I’m sure others have heard this story by way of a threat, as a youngster? I had often wondered where the strange tale came from. Simply speaking as a boy I was told by my mother that if I didn’t get to bed sharply – despite many protestations to stay up – that the ‘Ten o’clock Horses would come and get me’.
Now I was never sure what form this petrifying threat would assume. Would it be a Revelations-like ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ sighting with their pestilence, war, famine and death symbolism bringing a last judgment on my tardiness to enter the land of dreams? Were there actually horsemen present and were they headless? My youthful imagination ‘saw’ a ghostly apparition of an entourage racing down Goodwood Avenue on the way to our home near the main Nottingham-Mansfield Road. There was a large team of horses foaming at the mouth and gnashing at the bit. Funereal-looking outriders hung on to an open-topped carriage to the rear. This was all because I wanted to stay up awhile and watch The Man from UNCLE. I ask you.
Just recently I heard a story of where this scary (to my young ears) tale emanated from. I should stress though that I’m sure the tale has its own form in many localities.
Not far as the crow flies from our home lay the old woodlands of erstwhile Royal hunting lodge, Bestwood, nowadays a country park. The story went that in an era possibly dating back to the days of Nell Gwynne, there were several horse stables within the park, just as there are today. One particular evening some horses were loaded up for transportation elsewhere and in an unfortunate accident, the horses were all killed in-situ. The beasts were said to have perished at the time of ten o’clock at night. Stories have abounded since that time of the sound of horses galloping through the old oaks and birches of Bestwood and that they can still be heard at the hour of ten o’clock. This was a tale that we heard from our parents but can be uncovered elsewhere from different sources.
I’m not too sure about the sound of ghostly hooves up in the former Sherwood Forest area that is still on my doorstep but it worked well on me as a child.
The Ten o’clock horses will get you.