune (upwards of 900l. a year, freehold) and his industry, in relieving distress: in his research for objects to exercise unparalleled humanity he pays no respect to country, politics, religion, age, or sex – the wretched wherever he meets them are his peculiar care.”

This piece only mentions mules in passing, but I have included it because a) here is an example of a string of pack animals being used in England and b) he sounds like a fascinating guy. I have utterly failed in finding any further information on him, unfortunately.

Monday, 29th June 1801
Caledonian Mercury
“On Tuesday morning last a wager of 100 guineas, made at Hamilton races, was decided at the Newcastle course. It was, that a mule, the property of Mr Fletcher, should travel 100 miles in 14 hours. The animal started at 2 o’clock in the morning, and performed the task with great ease in 12 hours and 25 minutes.”

A further article from the Morning Post on 30th June 1801 embellished the story:

“This race, run over the Town-Moor, was performed by a fine Grey Mule, the property of Mr Fletcher, within the time by an hour and thirty-four minutes. He started at a quarter before one on Tuesday morning, and finished at eleven minutes past one in the afternoon. The first thirty-three miles he ran in three hours, and seventy against nine o’clock. Three fresh horses accompanied him, and he baited [?] and changed jockies at the end of every twenty-two miles.”

Monday, 22nd February 1802
Evening Mail
“Longevity in horses: Mr. Mann, of Lolworth, Cambridgeshire, had a horse that died a few days ago, 38 years. At St. Ives, the famous horse Shuffler died on the 8th inst. 37 years old; and at Woodhurst, Huntingdonshire, Mr. J. Bull had a mare that died on the 9th, that was 36 years old. A mule, which carried part of the baggage of King William III, at the Battle of the Boyne, died a few days since in the Country of Meath.”

Well … that’s William of Orange, and the Battle of the Boyne happened in 1690. That really would be an exceedingly old mule if true, though I doubt it! The Chester Chronicle, a few days later, records the same tale but adds: “This last is rather too much of the marvellous, and, we suppose, intended to put all competition out of the question.”

Thursday, 22nd April 1802
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette
“The horses and mules of Ireland having been found to answer better than any others in the West Indies, a considerable export trade has, for some years, been carried on in these animals, 80 of which, principally mules, were lately sent from Dublin to one of our islands.”

An earlier paper I came across listed over 4,000 mules imported to Jamaica, though as it didn’t specify where these mules were from I didn’t think to record it at the time.

Tuesday, 9th August 1803
Morning Post [London]
“Prince Esterhazy having presented the Prince of Wales with a beautiful mule, his Royal Highness has given it to the Duke of Marlborough.”

Presumably Nikolaus II, Prince Esterhazy of Hungary.

Monday, 4th June 1804
Gloucester Journal
“Last week, a match was run between Lieut. Moore, of the Royal Navy, riding his celebrated mule, “Muley Bey,” (got by Lord Milford’s Spanish Ass, out of a blood mare), carrying sixteen stone, against Capt. Stokes, of the Hunt’s Militia, on foot, over the turnpike-road between Milford [Haven] and Haverfordwest; which, after a severe contest, was won by the latter, notwithstanding that the day was very wet. Five to three in favour of Mr. Moore at starting, at the end of the first mile even betting. and at the end six to four in favour our of Capt. Stokes.”

I have featured this story already in this article.

Tuesday, 30th April 1805
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser [London]
“Saturday a dustman named Harwood, undertook to ride his mule 23 miles on the Uxbridge-road in one hour and 40 minutes. The beast started at eight o’clock in the morning, and, from her meagre appearance, bets were laid that she did not perform the journey in double the time. She, however, performed it in ten minutes less than the given time.”

Thursday, 8th August 1805
Derby Mercury
“Mr. Moore’s celebrated mule Muley Bey, who ran last year at Bristol, against Captain Stokes, of the Hants Militia, was last week sold for the extraordinary price of 160 guineas, to Dr. Brittan, of Birch Grove, near that town.”

That’s over £13,000?!

Monday, 30th September 1805
Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty [Dublin]
Not British, but interesting data all the same: “From a statement furnished by the department of the Ministers of the Interior, France gains annually, by the exportation of mules to Spain and Portugal, from 12 to 13 millions of francs.”

Tuesday, 22nd October 1805
Chester Courant
Again, not British, but…: “A Florentine Nobleman had a mule so exceedingly vicious, as to be altogether ungovernable, from its kicking and biting every person that approached it. He ordered it to be turned into the court of his menagerie, and a lion to be set loose upon it. The lion roared aloud when he first observed the animal, but the mule, without seeming at all alarmed, ran into a corner of the court, and so placed herself, that she could only be tackled in the rear. In this situation she waited the onset, at the same time watching with the greatest attention all the motions of her adversary. The lion, aware of the difficulty, used all his art, but to no purpose, to throw her off her guard. At last, the mule, seizing a favourable opportunity, gave him such a salute, in the face, with her hind feet, as to beat out eight or ten of his teeth; and to compel the animal to retire to his lodge, without making further attempts to seize upon her, and thus leaving her in quiet possession of the field.”

Wednesday, 3rd September 1806
Saunders’ News-Letter [Dublin]
From an article entitled ‘Some Historical Anecdotes of the Value of Money and Commodities, from an early period of the English History’: “In [the year] 1000, by King Ethelred’s laws, a horse was rated at 30s. a mare, or a colt of a year old, at 20s. a mule, or young ass, at 12s. an ox at 30s. a cow at 24d. a swine at 8d. a sheep at 1s.”

Friday, 1st May 1807
Stamford Mercury
“On Sunday morning last a young man of Ingleby, near this city, named James Boole, aged 21, shepherd to Mr. Wm. Simpson, was riding a mule in a close, to make the animal more tractable. After plunging about for a short time they both fell; the man was dismounted, and the mule ran through a deep pond, and got out on the other side. The rider, being irritated, caught the mule, and brought him again into the close, where he mounted a second time, when the animal galloped full speed into the pond, and the young man was drowned. The mule got out.”

Thursday, 10th March 1808
Morning Chronicle [London]
“The Post-boy, conveying the mail from Enniskillen to Church-hill, was attacked on the night of the 27th February, by two men, who knocked him down from the mule on which he rode, and tied his hands and feet, and then attempted to seize the mule on which the Mail was carried; but the honest mule effected his escape safe with the Mails.”

Enniskillen is in Ireland, fyi. Out of curiosity, I Googled the distance from there to Church Hill and it’s a 55 mile journey!

Saturday, 23rd July 1808
Northampton Mercury
“CAUTION. Whereas the practice of turning asses into Whittlewood (or Whittlebury) Forest contrary to the established rules thereof, has of late Years become very prevalent, to the great injury of the Underwood and the Succession of His Majesty’s Naval Timber, also an encroachment on the pasturage of the Deer, and common rights of Horses and Cows therein. This is to give notice, that in future all Asses, or any other unlawful stock, viz. Bulls, Oxen, Stallions, Mules, Sheep, Pigs, or Geese, found on any part of the Commons in the said Forest, will be considered as trespassing, and impounded accordingly.”

Not specifically about mules, but I thought it was worth including as I thought it was pretty interesting. I don’t think Whittlewood Forest has Commoning rights now.

Tuesday, 2nd August 1808
Manchester Mercury
“On the 15th July, as Mr John Turner, of Ashton-under-lyne, carrier, was returning from Stockport in the evening, in riding through Hooley Hill, a dog ran furiously barking at the mule upon which he rode, when the beast was so much frightened as to throw Mr T. who, in consequence of the injury he received, died on the Monday following, sincerely lamented by his relatives and acquaintances.”

Thursday, December 1st 1808
Bury And Norwhich Post
From the description of a rather unsavoury character who had ridden into East Dereham and swapped his saddle for someone else’s much nicer model at the Duke’s Head Inn: “On Friday the 25th of Nov. instant, in the forenoon, a Man aged about 27 years, 5 feet 6 inches high, stout made, rather fair complexion, having on a velveteen frock, arrived at the Duke’s Head Inn, East Dereham, riding upon a sorrel mule, with a docked tail, and an old saddle, with one girth, and rusty stirrup irons; the stirrup leather on the near side having been broken, was tied with a piece of string about 3 inches long, to make it of an equal length with that on the off side, which had also been broken, and was buckled in the first hole.”

19th century – Napoleonic Era: Peninsular War

Deviating slightly from my original intention to only share news about British mules, but there were some really interesting mentions about the use of mules in Spain during this time.

Monday, 3rd October 1808
Belfast Commercial Chronicle
“We understand it is intended to send 6000 British cavalry to Spain. Some of the regiments proceed without horses; and in consequence of the scarcity of these animals in Spain, orders have been given to purchase a large number of Spanish mules to mount the men immediately on their arrival.”

Well that must have been an unpleasant surprise for the cavalry men. Oh … oh wait. It’s the other way round.

Tuesday, 1st November 1808
Kentish Gazette
“Extract from a letter of an Officer on board one of his Majesty’s ships off the coast of Spain: ‘The greatest exertions are made in the different provinces in providing and training up of mules, and getting the necessary equipages suitable for the new invented field pieces from Woolwich; in the provinces of Asturias and Galicia there are 1500 of these fine animals purchased, and are now training for the purpose; the invention is highly admired by Generals Blake and Castanos; as it is of most excellent use to small parties in mountainous country, as the guns recoil across the backs of seven mules abreast, though only carried by one. An experiment was tried by Colonel Don Falandro, in Asturias, when 21 mules stood for it to be fired alternatively for five hours in all 150 times.”

Friday, 18th November 1808
Globe [London]
From a note detailing rations contracted for the British army on their march from Corunna to Burgos: “To each horse per day, 12 pounds of barley, and 12 pounds of straw. To each mule per day, 12 pounds of barley, and 8 pounds of straw.”

Tuesday, 29th November 1808
Hull Packet
“On the 6th ult. the Central Junta of Spain passed a decree, putting in requisition all the horses in the kingdom for the use of the army. Commissioners are appointed as well to adjudge the price to be paid to the proprietors, as to determine what horses are fit to be taken. Severe penalties are to be inflicted on those owners of horses who attempt to conceal them, or evade the laws. This measure will not, however, be so productive of hardship as it might seem, the vast number of mules in Spain having reduced the breed of horses in that country very greatly. The British cavalry, which has been recently sent to supply the want of native horses, will, it was apprehended, be too soon rendered incapable of their wonted exertion, from the want of the accustomed forage.”

Thursday, 22nd December 1808
Exeter Flying Post
“Letters from Sir J. Moore’s army,  dated from Salamanca, state, that during the whole march of the British troops from Portugal to that city, they were provided with a pound of meat, and a pound of bread, each soldier per diem: but so far from observing any sparks of enthusiasm, as described among the Spaniands, they never saw a single Spanish soldier or peasant in arms, during their whole march. The peasantry in particular, were quietly at work, about their several occupations, and on the approatch of our troops actually drove off their mules, for fear of their being employed to draw the British artillery. If any enthusiasm exists in Spain, says the writer of this letter, it burns only in the bosom of the British army.”

19th century – mules for sale

There were enough of these to warrant their own section, though I haven’t recorded all the sale ads I came across – just the ones that were interesting, either through description or inclusion of price. Although this may not be ‘news’, I felt sale ads were worthy of inclusion as it gives us a feel of the kinds of mules available at the time, their common uses, and their worth.

Wednesday, 20th August 1800
Hereford Journal
“A MOST CAPITAL MULE TO BE SOLD AT AUCTION, by Mr. John Brown. On Thursday, the Fourth day of September next, at precisely Twelve o’clock, at the Iron Cross, in the borough of Leominster, a remarkably handsome, compact mule and a good goer, the property of Mr. Smith, of Street Court, in the parish of Kingsland, in the county of Hereford. He is only eight years old, very tractable, and allowed by judges to be as complete an animal of the kind as any in England.”

Tuesday, 23rd March 1802
Saunders’ News-Letter [Dublin]
“To be sold: the best pair of Mules in Ireland; they are as gentle as possible, ride remarkably well, and will draw anything; they are young, sound, and strong enough for a chariot and pair; they have been accustomed to draw. To prevent trouble their lowest price is 70 guineas.”

The inflation calculator I’m using says that’s approximately £6,800 in today’s money. Is that correct?!

Tuesday, 31st May 1803
Manchester Mercury
“To be sold: a remarkably capital MARE MULE, her size upwards of fifteen hands, with substance and strength in proportion, her colour bright bay, with full black mane and tail, and ears well cropped, her age only five off, temper gentle and paces excellent. She was bred out of a mare of high pedigree by a Spanish Ass, has been from three years old the property of one gentleman, and is not now on sale for any fault whatsoever, for she is perfectly free from vice and rettiveness [?], and will be warranted sound.”

I’m afraid cropped ears means exactly what you think it means. See volume 1 for more info on cropped ears or ‘foxing’.

Saturday, 3rd December 1803
Saunders’ News-Letter [Dublin]
“To be sold, at the Old Boot Inn, a Mule, four years old, ready drawn, and quiet, a complete roadster, and engaged to carry 14 stone weight 50 miles in 10 hours, and these two days past carried said weight 103 miles.”

Friday, 24th February 1804
Morning Post [London]
“To MERCHANTS and CAPTAINS, trading to the West India Islands. Seventeen very strong, boney, good MULES, to be seen at Abell’s Livery Stables, No. 107, Blackman-street, Southwark, Successor, and late Partner with Mr. Thomas Scambler, deceased, who was many years in the Mule Trade with Mr. Thomas James of Worship-street.”

Interestingly, seventeen “very strong, boney [sic], good mules” are being sold six months later by the same gentleman in the 21st September issue of the same paper. Does that mean it’s the same seventeen mules, too? 

Friday, 6th July 1804
Saunders’ News-Letter [Dublin]
“TO BE SOLD: The best and handsomest mule in Ireland for saddle of draft. She is an excellent hackney, moves and trots well, and with spirit, cropped, set tail, and only 5 years old. She bears handling in any manner, and so gentle as to be handled by a child – in  word, she is perfectly free from vice, not being given to bite, kick, or take sulks, as animals of her kind usually do. She is of good size, and draws a gig or jaunting-car in capital style. The lowest price is 20 guineas, and half a guinea to the groom.”

Tuesday, 17th July 1804
The Morning Post [London]
“A pair of very beautiful Mules, got by a Spanish Ass, go well in double Harness, price 100 guineas.”

London prices…!

Wednesday, 17th December 1806
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser [London]
“For the WEST INDIES – MULES. To be sold, Twenty capital Cart and Crook Mules of good ages, and amongst them six boney [sic] cast Mules, five and six years old, that ride, cart, plough, and go in a chaise perfectly quiet.”

This is the second mention of “boney” mules – my assumption is that it means something along the lines of having good bone (i.e. stocky, strong), rather than being skinny. As for what a ‘Crook mule’ is, my best guess is that it’s a pack mule – on Dartmoor, ‘crooks’ were long, curved poles laid over a pack saddle and used to carry peat, furze etc. 

Saturday, 27th December 1806
Royal Cornwall Gazette
“14 WORKING MULES, in general about five to eight years old, in good condition and ready to go to work immediately; together with the Pack Saddles, &c. belonging to them.”

Saturday, 24th October 1807
Royal Cornwall Gazette
“SEVENTEEN Young Working MULES, with Saddles and Sacks. N.B. Fifteen of the mules are under ten years old.”

Blimey – so two of the mules are over ten years old! These might be the oldest mules I’ve come across so far in the adverts!

Friday, 8th April 1808
Morning Post [London]
“REMARKABLY handsome MULE. To be sold, one of the handsomest mules in England, the property of a Gentleman, by whom she was bred, by a famous Egyptian ass, out of a capital English mare, rising three years old, and perfectly quiet to ride. The lowest price 50 guineas.”

Saturday, 5th November 1808 
Royal Cornwall Gazette
“MULES FOR SALE. TWENTY Prime Working MULES, to be Sold by Private Contract, nine months credit will be given security. Apply to Mr. N Harris, jun. at Sinns Estate, in the Parish of Redruth.”

Saturday, 11th February 1809
Royal Cornwall Gazette
“SANISH MULE TO BE SOLD. A Fine SPANISH MULE, thirteen hands and half high, five years old, gentle to ride, warranted sound and free from vice. Apply to Mr. Trestrail, Farrier, Falmouth.”

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