Those intrepid Dandy Chargers will embark on their eighteenth year of appearances in Regency dress, riding their Regency-era hobby horses. Those are the delightful vehicles which were also known as draisiennes, velocipedes, dandy horses and pedestrian curricles during our favorite period. Last year, the Dandy Chargers celebrated the bicentennial of the invention of the velocipede in Germany. This year, they will celebrate the bicentennial of the construction of the first dandy horses in England, at the very place where those first two-wheeled vehicles were made. They will also be making appearances at other Regency-themed events in Britain this summer.
Where to find the Dandy Chargers in 2018 . . .
Saturday, 16 June 2018 — London
Though the velocipede became all the rage in Britain in 1819, it was actually first introduced there in 1818. The coach-maker, Denis Johnson, made some changes and improvements to the vehicle invented in Germany by Karl von Drais and patented his version on 22 December 1818. At the time, Johnson was making coaches and other vehicles at his coach-works at Nos. 69–75, Long Acre, near Covent Garden, in London. It was there that he also built his patented version of von Drais’s two-wheeled vehicle. Johnson patented his lighter, more elegant vehicle under the name of "pedestrian curricle," and it is this name for the vehicle which Georgette Heyer used in her light-hearted Regency romance, Frederica.
Two hundred years on, the site of Denis Johnson’s coach-works and pedestrian curricle manufactory is now the location of Brompton Junction, where the high-quality folding bicycles made by Brompton Bicycle Ltd., are available for sale. The Dandy Chargers will appear there, in costume, riding replicas of hobby-horses similar to those that Denis Johnson once made on that very site. The festivities are scheduled to begin sometime after 11:00am and run through the lunch hour. Rumor has it that there may be a celebrity or two in attendance as well. Of course, for Regency aficionados, the real celebrities will be the Dandy Chargers and their pre-bicycle two-wheelers. If you are going to be in the London area on Saturday, 16 June of this year, take some time to stop by Brompton Junction in Long Acre to see some dandy-horses, ridden by riders in garments similar to those that might have been seen in London two centuries ago.
Thursday, 2 August 2018 — Goodwood House, Chichester, West Sussex
This will be a very special event for the Dandy Chargers. Not only will it take place during the week, it will also take place in the evening. Starting sometime after 7:00pm, the Dandy Charges will be seen riding their wheeled steeds around the Coach Circle in from of Goodwood House for about a hour. They will be on hand to add a special Regency ambience as guest arrive for the Regency Ball which will be held in the house that evening. The Regency Ball at Goodwood House is part of the festivities around five-day celebration around flat racing known as "Glorious Goodwood," which is a significant highlight of the British horse racing calendar.
After more than three centuries, Goodwood House is still the seat of the Dukes of Richmond. During the Regency, it was the seat of the fourth Duke, Charles Lennox, whose wife gave that famous ball in Brussels just before the Battle of Waterloo. Today, parts of the house are open to the public, including the State Apartments, which have been restored to their appearance during the Regency period. Goodwood House also has one of the finest private art collections in all of Britain. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket for the Regency Ball at Goodwood House this year, do keep an eye out for the Dandy Chargers in the Coach Circle.
Sunday, 12 August 2018 — Andover, Hampshire
The Dandy Chargers will be riding their hobby-horses along the Andover High Street at just the second annual Andover Shilling Fair. This fair will be open from 10:00am to 4:00pm in the Andover Town Centre. The fair is free to attend and is designed to highlight the Georgian heritage of this ancient market town. There will be a wide array of market stalls offering food and drink, traditional handmade crafts, as well as vintage and collectible items. In addition to the Dandy Chargers, local musicians and street performers will also be enlivening the streets of the city during the fair. For those who want more information on life in Andover, both the Andover Museum and Museum of the Iron Age are located in the city centre.
Andover is located in Hampshire, the same county in which Jane Austen spent much of her life. It is only about twenty-five miles from Winchester, where Jane Austen died and was buried in the cathedral there. Steventon and Chawton are not far from Winchester. Those who would like to make a Regency weekend of it in Hampshire could spend Saturday visiting Jane Austen sites and Sunday taking in the Shilling Fair in Andover.
If you are planning to be in the vicinity of any of the Dandy Chargers appearances this year, you might want to add one or more of them to your itinerary. Each one is an interesting venue in which to see pedestrian curricles in action, just as they would have been during the Regency.
As always, I will leave you with the traditional greeting of the Dandy Chargers, "May your strides ever be long ones!"