Old News

The Ware Steeple Chase

From the The Radical Reformer and Hertford and Ware Patriot, No LXXVIII, February 1835

Ware Steeple Chase.

This event, which for the last two or three weeks has been on the tapis, came off on Friday afternoon at three o'clock, and afforded excellent sport. The distance was about two miles.

The ground selected commenced at Musley Common, just behind the town of Ware, and continued over a fine and very strongly inclosed country, to the Wademill windmill. There were upward of thirty fences in the route, many of them very severe ones; two lanes to cross, the last a very awkward one, within a field of the winning post, and though there was no brook to jump, or water of any description to cross, as is generally found on such occasions, yet it was allowed by all present that a more difficult line of country, or one better calculated to try the merit of the horses is not easily to be met with; nearly the whole of the distance was over grass land. As sport rather than gain was the object of the parties, the sweepstakes was only for two sovereigns each, the weight 11 st. 6 lb. 

The following is a list of the horses that started, and their riders: 

  • Mr. Bond's ch. b. Baronett, rode by Mr. Tween
  • Mr. Stone's d. h, No Wonder, by Mr Howard
  • Mr. William's b. h. Saracen, by Mr. Cobham
  • Mr. Harvey's br. h. Clasher, owner
  • Mr. Hudson's b. g. Fox, by Baker
  • one other paid forfeit.

Betting four to one against No Wonder; three to one against Saracen, two to one against Clasher, three to one against Fox, ten to one against Baronet. The reason the odds being so heavy against the last-mentioned horse was his having fallen a little lame within the last fortnight, which prevented him taking the strong exercise he would otherwise have done.

The start took place at three o'clock - all got away well, Fox leading, the others lying close in his wake. This state of things continued to about the fourth fence, where Fox fell. The running was then taken up by No Wonder, and the pastures here being very strongly inclosed, "neck-or-nothing" was the order of the day. The situation  being favourable for the view of the pedestrians, a considerable number had here taken their stand, and were highly gratified by an extraordinary flying leap of No Wonder, over a fence consisting of a bank, about five feet in height, with a very strong fence on the top, and a wide ditch on the other side. He gallantly charged it at the top of his speed, and cleared it in the most beautiful style, without touching a twig. Just after this they separated.

Messers Cobham and Tween, who seemed to have a better knowledge of the country, taking a line rather more to the right. No Wonder still continued a little in advance, when, at rather more than half the distance, made some trifling mistake at a fence, his rider partly loosing his seat. In the scramble one of his reigns got entangled under the foreleg, and to put it to tights he was obliged to dismount; about this time Clasher fell heavily at a blind and very strong fence, and not being able to extricate himself without assistance, lost all further chance. The Saracen then led the van to the fence adjoining the winning field, and would have been first, but for his twice refusing the fence out of the lane, which was a very awkward one, as it was No Wonder, about whom there was no hesitation, dashed up, and was into the field first by half a second - The Baronet second, and the Saracen third, but in consequence of No Wonder going through a gateway instead of over the fence, the stakes were adjudged to the Baronet.

Altogether it was an excellent race, and exceedingly well contested throughout, most of the riders being young hands at the business, great praise is due to them for the nerve and judgement they displayed upon the occasion - the pace was very good, the distance performed in about 7 minutes - and the afternoon being very fine, the race afforded excellent sport to a considerable number of spectators. Previous to starting a small subscription was entered into by all present sufficient to defray the expense of afterwards mending the fences, a plan which, under such circumstances it would be gratifying to see more generally adopted; for, though upon this occasion not the slightest objection was offered by the farmers - in fact, throughout the neighbourhood, the greatest liberality prevails in these matters, and to their praise be it spoken there exists among them a desire to promote rather than discourage the sport, yet it was still considered as nothing more than just and equitable, that those who rode the fences down for their own amusement, should be at the expense of putting them up again for the farmer's convenience.

This is a typical steeple chase of the time, however the first steeple chase over a regular course, chosen to ensure that spectators could have a good view, was held at St Albans in 1830.

If you can add to the information given above, and in particular if you can identify the owners or the jockeys, tell me.