The “Roseberry Stag”, a local exponent of pedestrianism

The “Roseberry Stag” was the nom de guerre assumed by Thomas Glasper of Stokesley. He was a “Ped”, an exponent of competitive walking or pedestrianism. He seemed to have had a short lived career. In April 1848, he ran against “T. Kitching of Yarm over 120 yards, for £5 a side … at the Nelson Inn, near Stokesley. The betting was 5 to 4 on Kitching. Both men came to the scratch in excellent condition, and, after a well contested race, D Glasper won by two yards. He is willing to run Highley of Yarm 120 yards, for £5 or £10 a side, and the money is ready at the Nelson Inn.”1“PEDESTRIANISM.” Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 30 Apr. 1848, p. 6. Nineteenth Century UK Periodicals, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/DX1900061084/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=cd529489. Accessed 7 May 2021.

Pedestrianism was a popular working class pastime, an opportunity for betting. I can’t quite get my head around if running was involved or whether the competitors had to stick to the “fair heel and toe” rule of modern race-walking which was codified in 1880 when the Amateur Athletics Association was formed2Wikipedia Contributors (2021). Pedestrianism. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedestrianism#Heel-to-toe_rule Accessed 5 Jun. 2021.

But the pedestrianism that evolved into race-walking was more akin to ultra-distance marathons rather than a 120 yards dash. These involved emulating the feat of Captain Robert Barclay who, in 1808, walked 1,000 miles in 1,000 consecutive hours for which he received a “prize” of 1,000 guineas, a considerable amount of money at that time3Ultrarunning History. (2019). 1,000 Milers – The Barclay Match. Available at: https://ultrarunninghistory.com/1000-milers-part-2/ Accessed 4 Jun. 2021..

More extreme challenges followed:

      • 1,100 Miles in 1,100 Hours,
      • 2,000 Half Miles in 2,000 Half Hours (1 Mile Each Hour)
      • 4,032 Quarter Miles in 4,032 Quarter Hours (1 Mile Each Hour)
      • 1,000 Miles in 667 Hours (1.5 Miles Each Hour)
      • 2,000 Miles in 2000 Half Hours (Two Miles each Hour)

Every permutation imaginable. And challenges were keenly followed by the public. In 1846, the Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury reported that in New York, George Clarke had completed 950 miles of his task of walking 1,500 miles in 1,000 successive hours; “the only change that has taken place is that he has been harder to awake these last few mornings.”4“Police Intelligence.” Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury, 16 May 1846, p. 7. British Library Newspapers, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/IG3216469968/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=62423ff4. Accessed 7 May 2021.

In 1877, “a local pedestrian of some reputation, Michael Bage, commenced an undertaking in the Darlington Cricket Ground to walk 56 miles in 10 hours. Bage started at a quarter to twelve, and during the first two hours he covered 14 miles, and 6¾ miles in the third. At this stage he was seized with cramp, and had to retire for some time. He essayed several times during the afternoon to complete his task, but about eight o’clock a recurrence of cramp compelled him to desist, having completed 39 miles5“LOCAL AND DISTRICT NEWS.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 23 June 1877, p. 4+. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211381544/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=be4c96b8. Accessed 7 May 2021..

How did our Roseberry Stag’s career progress? In December on that year 1848, he was beaten by Samuel Coulthard of Middlesbrough6‘CHRONOLOGY OF PEDESTRIANISM FOR 1848’ (1848) Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 31 Dec, 6, available: https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/DX1900062975/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=bookmark-GDCS&xid=692206d3 Accessed 05 Jun 2021.. The following year, he was now known as “the Stokesley Stag”7Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk. (2021). Results for “glasper stokesley” | British Newspaper Archive. Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/search/results?basicsearch=glasper%20stokesley&retrievecountrycounts=false&page=1 Accessed 5 Jun. 2021., but apart from that I have not found any other race reports.

According to the “Chronology of Pedestrianism for 1848” Coulthard was a bit more active. He raced five times that year, two wins and three loses. So still not a lucrative professional career. In one of his wins “there was a quibble about the fairness of the start, but Coulthard received the stakes on the referee’s decision”.8‘CHRONOLOGY OF PEDESTRIANISM FOR 1848’ (1848) Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 31 Dec, 6, available: https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/DX1900062975/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=bookmark-GDCS&xid=692206d3 Accessed 05 Jun 2021.

Interestingly, one of those who beat Coulthard was James (Jemmy) Robinson “The Ebony Phenomenon“, an African-American Featherweight boxer. Originally from Virginia, he came to England after jumping a ship at a young age and rose to prominence as a teenage bare-knuckle pugilist. He tragically died before his 20th birthday after contracting cholera9Larionov, D. (2021). The annals of Manchester: a chronological record from the earliest time to the end of 1885 by William E. A. (William Edward Armytage) Axon online for free (page 33 of 63). Ebooksread.com. Available at: https://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/william-e-a-william-edward-armytage-axon/the-annals-of-manchester-a-chronological-record-from-the-earliest-time-to-the-e-goo/page-33-the-annals-of-manchester-a-chronological-record-from-the-earliest-time-to-the-e-goo.shtml Accessed 5 Jun. 2021..

It seems the popularity of these shorter races was not entirely universal. About the Wilton, Eston, and Normanby Agricultural Society’s Annual Show, a correspondent wrote in 1873:

“An innovation which we trust in the interests of the society will not be repeated, was a foot race amongst several local “peds.” Although deserving of every encouragement in its proper sphere, pedestrianism is surely out of a place at a gathering of this kind, and the spectacle of half a dozen young men passing the grand stand in full running costume must certainly be pronounced more novel than seemly”10“WILTON, ESTON, AND NORMANBY AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY’S ANNUAL SHOW.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 25 Aug. 1873, p. 3. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211376270/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=3bfb0873. Accessed 7 May 2021..

I wonder what he would make of today’s lycra and fluorescent colours.

Today’s featured image is a view of Roseberry from Cockshaw Hill, Gribdale.

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