Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

A view of the town of Guisborough from Highcliff Nab.

Guisborough Races, 1784: Asses, Mens’ sack race, Ladies, and a Soap-tail’d Pig

Guisborough, population around 17,0001Wikipedia Contributors. 2022. ‘Guisborough’, Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guisborough#cite_ref-2011_census_1-0> [accessed 26 November 2022]. At the turn of the 19th-century, in the 1801 census, it was a mere 1,7192“Guisborough Before 1900”. Page 119. Edited by B.J.D. Harrison and G. Dixon. 1982. ISBN 0 9507827 0 X.. This was the eve of the industrial revolution, nevertheless it was the largest town in the area, the focal point of trade, although the alum industry, once a major employer, was in decline.

Another industry which was very much not in decline, but endemic in most towns, was brewing. In 1781, 136 ale licences were granted at the Guisborough Brewster Sessions3Ibid. Page 114.. Townsfolk must have worked hard and played hard.

The text of a hand bill, dated 1784, for the ‘Guisborough Races4Blakeborough, R. ‘Sports & Pastimes 100 Years Ago.’ | Northern Weekly Gazette | Saturday 28 March 1903 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0003075/19030328/115/0013> [accessed 25 November 2022]. illustrates an afternoon’s merriment for the townsfolk:

Guisborough Races,
Saturday, August 14th, 1784,

A match between Sir William Foulis’s
Ass Colt, Turkey Nab, and Mr Chaloner’s Ass
Colt, Sturdy; catch-weights, £1 1s play or
pay, the last owner in to win, Change of
Jockeys, crossing, jostling, and kicking.

A Purse of Silver
To be run for Men in Sacks, Crossing and Jostling.

Ladies’ Plate.

A Shift to be run for by Ladies.
No crossing and jostling. No lady to enter
who has won more than one shift. A pair
of Cotton Stockings for the second lady,
and a pair of Garters for the third.
Free for All Weights and Ages.

After the Races a Soap-tail’d Pig will be
turned out. Whoever throws him over his
Shoulder by the Tail is to have him for his
own property.
Smoking, Cudgel-playing, and other

This is all very intriguing. Every line generates another question.

Presumably Sir William Foulis, 7th Baronet of Ingleby5Wikipedia Contributors. 2022. ‘Foulis Baronets’, Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foulis_baronets> [accessed 26 November 2022], and William Chaloner, Lord of the Manor of Guisborough6‘Parishes: Guisborough | British History Online’. 2022. British-History.ac.uk <https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/north/vol2/pp352-365#p39> [accessed 26 November 2022] did not ride their own mounts. The “Change of Jockeys” rule I can understand and presumably “crossing, jostling, and kicking” means no holds barred but “the last owner in to win“? If someone could enlighten me.

A run for “Men in Sacks“? A sack race, like we used to do at school? Surely not? But elsewhere in other towns such as Stokesley, there were wheelbarrow races (and smoking matches!)7M. Huggins (1987) Horse-Racing on Teesside in the Nineteenth Century: Change and Continuity, Northern History, 23:1, 98-118, DOI: 10.1179/007817287790176064.

And so to the Ladies’ run. The first prize of a “shift” — an unwaisted loose undergarment — is made all the more plausible by the runner up prizes of a pair of stockings and a pair of garters. But this time, note there is to be “No crossing and jostling“.

And for the finale: a free-for-all, catching a soap-tailed pig. By modern standards, this is horrendously cruel. I hope the pig refused to run like the one in an American account of such an event8‘Civilized America … Second Edition’. 2022. Google Books <https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6UQDV74TjHQC&pg=PA314&lpg=PA314&dq=%22Soap-tailed+pig%22&source=bl&ots=vDyMx_yXsy&sig=ACfU3U0MshigEkRTIRjnUWeDY_lJb1-S6w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiS-Lzlzcz7AhVRhlwKHWjXBIYQ6AF6BAgcEAM#v=onepage&q=%22Soap-tailed%20pig%22&f=false> [accessed 26 November 2022].



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