Elaine Walker: ‘The Working Horse’ for The Royal Mail

Will Martin writes: Recently we caught up with Elaine Walker, the volume editor of our Teaching Creative Writing. She told us about William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle (1593-1676), and her work at his favourite residence, Bolsover Castle.

Elaine says: I’ve worked with horses myself at Bolsover and it’s particularly enjoyable to go beyond the research and experience the riding house in the way Newcastle would have done. A high point of one visit was the chance to ride one of the display horses in an authentic replica 17th century saddle – I have a secret ambition to ride one of my own horses there one day.

APworkhorselargeElaine’s work on Newcastle is ongoing and she is currently completing a second essay for a collection on him from Brill Publishing. She has also participated in many projects on the horse in cultural history – she recently wrote the presentation pack for a new stamp collection for The Royal Mail, released on 4th Feb.

Elaine says: I was approached by the Royal Mail at about this time last year as one of the editorial managers enjoyed my book, Horse (Reaktion, 2008). Royal Mail themed stamps always have a presentation pack written by subject specialists to make them suitable for collectors – for that reason, the content of each one is kept a secret until a few months beforehand.

The challenge of the project for me was keeping within around 150 words for each of the topics and turning it around in a 3 week writing period – being used to working on books with upwards of 60,000 words and a two-year lead time, this was quite a change of routine!

This project, whilst considering historic elements, was firmly focused on the present – the modern working horse. This helped in choosing the material and was also an approach that appealed to me. Horses are still a significant part of culture worldwide and not only in the leisure industry; the opportunity to consider the modern role of an animal so strongly linked with past traditions was very interesting to me.


Horses have been part of my own everyday life since I was five years old and the growing recognition of the value they can bring to many aspects of our busy, mechanised world was something I enjoyed writing about.

I have been thinking about a book on the modern working horse, so this project helped clarify my ideas and was a great one to work on – especially as the design and illustrations for the stamps are so attractive.

Elaine Walker is also a member of The National Association of Writers in Education, and she teaches Creative Writing in many university and community settings.

Her collection, Teaching Creative Writing, is designed to showcase practical approaches developed by practitioners in the ever-growing community of writers in higher education.

Click here for more information about Teaching Creative Writing.


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