My current work-in-progress has a minor sub-plot involving a race meet in a county town.
Since I’m a visual person, I went searching for images of race meets held during the Regency era. Specifically, I wanted to see if I could get a sense of the logistics of the meet. Did they use a starting line or an actual starting gate? How did they mark the course? Did spectators line the course or did they watch from a safe distance?
I thought I’d share with you a few of the images I collected, so you can see for yourself what inspired me to write my own descriptions of a race meet.
When you look at the style of clothing depicted in these images, you can tell they were painted in the 1830s, well after the end of the Regency era. Despite that, I think they’re relevant for my purpose.
Another question I hoped to answer through these art pieces: Did ladies attend race meets? In the first image above there is a woman in the foreground of the picture, but I think she’s merely watching the men, on horseback and in carriages, as they pass through the gate on their way to the meet.
However, I do see some feminine-looking figures seated in the viewing tower on the far left in the image below. That’s a good thing; if social conventions of the time didn’t prohibit women from attending race meets, I have more flexibility in writing my story and keeping my female characters where the action is.
Even if women were allowed to watch races, I know they would have been banned from setting foot on the premises of Tattersall’s. Tattersall’s was a famous bastion of masculinity where horses were bought and sold. I’ve searched the image below several times, and can confirm there isn’t even a hint of a bonnet or skirt. (Apparently, cats were allowed at Tattersall’s, but women weren’t.)
These images did help me visualize what county race meets must have been like. Judging from these images, meets were popular events that caused large crowds of men to descend upon a town—and if that isn’t an inspiring premise for a fiction writer, I don’t know what is!
I hope you enjoyed viewing these images. You can click on each one to open a larger version.