A book seller I recently talked with had a curious item for sale: a selection of plates depicting riders in a steeplechase race. The steeds were pigs, and so were the riders!

The piece jogged my memory. We looked through the collection and found a piece from John Daniels’ ephemera collection: Grand Steeple Chace Run at Hog’s Norton Exemplified in Six Plates by J. B.

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“The Start”

Our copy depicts the riders on pig-back, racing across the countryside.

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“Going It”
‘Tis the pace that kills,’ said the late —— and no man put it oftener to the test.
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“Steeple Chace”
Here breeding began to tell, Mr. Cleansty’s White-horse and the Cocktail being rather blown, The Captain’s horse threw his rider so his chance was up.
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“Facing a Brook”
Go at ye Cripples never say die. Here Mr. Clansty’s was in imminent danger of drowning. The Captain, having regained his seat, was seen coming up with a wet sail.

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“Steeple Chace”
The thoroughbred in though queerish to start, winning easy

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“Steeple Chace”
Push on my Cripples! Never say die” The Cocktail here completely floored could not get home. 1831.

I was interested to find online that the term “Hog’s Norton” has a long history. It implies a fictional town with boorish inhabitants. “You were brought up at Hog’s Norton” is *not* a compliment!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

This year marks the 500th running of the Kiplingcotes Derby, the oldest continuously run horse race in England.  It is a grueling four and a half mile, cross country race over the Wolds of Yorkshire that has been run annually on the third Thursday of March since 1519.  The Library holds a copy of The Kiplingcotes Derby: England’s Oldest Horse Race by Alison Ellerington which can shed some light on the history of this ancient race.

It was founded by 48 hunting gentlemen who all contributed between 5 and 30 pounds.  The rules drawn up by this group are dated 1519 so one assumes that the race began that year.  However, the earliest recorded mention of the race that Ellerington could locate was found in testimony dated 1556 which refers to the previous year, 1555.  The account books of the Earl of Burlington show entrance fees for the race in 1679, and the race appears regularly in the Racing Calendar during the 1700s.

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Two entries for the Kiplingcotes Derby in the Library’s collection.  The upper is from An Historical List of Horse-Matches Run, and of Plates and Prizes, Run for in Great Britain and Ireland in 1746. (Gift of Russell Arundel).  The lower is from Racing Calendar: Containing an Account of the Plates, Matches, and Sweepstakes Run for in Great Britain and Ireland &c. in the year 1773 by James Weatherby (Gift of Edmund Twining III).

Among the fifteen rules governing the race are some rather specific requirements.  Any horse, gelding, or mare of any age is eligible to run but all entrants to the race must appear at the Winning Post and submit their stakes money to the clerk at or before 11am.  Anyone that misses this deadline is not eligible to race.  The race must be completed before 2pm.

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Winning Post. Image taken from Hull & East Yorkshire History Calendar. 

All horses must carry a rider weighing 10 stone, or 140 pounds.  Riders lighter than this will have to carry weights upon their person in order to meet the requirement as opposed to carrying additional weight in a saddle cloth as is common in the present day.  Ellerington notes at least one winner that ran into trouble with weights and was disqualified as a result.  In 1961, Jean Cole-Walton carried 11 pounds of lead weights in her pockets in order to meet the 10 stone requirement.  During the race they fell from her pockets.  Although she was the first to pass the winning post, she ended up weighing 11 pounds under the minimum and was disqualified as a result.

The winner of the race is awarded prize money and the Kiplingcotes Plate.  The original plate later became known as the East Yorkshire Plate and has since been lost to history.  Today winners get prize money and a trophy.  According to the rules the second rider to pass the winning post wins the stakes money or entry fees.  Depending on how many horses are entered this could, and frequently does, result in the second place rider winning more money than the first place rider.

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Kiplingcotes Derby trophy. Image taken from Driffords and Wolds Weekly.

On the day of the race, horses and riders present themselves at the Winning Post to register, pay their fees, and get weighed.  After the 11:00 cutoff time for registration, the rules of the race are read to the riders, following which the participants walk the course back to the starting point which is a stone post in the parish of Etton.  The race is run from this starting stone back to the Winning Post.  Alison Ellerington’s map and description of the course are worth quoting in full:

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The Kiplingcotes course from The Kiplingcotes Derby: England’s Oldest Horse Race by Alison Ellerington (1990).

“The course starts 160 feet above sea level and heads in a north westerly direction.  Following the road, the horses galloping along the grass verge climb steadily to 368 feet over Goodmanham Wold.  Galloping towards Enthorpe Woods, over the old railway bridge, the going is slightly downhill, dropping 303 feet — a lull before the hard climb towards the finish.  At Enthorpe Woods the course is now on a green lane left by the commissioners after the enclosures during the 1800s.  From here horse and rider drop a little before the long steady climb up to 438 feet above sea level.  This part of the course is usually thick pulling mud, which tires a horse even more should one make the mistake of riding along the middle of the track instead of trying to keep well into the side by the field.  The course from here is a steady pull up to the main A163, where it levels out with a straight gallop down the grass verge to the winning post over on Londesborough Wold: a hard testing four and a half miles.  Not only do the contours of the Wolds make the race tough, the weather does not usually help; a cold biting wind normally blows and it is not uncommon for snow to be present still, or, failing that, a stinging rain” (p. 15).

Since 1519 there have been at least a few years when the race was only technically run.  In 1947 deep snows prevented entrants from reaching the Winning Post.  A local farmer, Fred Stephenson, was read the rules by the clerk of the race and proceeded to walk his horse through the course in order to maintain tradition.  Stephen Crawford did the same thing in 2001 when an outbreak of foot and mouth disease prevented the running of the race.  He kept the tradition alive again last year when the condition of the course was deemed too dangerous for racing.  Hopefully this week will see good weather and a successful race to mark the 500th anniversary.

If you’d like to take a look at Alison Ellerington’s book, The Kiplingcotes Derby: England’s Oldest Horse Race, you can find it in the Library’s Main Reading Room.

*Update:  The 500th running of the Kiplingcotes Derby was won by Tracey Corrigan on her horse Frog.  They triumphed over a field of 36 competitors and it was her fourth time winning the race.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

“Just living is not enough…. one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower”

-Hans Christian Anderson

Since the beginning of time, mankind has left permanent marks on the planet. Ancient peoples cultivated wild plants and animals, and built great civilizations. Now, people live in almost every ecosystem on the planet- whether in the tundra, in forests, or on tropical islands. While cities clearly show peoples’ effect on the landscape, the world’s open and agricultural areas demonstrate our connection to the plants, animals, and features of the world around us.

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Portrait of a Horse in a Landscape, Abraham van Calraet, c. 1690, oil on panel, 26 1/2 x 30 1/2 x 2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum

In van Calraet’s animal portrait, the viewer might first think that this horse is out in the wilderness, content in his freedom and with the whole world at his hooves. But on closer inspection it becomes clear that his neighbors are domesticated cows, and while no fences are visible there appear to be buildings in the hazy distance. Organisms living together in an environment often have symbiotic relationships, and humans are an important part of this environment, even if they are not seen. In this case humans may have a mutually beneficial relationship with their livestock. Judging by the size of the horse he is well cared for; fed, watered, and brushed. He also seems to have plenty of space to roam, alongside the cows. In return perhaps he is ridden or hitched up to a cart or carriage now and again.

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The Day’s Catch, John Bucknell Russell, 1865, oil on canvas 27 x 35 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum
Apart from farmland, people can also change ecosystems by bringing new species to far away places. Brown trout, like the ones in Russell’s The Day’s Catch, are native to Europe, from northern Norway and Russia all the way to the Atlas Mountains in Northern Africa. Since the 19th century, humans have introduced brown trout species to Australia, India, and North and South America, mainly as a sport fish. Some kinds of trout live exclusively in freshwater streams and lakes, while others live most of their lives in the ocean and only travel to freshwater areas to spawn.

While not inherently dangerous, introducing new species to an area can put pressure on an ecosystem. In some places, like Australia, brown trout endanger other fish by directly competing for food and other resources. In Canada on the other hand, trout populations are threatened by yet another newcomer, an alga commonly known as ‘rock snot’. In each of these cases, anglers and local inhabitants work together to re-balance the ecosystem and remove hazards to native populations.

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Frederick M.M. Warburg with Middleburg Hunt at Goose Creek Michael Lyne, 1950, oil on canvas 22 x 25 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum
Foxhunting is a sport traditionally pursued in temperate zones, the native habitat of European red foxes. As English foxhunters moved around the world, they brought the sport- and the associated animals- with them. In Lyne’s Frederick M.M. Warburg with Middleburg Hunt at Goose Creek, the Virginia Piedmont is seen in autumn, complete with fallen leaves. Viewers also see several species not indigenous to this area. Horses were brought to the colonies with Spanish and English settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries. These riders are following a pack of foxhounds, which were introduced to the Mid Atlantic area starting in 1650. the hounds’ quarry is not identifiable. Gray foxes have lived in North America for millennia, but their cousins, red foxes, are believed to have been brought from Europe during the colonial era as well.

While the subjects of these paintings have lived in their respective habitats (whether man made or natural) for hundreds of years, they are still newcomers in the long timeline of ecology. In each case, humans have forever changed the face of the environment. It is peoples’ responsibility to recognize our impact on the world around us and to treat our surroundings with respect.

 

Want to learn more about Ecosystems in our artwork? Visit NSLMology: the Science of Sporting Art, opening at NSLM on April 12!

An old proverb says that “good fences make good neighbors.” An equally-true corollary could be that clear boundaries do the same for foxhunting territories. In times of dispute, territories could be closely monitored to ensure no infractions across the boundaries. But more often, boundaries can be mapped to show which properties are open for hunting and which are not.

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Detail of “Guide Map of Piedmont, Middleburg, and Orange County Hunt Territories.”

Navigation while hunting can be a tricky process, especially for those visitors in unfamiliar terrain. The hunt map provides a solution, often showing landmarks and properties of note for foxhunters to navigate by.

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From “Hobson’s Fox-Hunting Atlas”

The Library has several large maps depicting hunt territories, and many more can be found in books. A good example is the Baily’s Hunting Directory, which had fold-out maps from its earliest editions.

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Hunting map of England, from Baily’s Hunting Directory for 1898-99.

In the early 20th Century, Baily’s contained far more than hunt directory information. Also included were lists of “Hunting Centres,” an index of towns in England, Wales, and Scotland from which easy access to hunts could be had. This was convenient reference information for city dwellers planning country travels around their sporting pursuits. Detailed hunt maps facilitate easier navigation for those unfamiliar with the territory.

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Hunting map of Ireland, from Baily’s Hunting Directory for 1898-99.
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Detail of “‘Tri’ Hunting Map,” National Sporting Library & Museum

Today’s technology has taken hunt mapping to a far more advanced level, but there’s still charm and beauty in decorative hunting maps. In a pinch, the printed map continues to work with more reliability than its digital counterparts.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail