Walter Burnell Tubbs - The Tubbs - online

Walter Burnell Tubbs -Biography

Walter Burnell as a young man

For Walter's business activities

Walter Burnell Tubbs (1861-1936) was the oldest son of Henry Thomas Tubbs.

Walter had the reputation of being a spendthrift and in later life benefited from a modest legacy left by his brother Edwin Henry of £300 p.a. In the meanwhile he established a high, but expensive, reputation as an owner and breeder of carriage and trotting horses and there are numerous press mentions of him winning at shows all over the country. At one time he said to have had stables near Nether Court, the large home of his father in Finchley, at or near where he was living at Rocklands, Church Street, Finchley. At the 1901 census his address was 123 Harley Street with a butler and servants but at the 1911 census he was living at Downage, Parson St, Hendon (Just off the A1 Great North Way) a house with 25 rooms, also with a butler and five other resident servants. The Butler’s wife, Mrs Gregg, and children lived in Downage Cottage. Herbert Calver the Gardener lived in “The Stables”, Downage.  It would appear that the Varneys at Ashley Cottage were not part of the estate. The property is presumably the 18th Century Downage House, or Downage Wood House that was demolished in 1928 when the land was redeveloped for housing..

The house appears to have been occupied by Lady Torrington in 1754. She may have been the widow of George Byng, Third Viscount Torrington, The family home of the Byngs was however near Winchester. The family's best known member was Admiral John Byng who was executed after a Court MArtial in 1757

His death in March 1936 is registered in Kensington. He was then living at Cornwall Gardens, close to the Natural History Museum. Probate was not granted on his estate until 1957, perhaps not coincidentally at the same time as probate was granted on the estate of his daughter-in-law but its value was NIL. Ellen Alice Charles died in 1943.

Carriage Horses - Horse Trading

A glance at the autobiography of our former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, curiously not called Man of Straw, reveals that his mother was a Gilbey, distantly related to the gin dynasty. As you can see below, Sir Walter Gilbey was in direct competition with Walter Burnell Tubbs for the profligacy of their expenditure on carriage horses, though Gilbey must have had the deeper pocket. According to Straw (who left Leeds University as a known firebrand shortly before I arrived) Walter Gilbey was responsible for making Rotten Row the fashionable Victorian rider’s showplace, but this is not really proven as it first became fashionable in the 17th Century Restoration era.

The activities of these several Walters were often at the upper end of society entertainment.

The Queen (i.e. Queen Alexandra), who was accompanied by Princes Victoria, visited the Hackney Horse Show at the Agricultural Hall yesterday. The Queen and the Princess arrived at the show at half-past 3. They were conducted to the Royal box, and witnessed the parades which had been arranged in honour of the visit, as well as the judging of the pony stallions for the championship of the show. There was a very large attendance, and the Queen was received with much cheering. Her Majesty stood in tho front of the Royal box for some time to witness the parade of tandems, and evinced great interest in this and other parades (It says here. ed.). The visit lasted for nearly an hour.

The third day of the show was occupied principally by the judging of the harness classes and the classes of mares or geldings in hand. These were quite up to the average in quality, and the numbers were slightly in excess of those of last year. By way of variety a few pony classes were introduced, and these were highly interesting. The classes for mares or geldings in hand, if they do not possess much attraction for the general public, are always keenly criticized by good judges.

Mr. Walter Cliff's Melbourne Princess won in the 14 to 15 hands class, and was afterwards successful in a strong harness class, in which 19 of the best horses of that height competed. In the 15 to 16 hands class, the issue was between Mr. Burnell Tubbs's Abaris and Sir Walter Gilbey's Flash Clara. The judges preferred Abaris. Messrs. Ferguson's Prestbury Reform, who had been second in the class of ponies in hand, won in the harness class for ponies not more than four years old. In the class for older harness ponies Mr. Foster's Melvalley's Minster, a frequent winner last season, began the season well by beating a former champion in District Sensation.


As reported by DBT in his memoirs, one horse with which Walter made his reputation was Administrator which won classes 47 and 51 at Southend Agricultural Show in 1905. The runner up was Sir Walter Gilbey (Bart), the gin magnate with Bonny Danegelt, yet another horse from the same gene pool as Danegelt and Gongelt. At the same show there was a demonstration and competition for ploughing using both steam and petrol powered machinery, heady stuff for 1905.

At The Hackney Horse Show at Islington in 1906 Administrator (by Garton Duke of Connaught) won its class. At the same meeting Dashing Girl by Danegelt came second in the 3 year old class, and Rosadora (by Rosador) won the 4 year olds. The most notable winner that year was Mr Ramsays Diplomatist (by His Majesty, no less). The following year Administrator was only Reserve. Administrator won its class at the show in 1907, 1908 and 1909. Administrator earned its owner 50 guineas at the Royal Lancashire Show in 1909.

Administrator was reserve in class at the 1910 International Horse Show which it had won the previous year.

Whether or not Administrator was finally sold for the reputed sum of £1000 is not yet clear but he did pay around that much for it, as he failed to reach his reserve price when the stable was broken up in 1910. but in 1905 Walter paid handsomely both for Administrator and Rosadora, famous animals already, though the purchase nearly got him into trouble. There were grounds for disqualification of these two horses at Watford Horse Show that year (Herts Advertiser 17 June 1905)., that they had been sold within the last month, for 975 (£1023) and 710 guineas respectively, to Walter; it was at an auction sale at The Peterborough Repository (?) on 5th May 1905. That is well over £200,000 at 2017 prices including the 5% for the commission, assuming the customary guinea split of £1 to the seller and a shilling to the auctioneer. This is the way the Danegelt goes.

The upshot of the disqualification was a triumph for Tubbs in the Watford County Court, a rare win in the family’s litigation handicap stakes. Members of the committee had agreed to accept the two entries, in the knowledge of the recent purchase, believing they had discretion to override the rule requiring the entrant to have owned the animal for a month. Tubbs claimed in court that nobody would wish a hobby to be a source of annoyance, a very doubtful proposition, but he needed to clear his reputation, by the only means available short of fighting a duel. (Barnet Press, 28th October 1905). Walter's father HTT a Justice of the Peace must have been happy to see this in their local paper rather than a death notice.

In Administration

The stud was disposed of at a sale in August 1910.

HACKNEYS. Messrs Henry Manley and Sons on Friday, at the Paddocke, Mill-hill, dispersed the stud of hackneys which has during the past few years been successfully maintained by Mr. W. Burnell Tubbs, of Downage, Hendon. The demand for breeding stock was not very keen, although the eight-year-old mare, Pious Bonds, a daughter of the celebrated Polonius, was run up 200 guineas before she became the property of Mr. Rich, who also gave 100 guineas for her yearling filly, by Administrator. Mr. Cobb paid 16O guineas for the three-year-old harness mare, Advice, also got by Polonius, and Gold Thread, a five-year-old, by Leopold, which won third prize in harness at Richmond, went to Mr. F. Batchelor 150 guineas. The stallion Administrator, five times champion at the London show, failed to reach the reserve price placed upon him, although the bidding was carried up to 600 guineas. The average for the twenty-three lots sold, including foals, was £61 10s 9d. (Hendon & Finchley Times - Friday 05 August 1910 )

Downage and outage

By 1912 perhaps the dream really was going sour. It was reported by The Hendon and Finchley Times (20th September 1912) that Downage, Hendon had been let, following the departure of W Burnell Tubbs. For many years it had been the residence of Mr James C Marshall who in earlier times was reported as hosting outdoor theatre performances on the property. Unfortunately it has not yet been possible to find an illustration of Downage, nor is it entirely clear whether the horses were always kept there or whether he did have stables in Finchley before taking Downage.

I may try to compile a complete list of the many horses that were showed/shown? during Walter's brief period of stardom. One thing is clear. There was a good deal of inter-breeding within the elite group of winners in the classes which Walter contested.