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TORBRYAN'S DAY AT THE RACES

 

A Victorian amateur steeplechase
A Victorian amateur steeplechase

 

Steeplechasing,  now known as National Hunt racing, gave farmers, who spent much of their time on horse-back in the hunting season, an exciting sporting alternative in the summer months.  Steeplechases gave villagers an equally exciting opportunity join in the betting frenzy which accompanied such events.

  

The country steeplechase was just that - an obstacle race over any object that was encountered in the normal countryside landscape. Horses  were ridden over hedges, gates and walls  and across ditches and streams  just as they were when out hunting only this time, the emphasis was on speed. The ground was as nature sent it - hillocks, humps and bumps, and definitely not the neatly manicured grass to be found on modern racecourses. 

 

This event took place in 1882 and reflects the attitude of the day to animals. You will see that the course was 1½ miles long and that in a single race, the horses were expected to go round twice - that is 3 miles in all. Then, after a short break , some were expected to take part in a subsequent race of the same length. Like hunting, it was a hazardous sport producing many accidents and injuries. 

 

The final race of the day was a Galloway Race. This was one in which the horses were handicapped according to size -  the taller horses carrying a larger total weight. Each owner nominated a  jockey (sometimes an employee, more often a gentleman amateur, perhaps even the owner himself)  who is named below in column 4 and whose form would have been known to onlookers.

 

Steeplechases took place all over Devon up to the middle of the last century. The excitement at Torbryan began with a bout of sheep-shearing (more opportunities for betting and a chance for someone to earn some real money - remember, a male  farm labourer at this time earned just 13s  7d a week. Sadly, most of the prize money probably got no further than the Church House Inn!

 

Extracted from a local newspaper dated June, 1882:

"The third annual meeting promoted by the farmers and residents as a turf event for the village of Torbryan came off on Tuesday. In addition to the races, prizes were offered for sheep-shearing, the competition being judged by Mr Carol Adams of Dawlish and Mr. Foale of Blackawton. There were 24 shearers as follows: 10 in Class 1, 6 in Class 2, 3 in Class 3, and five competed for extra prizes given by the Rev. C. Wolston.  The awards were as follows: 

Class 1 - 1st (£1 15s) Frederick Lowe of Marldon;  2nd - (15 s) Samuel Lowe of Marldon,; 3rd (10s) - James Jarvis.

Class 2 - 1st (£1) George Lowe, of Marldon;  2nd (12s 6d) N. Lowe - 3rd (7s 6d) George Lamble

Class 3 - (under 16 years of age) 1st prize - not awarded;  2nd (10s) James Jarvis,  3rd  (5s) Thomas Pitts.

 

Extra prizes given by the Rev. C. Wolston were open to all comers residing in the parishes of Torbryan, Broadhempston, Denbury and Ipplepen. This competition chiefly interested persons of the agricultural class, who pronounced on the work done, especially that of the first class, as worthy of much commendation."

 

"For the miscellaneous crowd that had assembled by three o'clock, the main attraction was the races. To witness the three events on the card, visitors attended from Newton Abbot, Totnes and Torquay, as well as from the smaller places adjacent, and for their entertainment a fairly good field turned out in each race, and some good sport was witnessed.

 

The course was a piece of rough hunting country about 1½ miles in extent, which the horses had to cover twice, and then come up the straight to win. The stewards of the meeting were Mr. E. R. White of Newton Abbot and Mr G. Mitchell of Totnes. The Starter was Mr E Skinner of Staverton and the Clerk of the Course, Mr A Harris of Totnes.

 

The Buckfastleigh band, under the direction of Mr Tolchard added a pleasing feature to the proceedings/ About the only drawback to the day's enjoyment was the weather and that was dismal in the extreme, rain falling in frequent heavy showers and a bitterly cold wind."

THE RACE CARD

1. THE SOUTH DEVON STAKES - PRIZE MONEY £7.10s

OWNER

HORSE WEIGHT CARRIED RIDER POSITION
Mr Bond Little Bessie 11st. 7 lbs Gregory 1
Mr Short  The Widow 11st.  7lbs Mason 2
Mr Evans Shotover 11st Brooks 3
Mr Atkinson Bessie 11 st A. Short
Mr Steward Jessie 11st. Gorwyn 0
Mr. Hoare's Maid of the Mill and Mr J. White's Blacking Brush were scratched. Little Bessie showed herself much the superior animal and won easily. Shotover made a good struggle for 3rd place which he lost by half a dozen lengths. A protest was entered against the winner on the grounds that her rider (Gregory) did not properly weigh in at the close of the race.

2. PAIGNTON STEEPLECHASE - PRIZE MONEY £6 5s

OWNER

HORSE WEIGHT CARRIED RIDER POSITION
Mr Hoare Maid of the Mill 11st. Heath 1
Mr F. Day Little Nell 10 st. 7 lbs Prior 2
Mr Evans Shotover 11 st. Brooks 3
Mr Short The Widow 10 st 7 lbs Mason 0
Mr Steward Doctor 10 st. 7lbs Gorwyn 0

Scratched Mr. J. White's Blacking Brush, Mr Harris's Black Bess and Mr French's Little Star. Won by 6 lengths

3. THE GALLOWAY RACE (PRIZE MONEY NOT STATED)

OWNER

HORSE WEIGHT CARRIED RIDER POSITION
Mr French Little Star 10 st Gregory 1
Mr Harris Black Bess Not given Huxham 2
Mr Steward Jessie 9 st Shirwill jnr. 3

"Six competed in the Galloway. It was a capital race to the finish. Little Star won by ten lengths.

The day ended with, a handicap race , Doctor had a spill and his rider was thrown and much cut about the face and head.

 

Scratched: Mr. J. White's Blacking Brush, Mr Harris's Black Bess and Mr French's Little Star. It was won by 6 lengths by Little Bessie.

 

A match was on the card to £10 a side between horses belonging to Mr Bovey of Torbryan and Mr. Blackwood of St Marychurch. The event, however did not come off."

 

The appearance of the race card in the press would seem to indicate that Torbryan was not the only place where betting was taking place that day!

I

 

 

             

 

 
 
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