This is a very significant year for the Dandy Chargers. Not only is it their seventeenth season as an organized group of pedestrian hobby horse enthusiasts, it is also the bicentennial anniversary of the invention of that uniquely Regency vehicle.
Called a velocipede by its inventor, Baron Karl von Drais, it is one of the very first examples of mechanized transportation. The so-called "Year Without a Summer," 1816, not only wiped out many crops, it also drastically reduced the number of horses, mules and other animals who typically provided transport for people all across Europe. This circumstance was one of the motivating factors which led Baron von Drais to develop his two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle.
Known widely as the "dandy horse" or "hobby horse" in Britain, these vehicles became all the rage in the last year of the Regency. Partly due to the irresponsible riding practices of many in the dandy set, these vehicles had mostly fallen out of fashion by the time the Prince Regent became King George IV. Fortunately for us today, the Dandy Chargers maintain and ride their dandy horses, in period costume, at various venues across Britain each spring and summer.
The 2017 Riding Schedule for the Dandy Chargers . . .
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 to Sunday, 28 May 2017 — Karlsruhe, Germany
This is a very special event, held in Germany, to celebrate the bicentennial of the invention of the velocipede. The International Veteran Cycle Association (IVCA), will be holding a series of events in Karlsruhe, the birthplace of Baron Karl von Drais, to commemorate his achievement in the invention of what he initially called the Laufmaschine and then the velocipede. These events include a "Costume Ride" on Saturday and a "Rolling Museum" on Sunday.
The IVCA event will be a unique opportunity for devotees of these early two-wheeled vehicles to see a wide array of them gathered together in one place. If you would like to attend, you can find more details at the IVCA web site.
Saturday, 17 June 2017 — Alton Regency Day
Jane Austen spent the last years of her life in a cottage in Chawton. That village is located just a short distance from the town of Alton, in Hampshire. And the town of Alton has instituted an annual Regency Day, during which visitors can enjoy a number of Regency-era events, including a street market, horse and carriage rides, dancing and music, a petting zoo and the Mill Cottage Farm Experience. In addition, there will be costumed Regency re-enactors circulating through the town centre area during the event.
Regency Day in Alton begins at 10:00am and runs through 3:00pm. The Dandy Chargers will ride their hobby horses, in costume, through the town centre in the early afternoon. If you would like to relish the sight of a group of Regency ladies and gentlemen riding their dandy horses through an ancient English market town, you will want to be in Alton, Hampshire, on Saturday, 17 June 2017. And, for those of you who would like to be more deeply involved in the experience, the wearing of Regency costumes by visitors on that day is most welcome.
Sunday, 16 July 2017 — Mapledurham House, Oxfordshire
Mapledurham House is one of the most unique stately homes in England. It was built during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, by Michael Blount. Remarkably, the same family still owns and maintains the house and the estate to this day. Another Michael Blount, descended from the first Michael, was the owner of Mapledurham House during the Regency. The family was Catholic and this Michael added a chapel to the house, which is in the Gothic style similar to that of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill. More details about the house and estate can be found at the Mapledurham web site.
There are a number of sights to see on the Mapledurham estate, including the manor house, the stables and coach house and even an historic working watermill, in addition to the lovely grounds. Since there is also a tearoom on the estate, you can plan to make a day of it, with refreshments available. The Dandy Chargers will be riding their hobby horses though the lovely rolling grounds of this ancient English estate on Sunday afternoon, at about 2:00pm. Pedestrian curricles were often ridden over country estate grounds during the Regency. If you are on hand at Mapledurham House, on Sunday, 16 July 2017, you will have a chance to step back in time and see a group of folks in Regency costume riding their dandy horses over the green and rolling grounds, just as might have happened during our favorite period.
Saturday, 5 August 2017 — Gilbert’s Games & Countryside Fair
The Reverend Gilbert White was a life-long naturlaist and is considered by many to be England’s first environmentalist. His family home, in Selbourne, was known during his lifetime as "The Wakes," named for its previous owners. This house was originally a small cozy home, to which additions have been made over the years. Gilbert White died in 1793, and in the following years his family home was the residence of a number of different people, until it was converted into a museum dedicated to the lives and work of Gilbert White, as well as the British naturalist, Frank Oates and his nephew, the Antarctic explorer, Lawrence Oates.
This lovely Georgian home, and its surrounding gardens, have been restored to an appearance similar to that which they had during the time that Reverend White was in residence, circa 1770. And on the weekend of 5 – 6 August 2017, this charming house museum will play host to the Gilbert’s Games and Countryside Fair. This event is billed as a kind of eighteenth-century Olympics, and will include demonstrations of an array of sporting and leisure activities which were popular during the Georgian period, as well as demonstrations of a host of rural crafts. (More details can be found here.) This rich and varied event is not to be missed, particularly for those who enjoy seeing Regency hobby horses in action. The Dandy Chargers will make their appearance, riding their dandy horses, in costume, on Saturday, 5 August 2017, at about 2:00pm. If you will be in the vicinity of Selbourne, in Hampshire over the first weekend of August 2017, you should consider putting this event on your calendar.
Those of you with an interest in Regency sports may want to treat yourself to some, or all, of the Dandy Chargers appearances in this bicentennial year of the invention of the velocipede. What a great time to see this uniquely Regency vehicle in action!
As always, I will leave you with the traditional greeting of the Dandy Chargers, "May your strides ever be long ones!"