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Archive for May, 2012

Dandy Dick

Inspired by the Epsom walk, last week I went to Newmarket for a couple of walks.  One is basically from the clock tower at one end of the High Street up Warren Hill towards Moulton, passing Sir Henry’s place and that of Sheikh Mohammad.   Aftert a few studs on the right it becomes ordinary countryside until reaching Moulton village, turning left and left again on reaching the Bury road, returning with the Limekilns on the right and shady forest horsewalks on the left with Bury Hill gallops beyond.  In all it took a good couple of hours.  The Bury road section, though 100% racing territory, was a little monotonous, but at least my understanding of Newmarket’s geography is better now that I have “been there and done it” on foot. 

In the afternoon I started at the top of the July course, wanting to walk the 3 ¾ mile Town Plate course, but a sign on the gate near the start saying No Admittance thwarted me.  I settled for a walk along the Devil’s Dyke, which is more undulating than I’d imagined, admiring a race taking place on the Rowley Mile course.  I headed for the end, where the dyke crosses the racecourse, and turned right to go to the mile post and watch the start of the next race.  Visually it was splendidly desolate, and apart from the white rails similar to what other start-watchers over the last hundred years would have seen.  Sadly the constant noise of traffic on the hidden A14 was a conspicuous atmosphere-spoiler.  Then it was back onto the Dyke to go back to the car, admiring the two courses and contrasting sets of stands on both sides.

Is there no book about Newmarket architecture?  There are several grand houses and a guide describing each one and setting out who trained there would be a great reference book.

I’m about to finish the potted history of Bath for the Pageant of Motoring souvenir programme.

An unexpected enquiry came from one of the directors of a play opening next month in Brighton.   Dandy Dick is a Victorian farce about a vicar who finds himself drawn into the world of racing.  I was asked whether the racecourse described by the author, Arthur Wing Pinero, was Brighton.  I could report that the answer was yes, and I gave him a picture of how the course looked not too many years after the date of the play (1887).  I suggested that he visited the course, and found that they were sponsoring a race and going along for a photo-shoot in a few days.  Along I went too!  Although I didn’t meet Patricia Hodge, one of the stars, I spoke to others involved in the production and gave some information to the BBC South East reporter who was there preparing an item for that evening’s local TV news programme.  After a few weeks in Brighton the show goes on tour and they hope it’ll make it to the West End.  I look forward to seeing it.  http://www.whatsonstage.com/news/theatre/london/E8831332935822/Patricia+Hodge+stars+in+Brighton+Dandy+Dick+ahead+of+West+End.html

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I’ve had a couple of sessions with 19th Century UK Periodicals to find more information for research projects put on the back burner while doing Fontwell, Bath and the Days.  I also did some more work on the Chichester Theatre enquiry.  I learn that their exhibition celebrating the theatre’s 50th anniversary changes each month, so anyone living nearby should look in on it more than once!  I haven’t booked my annual trip to see a musical there yet.

I am no further forward with the Brighton Tomlinson enquiry, but I still have one line of enquiry which may help.  It hasn’t proved possible to get to the library in question.

Another new enquiry has come in from a gentleman in Bath wanting a synopsis of the course’s history for a booklet accompanying its Pageant of Motoring next month.   This is being held at the racecourse.  Although I am not very interested in cars I have to say that it looks quite a good day out, as a spectacle and through some less carrish events.  http://bathpageantofmotoring.com/event+info

Last weekend I managed two racecourses in one day!  There was only racing at one – Lingfield.  At the other, Epsom, I and a friend followed one of six racing walks published in the Racing Post earlier this year.  I knew or had passed over quite a bit of it before, but walking down Chalk Lane past the Durdans and then meandering through side roads that had been populated by busy stables 60-70 years ago brought home to me more just how big a training centre it used to be.   The second half of the walk took us across the course, through the woods on the far side and along a ridge with splendid views across unspoilt Surrey, before making our way back to the stands.  Highly recommended, especially on a nice day like we had.  A book by Bill Eacott, who I believe is the father of the Racing Post reporter, gives a thorough analysis of all the Epsom trainers up till quite recently.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Racehorse-Training-Epsom/dp/0954827813

Imminent employment prospects are still in the balance but I really should know more in a fortnight.  That may determine how much more time I might spend on research this summer.

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