Let’s Meet at the Meet

My current work-in-progress has a minor sub-plot involving a race meet in a county town.

Scenes on the Road, or A Trip to Epsom and Back, showing Kennington Turnpike-gate, by James Pollard

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?

The Meet with Lord Derby’s Stag Hounds

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.

The Betting Post at Epsom Races, by James Pollard

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.

Epsom Races: Preparing to Start, by James Pollard

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.

Epsom Races: The Race Over, by James Pollard

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.)

Epsom Races: Settling Day at Tattersalls, by James Pollard

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.

 

Let’s Take a Trip, Regency-style

When I first began reading Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, I was intrigued by the world she created. Prior to reading her novels I never gave a thought to how people really lived in the early 1800s, even though I’ve always loved history, and studied English history, in particular.

The cover of my well-worn copy of Frederica

The cover of my well-worn copy of Frederica

There was something about her novels, though, that brought that world to life for me. One part of her Regency world that intrigued was the idea of travel. Reading Heyer’s novels, like Arabella, Regency Buck, and Sylvester, made me curious about how people traveled long distances, or even from one neighboring town to another. Heyer had a way of making travel sound both tedious and romantic. Her words painted a picture of just how boring and exciting, dangerous and uncomfortable it could be to ride in a cramped coach for hours with people you don’t know.

Illustration from The Country Gentleman magazine; April 1932 edition

Illustration from The Country Gentleman magazine; April 1932 edition

Over the years I’ve collected quite a few images of Regency-era coaching scenes. They help me visualize Heyer’s stories as I read them, and help me better describe coaching life as I write my own novels.

A 1908 postcard titled, Taking Up Passengers.

A 1908 postcard titled, Taking Up Passengers.

Below are some of my favorites images: they’re a series of coaching illustrations by artist Gilbert Wright that he produced between 1907 and 1911. I like them because of the little details Wright included in his paintings, like those boots in the first painting, titled Getting Ready.

And in the painting titled The Top of the Hill, he showed the passengers of the stage coach walking up the final approach to the hilltop; whether they did so to lighten the load or simply to get some exercise on a pleasant day, is a question left to our imaginations.

I’m happy to share my favorite images with you so that you, too, can “get a visual” of what it was like to travel in Regency England. I hope you enjoy them!

Getting Ready, by Gilbert Wright, 1911.

Getting Ready, by Gilbert Wright, 1911.

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Waiting for the Coach, by Gilbert Wright (1908)

Waiting for the Coach, by Gilbert Wright (1908)

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Two Gallants, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

Two Gallants, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

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The Start, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

The Start, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

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Detail of The Start showing a female passenger climbing up on the box, by Gilbert Wright

Detail of The Start showing a female passenger climbing up on the box, by Gilbert Wright

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A Heavy Storm, by Gilbert Wright, 1907

A Heavy Storm, by Gilbert Wright, 1907

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A Fresh Relay, by Gilbert Wright, 1911

A Fresh Relay, by Gilbert Wright, 1911

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The Top of the Hill, by Gilbert Wright (1907)

The Top of the Hill, by Gilbert Wright (1907)

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The Return to the Stables, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

The Return to the Stables, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

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