Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign, Volume I.

Ashton, John


CHAPTER XXIII: Horse-racing, Hunting, Shooting, &c.

CHAPTER XXIII: Horse-racing, Hunting, Shooting, &c.


THE horse, necessarily, in those days, when locomotion was only obtainable through its agency, was of prime importance: farriery was fairly understood, and some voluminous disquisitions on it were published, with most curious receipts for the various ills horseflesh is heir to, and elaborate engraving of fleams, firing irons, bits (some of them very cruel), and all sorts of harness-even down to curry-combs, dandybrushes, and stable utensils. But it is not here that the hack or roadster is to be spoken of, but the horse kept for sport-the race horse-about which they had already found out the fact, ' Like Race Horses cost more in keeping them than they're worth.' [1]  The Queen was fond of racing, and gave her 100£. gold cups to be run for, as now: nay more, she not only kept race horses, but ran them in her own name. Her six-year-old grey gelding Pepper ran for her gold cup at York (over Clifton and Rawcliffe Ings) on July 28, . Over the same course, and for the same stake, on August 3, , ran her grey horse Mustard, by the Taffolet Barb, which, according to the of May 14, , was entered to run 'in Whitsun week at Guildford in Surrey for the 50£. plate' ; and, sad to tell, her brown horse Star (afterwards called Jacob) ran at York for a plate of the value of


14£., and won it, on July 30, , the very day on which the Queen was struck with apoplexy, expiring the next day.

She paid a visit to in April , going to once or twice during her stay. says: 'Aprill 26, . The queen has ordered her house at to be rebuilt, and gave £. towards paving the town; and bought a running horse of Mr. Holloway, which cost a guineas, and gave it to the prince.' Prince George shared his august consort's love of horse-racing, and in the Gazette, June 18/21, , we find: 'These are to give notice, That his Royal Highness the Prince is pleased to give a Gold Plate, value One Hundred Guineas to be run for at Black Hambleton in Yorkshire, over the four Miles old Beacon course, the last Thursday in July, by any Horse five years old last Foaling time: No Horse to be admitted to run but such as bring a Certificate from the Breeder of his Horses Age; and likewise to be judged and approved to be no older than aforesaid, by the Gentlemen whose Horses run for the said Plate; each horse to carry ten Stone weight, and start at the usual hours.

'And his Royal Highness is also pleased to give another Gold Plate, Value One Hundred Guineas, to be run for the second Thursday in October next, one Heat, over the Heat's Course at , ten Stone, by Horses five years old, whose Age must be certified as aforesaid, and likewise allowed by Gentlemen whose Horses run. This year no Mare will be admitted to run for either of those Plates: Although for the future his Royal Highness designs to give a Plate of the like Value, to be run for at each of the aforesaid Courses by Mares only, of the said Age.'

Indeed, in that year of the royal couple seemed mightily given to racing, for 'the queen has appointed horse races to be at Datchet after her return from Winchester to Windsor.' [2] 

Her gold plates, as far as can be made out from newspaper advertisements, were, in , 100£., at Stapleton Leys, Yorkshire, September 2; one at on April 12, 1705; at Langton Wold, near Malton, Yorkshire, July 24,


: in at Black Hambleton, Yorkshire, July 26; one of 50£. at Datchet, August 24; one of 100£. at , October 6; while the Prince's Cup of 100£. for mares four years old was run for on October 8 the same year; in , at Clifton and Rawncliffe Ings; in at Black Hambleton, on July 26; and at Clifton Ings, on July 28; in at Hambleton, August 1 ; Clifton, August 3; and in the same year one was run for at Ascot Heath on August 12-the first mention that I can find of racing there ; in , Clifton Ings, on July 28.

A few racing mems of this time will illustrate to what an extent this passion for the turf was carried. : 'They write from , That the Lord Godolphin's and Mr. Harvy's Horses ran for 3,000£. His Lordship won; As also the Earl of Argile, and the Duke of Devonshire's; the latter's Horse won, by which Mr. Pheasant got a considerable sum.' : ' The great horse race at , run for guineas between the lord Treasurer and the Duke of Argyle, was won by the latter.' Perhaps the earliest sporting paper is 'News from New Market: or An Account of the Horses Match'd to Run there in March, April, and May , The Weight, Miles, Wages and Forfeits. Printed for John Nutt near Stationer's Hall. Price 2d.' : ' Last Monday was a horse race at , between the lord Granby's Grantham and Mr. Young's Blundel, for £.the latter won.' On April 10, , at , the Duke of Bedford's bay horse (9 stone) had a match with Mr. Minchall's bay colt (8 1/2 stone) for 1,000 guineas; but there is no record of which won. These were the highest stakes recorded during the reign: they were generally for 200 or 300 guineas.

records a somewhat singular match against time: '14 April . Some days since, a baker at Clerkenwell Green, laid with a Vintner there, a wager of 400 guineas against 16 Guineas, that his horse could not run from Shoreditch Church to Ware and back again (being 40 miles) in 2 hours and 36 minutes, which race was last Tuesday, and performed in 2 hours and 28 minutes, but the horse since dead.'

The first mention, in this reign, of Epsom Races, as far as I can find, is in the April and May 26/3, , when three small plates were to be run for, of 30£., 10£., and 5£. value. On May 25, , there was only one to be competed for, and that of 20£. They had very early ' Epsom Spring Meetings' ; for, in the , February 15, , it says: 'On Epsom Downes in Surrey, on the first Monday after the Frost, a Plate of 20l. will be run for,' etc.

Races for stakes of little value were common all over the country, and were deemed of sufficient importance to be advertised in the London papers. Take a few haphazard: Nottingham, Kerfall, Boston, Winchester, Croydon, Coventry, Quainton, Horsham, Woodstock, Mansfield; nay, there was even a 'Jockey Field betwixt Bedford Row and Gray's Inn, having a full Prospect of and .'

What a vast difference there was between those old racecourses and ours! No grand stands, no howling ring, no carriages, no ladies; not even a special dress for the jockeys. According to a nearly contemporary print, there were very few spectators even-and but a sorry booth, or so, for the sale of liquor.

The most famous sporting man of his time was , Esq., of Moreton, Dorsetshire, 'the Father of the Turf,' who was keeper of her Majesty's running horses at -a post he had filled in the time of William III., and which he continued to hold under Georges I. and II. He is described as being 'the oldest, and as they say the cunningest jockey in England; one day. he lost 1,000 gs., the next he won 2,000, and so alternately. He made as light of throwing away 500l. or 1,000l. at a time, as other men do of their pocket money, and was perfectly calm, cheerful and unconcerned when he lost a thousand pounds as when he won it.' This may be true, but I find no record of his running for any such large sums in any match. 'April 6, . Mr. 's Monkey and Mr. Cotton's Snap, 100 Guineas. Ap. 27. Sir Cecil Bishop's Quaker and Mr. 's Monkey 200 guineas. Ap. 28. Mr. Minchall's Cork and Mr. 's Trumpeter 500 guineas. Oct. 1, . Mr. Pullen's Slouch against Mr. 's White Neck 200 g's. 5 Oct.


Mr. 's Teller against L'd Dorchester's Colt, 200 g's.' And even his sporting bid in Sept. was not for high stakes, although he challenged dukes to compete. 'Mr. that keeps the Queen's Running Horses, has made a Sporting Proposal to three Dukes, allowing them to joyn their Stables, and Name to him any 6 Horses or Mares (the Horse called Wyndham [3]  excepted) against 6 of his now in his Stables ... they are to run for 100£. each horse,' etc.

Thus we see he owned many horses, but the most famous of all was one named Dragon, to whom it is alleged behaved with cruel barbarity. On Oct. 30, , Dragon ran against Lord Dorchester's Wanton for three hundred guineas, and on April 22, , encountered the redoubtable Wyndham for the same stakes. His alleged mutilation and death are told by Dr. John Hawkesworth in No. 37 of .

There is no record of his death, but in an old song, called ' Horse Race,' belonging to the early part of George the First's reign, it says-

For I'll have the brown Bay, if the blew bonnet ride,

And hold a thousand Pounds of his side, Sir;

Dragon would scow'r it, but Dragon Grows old;

He cannot endure it, he cannot, he wonnot now run it,

As lately he could:

Age, age, does hinder the Speed, Sir,

which would infer that Dragon was old and worthless as a racer before his death, and the other story falls to the ground.

When young, the Queen was very fond of hunting, and, in fact, pursued it after her accession to the throne, when, from her increasing size, she no longer mounted the saddle. 'The Queen came last Thursday to Hampton Court, and having assisted in council, and dined there, returned at night to Windsor, where she takes the divertisement of hunting almost every day in an open Calash in the forest,' [4]  i.e. she drove down the long rides and saw what she could of the hunt. Again,[5]  three years later: 'This morning her Majestie and the prince went for Winchester to take the diversion


of hunting.' Still later [6]  : 'The queen was hunting the stag till four this afternoon, and she drove in her chaise, above forty miles.'

The country gentry then, as now, were ardently fond of sport; but then the hunting field was a thoroughly neighbourly gathering, there were no subscription packs, and no fast trains to bring every snob that possesses, or can hire, a 'hunter.' The runs might not be so fast as now, nor were they ever recorded in any sporting paper-horrible disadvantages, doubtless, but still they brought neighbours together, engendered a kindly feeling, and gave legitimate occupation to people whose brains were not addled with too much reading. Where can there be a prettier picture of a thoroughbred old English sportsman than that which draws of Sir Roger[7] : 'The Walls of his great Hall are covered with the Horns of several kinds of Deer that he has killed in the Chace, which he thinks the most valuable Furniture of his House, as they afford him frequent Topicks of Discourse, and shew that he has not been Idle. At the lower End of the Hall, is a large Otter's Skin stuffed with Hay, which his Mother ordered to be hung up in that manner, and the Knight looks upon it with great Satisfaction, because it seems he was but nine Years old when his Dog killed him. A little Room adjoining to the Hall is a kind of Arsenal filled with Guns of several Sizes and Inventions, with which the Knight has made great Havock in the Woods, and distroyed many thousands of Pheasants, Partridges, and Woodcocks. His Stable Doors are patched with Noses that belonged to Foxes of the Knights own hunting down. Sir Roger shewed me one of them that for Distinction Sake has a Brass Nail struck through it, which cost him about fifteen Hours riding, carried him through half a dozen Counties, killed him a Brace of Geldings, and lost above half his Dogs. This the Knight looks upon as one of the greatest Exploits of his Life. The perverse Widow, whom I have given some Account of, was the Death of several Foxes; for Sir Roger has told me that in the course of his Amours he patched the Western Door of his Stable. Whenever the Widow was


cruel, the Foxes were sure to pay for it. In proportion as his Passion for the Widow abated, and old Age came on, he left off Fox hunting; but a Hare is not yet Safe that Sits within ten Miles of his House.'

Hunting commenced both earlier in the season and in the day than now. 'It must be imagined it was near Day when we went to Bed and therefore could not be expected we should get out a Hunting at Five or Six in the Morning.' [8]  From a set of nearly contemporary prints we gather that possibly little attention was paid to earth-stopping, when fox-hunting, for one part of the engraving shows a fox being dug out. In another part the hounds are breaking up the fox, which has not been denuded of his brush. Only the gentlemen are represented as being on horseback, the huntsmen having leaping poles. This was better for them than being mounted, for the country was nothing like as cultivated as now, and perfectly undrained, so that they could go straighter on foot, and with these poles leaps could be taken that no horseman would attempt.

From the engravings referred to, we find that the stag was first found, or harboured, with a bloodhound-the staghounds were coupled, and let loose when wanted by the huntsmen, who were on foot. Its death was duly celebrated by a or blowing of horns, when a hunting knife was presented to the principal man present, to cut off its head, after everyone had passed his opinion as to his age, weight, etc.: the deer was then carted home. Guns were carried wherewith to shoot the stag, if necessary, when at bay.

Budgell, in No. 117, well describes a run after a hare, and the discipline of the hounds who were close upon the hare, when the huntsman threw his pole between themthis the well-tutored dogs would not pass, and the hare was rescued. , too, tells the story of a run well:-

Now at a Fault the Dogs confus'dly stray,

And try t'unravel his perplexing Way;

They trace his artful Doubles o'er and o'er,

Smell every Shrub, and all the Plain explore,

'Till some stanch Hound summons the baffled Crew,

And strikes away his wily Steps anew.

Along the Fields they scow'r with jocund Voice,

The frighted Hare starts at the distant Noise;

New Stratagems and various Shifts he tries,

Oft' he looks back, and dreads a close Surprize;

Th' advancing Dogs still haunt his list'ning Ear,

And ev'ry breeze augments his growing Fear:

'Till tir'd at last, he pants, and heaves for Breath;

Then lays him down, and waits approaching death.Rural Sports, Gay, ed. 1713.

Or what better description could we have of coursing a hare than the following:-

Many packs of hounds were advertised for sale during Anne's reign-not such large packs as we now have, but small packs, with which a man could then show sport, and yet the keeping of which need not be costly. Two or three are given for example's sake: 'Any Gentleman that hath a mind to purchase a good pack of cloddy strong Hounds, fit for any Country, from 15 couple to 10, may be accommodated,' etc. 'There are to be dispos'd of 18 Couple of Hare Hounds, well siz'd and well mark'd, at reasonable rates.' ' There are 9 Couple of good Fox Hounds (with a Tarrier) (4 Couple being stanch finders) to be sold at a very reasonable Price. These Hounds are as proper for Deer as Fox.' 'Lost the 16th Instant from the Earl of Litchfield's Foxhounds in some Woods near Crawford in Kent, a small White Beagle, with Red Spots on her Ears, and a short Tail, (being a Tarrier),' etc.

There were cockney hunts, with deer, both at


and Muswell Hill, and live deer were bought and sold commonly; indeed there is one advertisement which has a touch of old Leadenhall Market about it. 'Any person who has Beagles, Foxes or Hares to dispose of, may hear of a Purchaser by giving Notice to the Porter at Sion Chappel near Hamsted.'

One sport then in vogue must not be omitted from the list-otter-hunting.

If you'd preserve a num'rous Finny Race,

Let your fierce Dogs the Rav'nous Otter chase;

Th' amphibious Creature ranges all the Shores,

Shoots through the Waves, and ev'ry haunt explores:

Or let the Gin his roving Steps betray,

And save from hostile Jaws the Scaly Prey.

Angling was extensively practised, with almost the same appliances and tackle as now, even down to the wicker creel at the side. Will Wimble 'makes a May fly to a Miracle; and furnishes the whole country with angle rods.' Isaac Walton had not long been dead (Dec. 15, ), and his disciples in the 'Contemplative Man's Recreation' were many and experienced. Hear what says about making a fly to suit the water:-

Oft' have I seen a skillful Angler try

The various Colours of the treach'rous Fly;

When he with fruitless Pain hath skim'd the Brook,

And the coy Fish rejects the skipping Hook,

He shakes the Boughs that on the Margin grow,

Which o'er the Streams a waving Forrest throw;

When if an Insect falls (his certain Guide)

He gently takes him from the whirling Tide;

Examines well his Form with Curious Eyes,

His gaudy Colours, Wings, his Horns and Size,

Then round his Hook a proper Fur he winds,

And on the Back a speckled Feather binds.

So just the Properties in ev'ry part,

That even Nature's Hand revives in Art.

Hawking, too, was a sport not then extinct, the land not being so parcelled into fields, and fenced in, as now; so that the flight of the birds could be easily followed. The birds were startled by five or six spaniels trained to the work. Here


is a description of one lost by the Earl of Abingdon: 'a small black and white Hawking Spaniel. his Hair not very long, more black than white, long Back, with a thick Head.' In brook hawking, men used to beat the rushes with poles, and they also hawked partridges and pheasants. The latter are depicted in the engraving as being poked off their roosts with poles.

They went bat-fowling with the same nets as are now used, and they also netted partridges at night, with the aid of a lanthorn. In wild-fowl shooting they also used a horse for stalking. There were decoys for ducks, and we get an insight as to how they were managed. ' These are to give Notice, that if any Person that understands the management of a Decoy, wants a place, he may have one about 40 Miles from London provided he brings a Certificate from the last Master he served as to his ability .... he shall have as good Wages as is usually given, or a third Bird, as he shall agree when he seeth the Decoy.'

It was not every person that might shoot game: 'The first of them, says he, that has a Spaniel by his Side, is a Yeoman of about an hundred Pounds a Year, an honest Man; He is just within the Game Act and qualified to kill an Hare or a Pheasant; he knocks down a Dinner with his Gun twice or thrice a Week; and by that means lives much cheaper than those who have not so good an Estate as himself. He would be a good Neighbour if he did not destroy so many Partridges; in short he is a very sensible man; shoots flying; and has been several times foreman of the Petty Jury.' [11]  This game Act, which he was just within, was the 3rd James I. cap. 14, clause 5, which says that no one not having forty pounds per annum, or 200£. worth of goods and chattels, may shoot game; and should they do so, ' then any person having lands, tenements or hereditaments, of the clear yearly value of one hundred pounds a year, may take from the person or possession of such malefactor or malefactors, and to his own use for ever keep, such guns, bows, crossbows, &c. &c,' and this Act was in force till , when it was repealed.

Shooting flying was not an ordinary accomplishment: it was but just coming in, and most people took 'pot shots,' and would not risk shooting at a bird on the wing.

Partridges, because they flew well, and strongly, were then not shot, but snared, by means of a trained dog.

'But if I miss Sitting, I commonly hit 'em Flying,' says Bellair in 's 'Love at a Venture,' which shows that it was only when the former failed, that he tried the latter plan. And, in an advertisement for a gamekeeper, it is noticed: ' Any one that is a very good Coach man, and can Shoot flying, perfectly well, may hear of a good Place.' If being a good coachman was useful to a gamekeeper, what can we say to this: 'Any Gentleman that wants a Man for Shooting, Hunting, Setting, or any Manner of Game, may hear of one well qualified. He is a good Scholar, and shaves well.'

notes, Mar. 5, : 'Yesterday the lords past the bill for the preservation of the game, in which is a clause, that if any poulterer, after the 1st of May next, sells hare, pheasant, partridge &c. shall forfeit 5£. for every offence, unless he has a certificate from the lord of the mannor that they were not taken by poachers.' The killing of game must have been earlier then than now, for, appended to No. 156, Aug. 29, , is the following: ' ADVERTISEMENT-


Mr. gives his most humble service to Mr. R. M. of Chippenham in Wilts, and hath received the Partridges.'

There were rifle matches in those day. One was shot at the artillery ground, Finsbury, on July 16, , for a cup value twenty-five guineas: 'No gun to exceed 4 foot and a half in the Barrel, the distance to be 200 yards, and but one Shot a piece, the nearest the Centre to win.' On July 7, , was a match for four pieces of plate: 'to stand 100 yards distance from the Target.' A deer, value 50s., was to be shot for more than once-and the prize once sank as low as ' a pair of breeches.' There was one very singular prize: 'A very fine brass Gun, in the form of a Walking Cane, to be us'd as a Gun or Pistol, and in it a fine Prospect Glass, and a Perpetual Almanack engrav'd about the Head, and a Sun Dial in the Head, and several other ingenious Utensils.'

Archery was still kept up, as we see by the following advertisement [12] : 'All Gentlemen who are Lovers of the Ancient and Noble Exercise of Archery, are hereby Invited by the Stewards of the Annual Feast for the Clerkenwell Archers, to Dine with them at Mrs. Mary Barton's, at the Sign of Sir John Oldcastle, upon Friday the 18th Day of July at One of the Clock, and to pay the Bearer Thomas Beaumont, Marshal to the Regiment of Archers, Two shillings and Sixpence; and to take a Sealed Ticket, that the certain Number may be known, and Provision made accordingly.'


[1] Tunbridge Walks.

[2] Luttrell, Sept. 1, 1705.

[3] Belonging to the Duke of Somerset.

[4] Luttrell, Aug. 15, 1702.

[5] Ibid. Aug. 28, 1705.

[6] Stella.

[7] Spectator, 115.

[8] The Quaker's Art of Courtship, 1710.

[11] Spectator, No. 122.

[12] Har. MSS. 5961, 154.