As regular visitors here know, one of the pleasures of spring is the arrival of the schedule for the Dandy Chargers riding season. I suspect that, like me and many other Regency aficionados, Georgette Heyer would be pleased to know that the vehicle she called the pedestrian curricle, which brought such trouble to Jessamy in her delightful novel, Frederica, has not been forgotten in the twenty-first century. Thanks to the Dandy Chargers, a dedicated group of ladies and gentlemen who don Regency period costume and make several appearances each year, riding replicas of the hobby horse, it is possible to get a glimpse into the past, when fashionable people enjoyed riding their velocipedes.
The 2019 Dandy Chargers riding season schedule . . .
This is an important year for the Dandy Chargers, as it marks the bicentennial of the year in which the velocipede became all the rage in England. Their popularity among the dandy set in particular led to one of the best known names for this vehicle, the dandy horse. It was in 1819, that the coach-maker, Denis Johnson, began making his own version of the velocipede, which instantly became the vogue in London. Last year, the Dandy Chargers celebrated the bicentennial of the patent granted to Denis Johnson for his version of the velocipede. This year, they celebrate the rapid rise in fashion of the dandy horse across Britain with a multiple appearances.
* * *
Sunday, 19 May 2019 — Bristol —The Gert Lush Vintage Bicycle Jamboree
For those of you who are familiar with the local dialect of the Bristol area, you will know that "gert lush" is a very high term of praise indeed. In fact, in most quarters, it is considered the highest term of praise which can be bestowed by a true Bristolian. And this is the first year of this event to celebrate vintage bicycles, organized by Patrick Collerton. Though the velocipede is not a true bicycle, it is certainly an early ancestor of those two-wheeled vehicles and it is only right that it should be acknowledged in the inaugural year of The Gert Lush Vintage Bicycle Jamboree.
The Dandy Chargers will display their "swift walking" on their dandy horses in the field that Sunday. They are also scheduled to appear in the arena at 3:00pm. There are quite a number of other events schedule for the jamboree, so it promises to be a good day out. More details can be found at the web site, The Gert Lush.
Saturday, 25 May to Tuesday, 28 May 2019 — The International Veteran Cycle Association Public Events
This is a multi-day event with multiple locations in the north of England. Though it is not solely a Dandy Chargers event, it is intended to celebrate the bicentennial of the late Regency hobby horse mania of 1819. There will be people in Regency costumes riding velocipedes at each event, not to mention that the venues all have strong historical connections.
Saturday, 25 May 2019 — York — Mansion House
At about 3:00pm, dandy horse riders, in costume, will be welcomed by the Lord Mayor of York, in his full mayoral regalia, in front of the Mansion House. This elegant mansion, built as the home of the Lord Mayors of York, in the early eighteenth century, it is believed to be the oldest Lord Mayor’s house in Britain. Designed and built in the early Georgian style, this recently restored building also houses one of the largest and oldest collections of civic silver in Britain, much of which is on display. A large portrait of the Prince Regent, later, King George IV, is also on display in the Mansion House, among other important figures from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Sunday, 26 May 2019 — North Yorkshire — Castle Howard
This event will begin at approximately 1:30pm, when a group of costumed hobby horse riders will promenade down the main avenue and in front of this famous English country house. Though Castle Howard is still privately owned, it is regularly open to the public, including on this Bank holiday weekend. This is one of the most magnificent country homes in all of Britain and the house and the grounds of the estate have served as the setting for a number of films and television programs, including the Jane Austen inspired mini-series, Death Comes to Pemberley. In addition to the hobby horse promenade, there will be other things to enjoy at Castle Howard that Sunday.
Tuesday, 28 May 2019 — Burton Agnes — Burton Agnes Hall
Though this historic house may not be a well-known outside of the East Riding of Yorkshire as places like Castle Howard, Burton Agnes Hall is actually rated as one of the top twenty of the best English houses in all of Britain. It has been described by many as "the perfect English house." The authority on English country houses, Mark Girouard called Burton Agnes a "splendid and glittering composition."
This will be a very special event, since the gate house at Burton Agnes Hall, which has not been opened in some time, will be opened especially for the hobby horse riders parade. Beginning at about 1:30pm that Tuesday, a group of costumed riders, on pedestrian curricles, will progress from the gate house through the grounds, along the carriage way, to the stunning Elizabethan manor house. If you will be in the East Riding of Yorkshire on this day, you may want to make it appoint to attend this very special event.
Burton Agnes Hall has been handed down in the same family for over four centuries and is still in the hands of that same family. It is open to the public, but of even greater interest to some visitors may be the charming gardens. These beautiful and extensive gardens include a substantial hedge maze as well as a few giant games, each in their own separate garden, surrounded by borders of flowers in colors which identify each game. The best known is a large checker board on which can be played games of draughts with large black and white stone pieces. Other "game gardens" include one for snakes and ladders and one for hoop toss. A lovely market garden can also be found on the grounds, usually planted with a selection of seasonal vegetables. All make a visit to this special English country house well worth while.
Saturday, 22 June 2019 — Alton — Alton Regency Day
On Saturday, 22 June, the town of Alton, in Hampshire, will be kicking off their annual Jane Austen Regency Festival. This charming market town is not far from the village of Chawton, which was the home of Jane Austen, from 1809 until almost the end of her life. Chawton is also where Austen wrote, or re-wrote, a number of her novels. Each year, Alton celebrates the Regency period with a host of events, including walking tours, lectures and even a Regency-era ball.
One of those celebratory events this year will be a promenade of the Dandy Chargers, in costume, riding their hobby horses along Alton High Street. This ride will begin at about 1:00pm and good views of the ride can be had all along High Street. Though Jane Austen did not live to see the dandy horse craze, her sister Cassandra did. She may even have seen them bowling along the lane which ran past their cottage in Chawton. If you are in the area of Alton on Saturday, 22 June 2019, you might want to spend some time there that afternoon, in the Regency.
Sunday, 30 June 2019 — Church Bottom, Broad Chalke — Chalke Valley History Festival
The Chalke Valley History Festival is the largest festival in Britain devoted solely to the various periods of British history. The festival moved a couple of years ago, and is now held at Church Farm, Bury Lane, in the village of Broad Chalke, near the city of Salisbury. The festival runs for a week, during which visitors can view a host of historical recreations, people in period costume and enjoy all kinds of historical crafts and food dishes, among other history-related amusements.
On Sunday, 30 June, the last day of the festival, the Dandy Chargers will be showing off their Regency-era vehicles. They will begin about 11:00am, in the area designated for the Georgian period, where they will be swift walking their two-wheeled vehicles, in costume, for the pleasure of visitors. The Chalke Valley History Festival is well worth a visit, for the week, or just a few days. But if you do plan to attend, as a Regency aficionado, you will probably want to be there on the final Sunday, when you will have a chance to see the Dandy Chargers in action, in this bicentennial year of the rise of the velocipede in England.
Sunday, 18 August 2019 — Beaulieu — Beaulieu Palace House
This final appearance of the Dandy Chargers will take place at one of the finest Gothic-style country houses in Britain. The Beaulieu Palace House is located in Hampshire, near the village of Beaulieu. Part of the house was built in the thirteenth century, as the gatehouse for Beaulieu Abbey. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the sixteenth century, the property was purchased by the Earl of Southampton. Later, it passed into the possession of the Montagu family, which owns it to this day. Perhaps due to its great age, the Palace House is also considered to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain.
The Dandy Chargers, in Regency costume, will begin their promenade though the grounds of the Palace House estate, at about 2:00pm, on Sunday, 18 August 2019. The Palace House was in use by the Montagu family during the Regency, and it is quite possible that one or more pedestrian curricles were ridden over the grounds there during our favorite decade. If you are in the neighborhood of the Palace House on Sunday, 18 August, you will have a chance to imagine yourself back in Regency days as dandies and dandizettes stride on their hobby horses in the grounds of an elegant country house.
As ever, may I leave you with the traditional greeting of the Dandy Chargers, "May your strides ever be long ones!"