Champion Vaux horse dies after two decades of dedicated service at Beamish Museum

Beamish's Chris Thompson pictured with former Vaux horse Justin.

Beamish's Chris Thompson pictured with former Vaux horse Justin.

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A horse who started out his working life pulling Vaux supplies through Sunderland before later bringing joy to millions of museum visitors has died.

Justin was four-years-old in 1998 when he became one of five to be taken on by Beamish as the Wearside brewery ceased production.

Sir Paul Nicholson.

Sir Paul Nicholson.

It is believed Justin, who went into semi-retirement when he was 21 and once graced the front of Beamish’s visitor guide, could have been the last of Vaux’s horses.

The museum’s bosses have led tributes to the 17hh liver chestnut gelding, with more than 100 messages flooding in from Facebook followers sharing their fond memories of him.

In addition to his museum and brewery work, Justin was also a member of a star team which won a host of awards as he rejoined Vaux boss Sir Paul Nicholson to compete in competitions.

He appeared in the Great Yorkshire Show, became a two-time winner at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which saw him stabled at the Queen’s yard, and helped pull carriages transporting Princess Anne and the Duke of Kent during their visits to the museum.

We hope he enjoyed every second of his second career here at Beamish, taking part in events, festivals, parades and giving visitors carriage rides.

Beamish Museum spokesman

Justin had worked for Vaux for a short time before it closed, helping his handler Tommy Greenlay transport beer across the city.

He was part of a team of Gelderlanders - a Dutch harness horse breed with a high stepping trot - best suited to the task of reaching the outlying areas of Sunderland, including Grindon and Hastings Hill.

Justin made the move to Beamish alongside Jos, also given a name beginning with J to signify the year of their birth, Enterprise, Englesman and older horse Nano.

The brewery’s other horses included grey French Percheron breed, which were more commonly seen in and around the city centre pulling heavier loads.

A carriage is pulled by Justin, seen in the centre.

A carriage is pulled by Justin, seen in the centre.

Chris Thompson, the museum’s horse operations team leader, said: “He was an all-rounder and you could put him anywhere in formation and he would be no bother.

“He was such an amiable horse, anyone was his pall, and when he was in semi-retirement, we would get him out for the odd thing and he would just get on with it.

“He was a very chilled out and honest horse.”

At 25, Justin would have been 100 in horse years.

Justin, pictured on the right, pulling a carriage through the town centre of Beamish Museum.

Justin, pictured on the right, pulling a carriage through the town centre of Beamish Museum.

A museum spokesman said: “We hope he enjoyed every second of his second career here at Beamish, taking part in events, festivals, parades and giving visitors carriage rides.”