Along the Road:
When horse riders get together in any number, they invariably choose to race their steeds. As early as the 1150's in Henry 11's time, copers or horse-dealers in Smithfield Market used to match their hackneys and "charging horses" for mettle and speed. Like todays sports car enthusiasts, all men together; the Welsh drovers would have wanted to race their ponies. A mountain breed with an uneven gallop, they would only need a straight stretch of dry level ground, like chalk grassland. Barnet fair had such an "horse-course", being on a hill top, as did Hampstead fair, so there must have been others. Courses which could be used on the way home from the fairs, having disposed of their stock. The "fair mile" north of Henley was probably used as early as the 1500's, as was the "Harroway", a straight one mile stretch in Sussex which later became Goodwood Race Course. Similarly we have the "fair mile bottom" west of Arundel. These are close to Little London at Chichester, and Little London at Hillingdon had a course nearby on Hounslow heath.
Coulsdon in Surrey, shown on J Carey's map of 1786 '15 miles around London' on the Farthing Horse-Downs Course. (TQ300580) The Farthing Horse-Downs course near Coulsdon in Surrey, is a straight mile course in a valley where the drovers paid a farthing a head of cattle for grazing, and probably pre-dates the nearby Epsom course. Today the bye-laws forbid horse racing! It is more than a coincidence that many of todays race courses are located on drovers routes, since there are over fifty examples of disused or current sites where the Welsh drovers had a presence.
www.oldbaileyonline.org/welsh drovers
www.bloodlines.net/tb/early races
Yeakall & Gardener's Sussex Map 1778
The Wigginton Constables Book 1691-1836 F D Price by Phillimore.
Natural & Political Observations & Conclusions upon the State & Condition of England 1696. Gregory King.
Hard Road to London by Idris Evans 2008
 Previous <