What has become a spring tradition here at the Redingote is the posting of the schedule of appearances for the Dandy Chargers’ season. This year’s schedule is particularly special since two of the venues have very strong connections to the Regency. If you will be in Britain this spring or summer, you may want to treat yourself to the sight of a group of ladies and gentlemen in Regency dress, striding along on their hobby horses just as their Regency ancestors might have done.
The 2016 season of the Dandy Chargers . . .
The Romantic poet, John Keats, was familiar with the velocipede and had his own views on this very Regency vehicle. The Keats House will be the venue for the third Keats Bicentennial International Conference, as well as a parade in full costume by the Dandy Chargers on their hobby horses. At 11:30am, the Dandy Chargers will parade from the Hampstead Heath Car Park to the Keats House, which is located at 10 Keats Grove, where they expect to arrive at about 12:Noon. They will attend Professor Richard Turley’s lecture, Keats on Two Wheels, in which he will share Keats’s views on the hobby horse. Then at 1:00pm, the Dandy Chargers will parade in the garden of the Keats House for the benefit of the conference attendees. At about 1:30pm, they will ride their hobby horses to the nearby Freemasons Arms to have their lunch.
Even if you are not planning to attend the Keats Bicentennial International Conference, if you will be in the vicinity of Hampstead Heath on Saturday afternoon, 21 May 2016, you will have a chance to see the Dandy Chargers riding their hobby horses to or from the Keats House.
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The Horningsham Village Fayre is a traditional village fayre which is now in its fourth decade. Here one can find a wide range of stalls offering quality arts and crafts items, along with traditional cream teas, ice cream and candy floss, not to mention cake and plant sales, rides, games and even a dog show. It also often happens that one may see an aristocrat or two strolling through the fayre grounds. The Dandy Chargers will make their appearance at the fete at about 2:00pm, parading though the fayre grounds.
If you will be in the vicinity of Horningsham Village, in Wiltshire, on the afternoon of Sunday, 12 June 2016, treat yourself to the pleasures of a traditional village fayre and the special sight of the Dandy Chargers parading on their hobby horses as well.
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The Jane Austen House Museum is the house in which Jane Austen spent the last years of her life. After Jane’s passing, her sister, Cassandra, continued to live in the house until her own death. The house went through several owners who used it for multiple purposes, until 1947, when the Jane Austen House was incorporated into a museum to commemorate the life and work of Jane Austen. On Sunday, 24 July 2016, the Dandy Chargers will appear at the museum in Regency costume, riding their hobby horses, at about 1:30pm. In addition to their parade around the grounds, the Dandy Charges may offer some other entertaining Austen-related vignettes for the amusement of museum visitors. Regency aficionados will not want to miss this afternoon.
Author’s Note: Though the appearance of the Dandy Chargers riding their hobby horses at Jane Austen’s former home in Chawton will be a very special Regency event, it is important to remember that Jane Austen herself never set eyes on one of these hobby horses in her lifetime. She died in July of 1817 and the hobby horse was not introduced into England until January of 1819. However, Jane’s sister, Cassandra, who lived in the house until just a few days before her own death in 1845, would almost certainly have been aware of this fashionable new vehicle.
Even if Jane Austen never saw a hobby horse, there is a good chance there were at least a few to be seen in Chawton village in the last year of the Regency, less than two years after her passing. Her sister, Cassandra, may have seen them passing by her cottage as she took her ease and sipped a cup of tea of an afternoon. If you will be in the vicinity of Chawton, in Hampshire, on Sunday, 24 July 2016, step back in time to take in the sight of ladies and gentlemen in Regency clothing riding their hobby horses around the garden of this charming country cottage, just as it might have been in 1819.
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If you will be in Britain this spring or summer and you would like to enjoy the sight of a very special aspect of Regency life, make it a point to see at least one of the Dandy Chargers’ appearances. Each appearance will be a pleasurable and unique experience. However, unlike young Jessamy in Georgette Heyer’s Regency romance, Frederica, there will be no calamitous street accidents involving horses, dogs or any other creatures.
And, may I leave you with the traditional greeting of the Dandy Chargers, "May your strides ever be long ones!"