Ryedale horses star in BBC hit Jamaica Inn

CW centre spread - Jamaica Inn Ian Smith's horse and cart on the set of Jamaica Inn

CW centre spread - Jamaica Inn Ian Smith's horse and cart on the set of Jamaica Inn

Have your say

Viewers of the recent BBC drama Jamaica Inn might be surprised to learn that all the horses for the production came from Yorkshire.

Jamaica Inn, the novel, was first published by English writer Daphne du Maurier in 1936.

Riding and driving horses were taken down to Cornwall, across to Crow Edge in Holmfirth and to Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, to bring to life Daphne du Maurier’s famous novel.

The book is set in 1820 and tells the story of smugglers operating from the Jamaica Inn on the Cornish coast.

The carriage horses were provided by Ian Smith of Pickering and the ridden horses supplied by Mark Atkinson from Eastrington.

Ian provided a coach and four horses, two Shire horses, a pair of grey horses, a pair of black horses and four black Friesian horses.

He said: “It’s not very glamorous work. People think working on TV will be glamorous but it isn’t. They want the opposite of what you see in a show ring, instead of us cleaning all the horses and their best show harness they want it to look realistic for that time in history.

“They throw mud on the coaches and want the horses to look dirty and a bit tatty, as if they were being worked hard, as they would have been at that time.

“If horses look too flashy with white socks they sometimes even spray them black.”

As Ian drives his horses he also gets to appear on screen as the driver of his coach or carriage.

Asked if he enjoys this element he is quick to answer.

“Not really, ” he says. “Sitting on Bodmin Moor in the rain in a carriage for hours on end isn’t much fun. But for everyone on the production it is the same. I watched the lead actress on Jamaica Inn and she worked for hours, in terrible weather conditions and just kept going.”

Ian, who used to supply horses for Catherine Cookson television adaptations, has now mainly retired from TV work, though he did recently supply horses for the small screen adaptation of PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley.

“People know that I have a collection of horse-drawn vehicles and as I drive four-in-hand for a hobby, my horses are always fit, so when the opportunity arises I take it.”

Ian also has a team in Liverpool working on another production and is busy preparing for the county show circuit with his four-in-hand.

Back to the top of the page