Tatton Dray King
With faultless timing the Whitleys jumped in to create almost overnight an equine stud of some nine breeds. In 1909 they purchased Whitehill Farm for four thousand pounds swiftly converting shippons into luxury horse boxes. Next came a journey to the Earl of Egerton´s disposal at Tatton Park, near their Liverpool birthplace.
The big attraction was the champion shire stallion ´Tatton Dray King´ and the auctioneer´s warm up to the 3,000 strong crowd ventured a prophecy. It was stated that "when railways began the demand for horses would stop but it did not...you may have no more fear of the motor car than the railway." A bold prediction which held good for nearly Twenty years, for in the 1926 census no less than 760,000 horses were registered, mostly Shires, Clydesdales and Suffolks. This was despite the ravages of World War I, when nearly half a million conscripted horses did their bit for King and Country.
Starting with a bid of two thousand pounds it became a fierce struggle, but the young men from Paignton were determined and became the proud owners at three thousand and seven hundred guineas, roughly the price of Tatton´s new abode and a record price for a stallion.
The news was relayed to Paignton and a huge crowd gave Tatton a civic style reception when majestically he descended from the box truck at the station. He had an impressive record at all the classics from Peterborough to the Royal Agricultural Hall, and with such a prize the Whitleys took no risks and promptly engaged the stallion´s former groom, John Webster, to be his resident bodyguard.
The big gamble paid off, Tatton was soon in business throughout the Westcountry, though the owners were most selective where the Tatton blood was married up. Nevertheless his service fee of five guineas, beyond the pocket of some, was reduced to three guineas for bona-fide tenant farmers who were quick to realise that good horse teams always attracted good horsemen.