«Author(s): Jamie Wise Title: Horse racing in nineteenth-century literature Date: 2013 Originally published as: University of Chester MA dissertation ...»
the grandstand was two guineas for the entire four day Derby meeting or one guinea for either Derby or Oaks day. 32 Towards the end of the 1830s Epsom introduced a saddling enclosure from which horses could be viewed pre-race; originally costing a shilling to enter it rose to half a guinea by 1890.33 What is clear is that despite the Derby meeting being widely recognised as a national holiday renowned for its festival atmosphere, the spatial organisation of the racecourse enforced hegemonic control as the carnival was restricted to a confined space within the centre of the course (see appendix ten). Furthermore, by the 1850s Epsom charged a booth rental fee for those wishing to occupy this fairground space, even charging the thimblemen and three-card-tricksmen, as the carnival submerged further into the profit making leisure industry.34 One interesting aspect of this social zoning is a temporary stand, erected by John Barnard, which occupied the prime location in front of the winning line.35 Appendix ten shows its position relative to the more exclusive stands. Although there was an admission fee – by 1896 it was six shillings, a small amount compared to the main stand and well within the working-class budget – the stand was primarily used by the lower orders.36 F. H. Bayles in his Atlas and Review of British Race-Courses (1903) saw its position as an infringement of
It is provoking to see the Royal enclosure, not to speak of the professional and other qualified elements who pay large fees for boxes etc., deprived of a proper view of races at Epsom, whilst this plebeian enclosure, “Barnard’s”, is indulged with a perfect view.37
Huggins, Flat Racing, p. 149.
Huggins, Flat Racing, p. 152; Curzon, The Blue Ribbon of the Turf, p. 23.
Huggins, Flat Racing, p. 151.
Hunn, Epsom, p. 106.
Richardson, The English Turf, p. 112; Hunn, Epsom, p. 106. As David Hunn comments it is difficult to determine the exact price of entry to this stand because it was not widely advertised, patrons would usually turn up and either pay the price asked by the gateman or negotiate a cheaper price they could afford. Also the complicated nature of Barnard’s lease of the land from the Lord of the Manor and the fluctuation of the price he paid in rent meant the entrance fee probably changed from year to year, perhaps even day to day. What is clear however, from a number of sources, is that the stand was primarily used by the lower classes.
F. H. Bayles, Atlas and Review of British Race-Courses, 1903, in Hunn, Epsom, p. 106.
‘large fees’ of the professional middle classes wield no power in gaining the best view of the finish to the Derby. The freedom of movement, the ‘space of enunciation’ that was denied the lower orders, is now also denied the more affluent members of society as they do not have complete access to all the course, including significantly the ‘perfect view’ afforded the ‘plebeian enclosure’. However Barnard’s stand existed only for the duration of the Derby meeting and the class inversion it instigated is, like Bakhtin’s carnival, only temporary.
Consequently the permanent fixture of the Prince’s Stand and the main grandstand confirm that class divides endured beyond the carnival. A look back at appendices one, two and three will show that while the excesses of the carnival are foregrounded in these images the permanent stands are still visible in the background. In the midst of the temporary carnival permanent social boundaries cannot be completely removed.
What is evident at Epsom however, and indeed at other nineteenth-century racecourses, is the complicated nature of the racecourse as a definable space. The development of horse racing as a commercial enterprise in many ways undermined the carnival and instigated a shift into a capitalist controlled leisure market. There were however, as with Epsom, instances in which the space of the racecourse remained unstable, unable to completely enforce hegemonic control. As Henri Lefebvre has noted the capitalist space is never so clearly defined that it remains purely faithful to capitalist demands. It is always a space of ambivalence and contradictions; a product and necessary tool of the capitalist system but one which can never be fully controlled by that system.38 Barnard’s Stand may have been temporary but it denied bourgeois capitalism complete authority over its own spatial organisation of the racecourse. Epsom then as exemplifier of the racing carnival was also indicative of the nineteenth-century racecourse as a complicated space, a space where
Lefebvre, The Production of Space, p. 11.
challenging carnival, bourgeois hegemony and a new nineteenth-century leisure industry functioned in a complex and contradictory relationship. Horse racing and its association with an increasing demand and availability for leisure is however hugely complicated in itself and, as what follows will reveal, extends the discussion of racecourse space in a different direction.
From the mid-century onwards a rise in the average real wage meant for the first time Britain’s working classes found themselves with disposable income, this combined with legislation reducing working hours meant that they had money and time to spend on leisure.39 This led to increasing anxiety among the middle classes – themselves significant beneficiaries of free time and increased income – who were concerned not only with the corrupting effect of leisure on their own class, but were also particularly apprehensive about the effects of recreation on the lower orders.40 It fell to the middle classes to set an example as to the proper and correct function of leisure in society; the idea of instilling, as Peter Bailey calls it, a ‘play discipline to complement the work discipline’.41 The carnival of the racecourse was, by the mid-century onwards, no longer a temporary suspension of social decorum and norms which
Industrial legislation in the 1860s and trade union activism in the 1870s contributed to this reduction in working hours and resulted in the Saturday half-holiday being introduced. The Bank Holidays Act of 1871 guaranteed holidays for bank workers which spread to other groups. In addition company holidays also became more common, particularly among bank clerks and railwaymen. Peter Bailey, Leisure and Class in Victorian England: Rational Recreation and the Contest for Control, 1830-1885, (London: Routledge, 1978), pp. 80-81.
See also Hugh Cunningham, Leisure in the Industrial Revolution, (London: Croom Helm, 1980), and Stella Margetson, Leisure and Pleasure in the Nineteenth Century, (London: Cassell, 1969) Bailey, Leisure and Class, p. 5.
Bailey, Leisure and Class, p. 5. In 1859 Samuel Smiles published Self Help; with its emphasis on protestant work ethic, self-discipline and the building of character, it espoused the ideals of the burgeoning Victorian middle class, ideals which they sought to transfer to the new and expanding leisure market. Samuel Smiles, Self Help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct, (London: John Murray, 1859). Giving a public address to the people of Bolton in 1850 Lord Shaftesbury, a leading figure in factory reform who played a significant role in the introduction of the Ten Hours Bill, warned the working-class audience of the responsibilities they now faced. He implored them to see the bill as the start of ‘their great career of moral and social improvement’ and entreated them not to use their free time for ‘senseless and disgusting recreations’. Lord Shaftesbury 1850, quoted in Bailey, Leisure and Class, p. 50.
which the working classes chose what form that leisure took, whether moral or immoral, and as such required policing. Once the racecourse carnival was no longer temporary and once the working classes had the free time and money to indulge in the morally-questionable attendance of horse racing it fell to the middle classes to set a disciplined example in this now permanent site of leisure.
It is worth at this point examining the extent of middle-class involvement in horseracing in order to determine just how far their idea of disciplined leisure extended onto the racecourse. Most historians of nineteenth-century horseracing have tended towards the assumption that middle-class interest in the sport was limited, extending in some cases to an out and out denial of it.42 However, Mike Huggins’s extensive and most recent study of the subject suggests that middle-class involvement was far more widespread than previously documented. He goes as far as saying theories to the contrary are the ‘product of limited research’.43 The middle classes were involved in horseracing in a variety of ways; as shareholders, organisers and managers their involvement was firmly entrenched with the administrative running of racecourses, as attendees, owners and betters they were attracted more towards the sporting side.44 Given such extensive middle-class involvement in nineteenth-century horseracing, the notion of setting the correct example of disciplined leisure becomes hugely ironic since the racecourse carnival was a site in which all classes of
John Lowerson has suggested that nineteenth-century horseracing was ‘virtually without middle-class support’. John Lowerson, Sport and the English Middle Classes, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), p. 5. Richard Holt believed that ‘the bulk of middle class [sic] opinion [...] tended to frown upon the sport’. Richard Holt, Sport and the British: A Modern History, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 181.
Even Wray Vamplew, author of one of the definitive texts on the subject, suggested that middle-class involvement in horseracing, particularly in the earlier part of the century, was sporadic at best. Vamplew, The Turf: A Social and Economic History of Horse Racing, p. 133.
Huggins, Flat Racing, p.69. Huggins’s evidence is compelling sighting subscription lists, race committee members and influential figures in new racecourse building as proof that middle-class involvement in horse racing was significant, even if it received far less publicity than the middle-class lobbyists opposing the sport.
Huggins, Flat Racing, pp. 68-85.
At Chester tradesmen subscribers to the inaugural races introduced by the newly enclosed course had little prospect of substantial monetary return; their investments were evidently made out of genuine appreciation of the sport. R. M. Bevan, The Roodee, p. 88.
in the latter part of the nineteenth century in many ways stemmed the racecourse carnival by charging for entrance, eliminating fairground activities and separating the classes, this too posed a problem. The middle classes were shut off from the working classes and consequently unable to instil their disciplined ideas of leisure from the exclusive enclosures and grandstands. As Mike Huggins says the racecourse was witness to a ‘significant gap between the public expression of respectable middle-class ideology and power and its working out in practice’.45 Just as there is a gap between the implementation of social zoning in the grandstand and the freedom of the centre of the course, so too is there a gap between the moral middle-class ideas of leisure and the example set on the racecourse.
Epsom, the exemplifier of horseracing’s carnivalesque atmosphere, is also a prime example of the racecourse’s problematic function as a space of disciplined middle-class leisure. The Derby meeting was a recognised space of social release, a legitimised holiday from various restrictive paradigms, particularly class, however, it also actively separated the classes with a variety of priced enclosures. Therefore any example of disciplined leisure can only occur when the classes mix in the carnivalesque atmosphere in centre of the course. The obvious problem with this scenario is that the example in the centre of the course is the wrong one. The article ‘Derby Dregs’ by Joseph Charles Parkinson which appeared in All Year Round (1866) articulates this problem: ‘an hour after racing [...] when the grand stands [...] looks ghastly and tomb-like in their emptiness. Foul language, drunken shrieks, fights, blasphemy and theft, seem things of the course’. The articles primary concern is to highlight and attack the drunken behaviour in the centre of the course, indeed the whole article is castigating the abandonment of civilised conduct which the Derby meeting instigates. However, what the article also highlights is the gap between the grandstand and
Huggins, Flat Racing, p. 139.
Joseph Charles Parkinson, ‘Derby Dregs’, All Year Round, 15 (1866), pp. 487-489, p. 487.
class ideologies of leisure and middle-class behaviour on the racecourse. Any example of the ‘play discipline’ in the grandstand remains absent from the raucousness elsewhere as the middle-classes are either segregated by priced enclosure and leave after racing finishes, or abandon social decorum with ‘foul language’ and the like in the centre of the course: a fact emphasised here by the grandstands ‘tomb-like emptiness’ which appear almost as a death knell to morally legitimised leisure.
Exacerbating the problem of horse racing as a space for middle-class examples of leisure and as a legitimate leisure activity was its inevitable and long-standing association with gambling.47 Gambling in general was systematically attacked across the nineteenth century,