Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton


15 April 1721   On Monday morning two running footmen, viz. Thomas Butler, an Irishman, and Peter Hughson, a Scots Highlander, set out from St. Giles's Pound, to run to York and back again in six days, for a wager of five hundred guineas. They ran very lovingly together for about thirty miles, when Butler began to flag, and, as the winner's courage always encreases in such cases, as the loser's decreases, so Hughson left him, bad him good by w'ye, and mended his rate, till at night he was said to be near five miles before him. This, and the exceeding bad weather on Tuesday, which made the roads wet, slipery, and stiff, fateagued the first so, that he fell sick, first vomited, and then had a fit of a high fever four hours, and not being able to stand, much less to run, he gave out, and was bought back on Wednesday in a waggon, and continues very ill. Hughson is gone forward, and we are assur'd he went thro' Huntington, which is fifty miles, about five a clock the same day he set out; and it was not doubted but he would reach to Stamford that night, which is seventy four miles of his way; and they report that he promised to be in London again as last night, or this morning at farthest; and, we hear, the Earl of Essex has promised that if his running footman, who is gone for York, returned to town as last night, he would settle a pension of 50l. per annum on him. ...
     We are told that the running footman who was taken sick upon his race with the Scots Highlander, has engag'd to challenge the same man again to run with him from London to York, and give him five miles of the way. We hear the said Highlander is come back from York; that is to say, that he lay last night at Royston, and will be in town to day by 4 a clock; and that abundance of horsemen are gone out to meet him. (Applebee's Original Weekly Journal)

6 May 1721   Peter Hughson, running footman to the Earl of Essex, hath made oath since his return, that he hath performed the race from London to York and back again, in order to his having the hundred pounds that he won deliver'd up to him: And we hear, that Thomas Butler is also to make oath that he fell sick on the way, for the satisfaction of those that have betted and lost their money on his head. Some have printed that he died last week of a fever; but we are fully assur'd that he is very well. (Applebee's Original Weekly Journal)

23 October 1725   On Tuesday last a notable foot-race of a four mile course, was run on Barnet-Common, by a [pair of] young damsels, for 5 guineas of a side; but several hundred pounds of bets, alias bites: The one was a London lass, and the more delicate, tho’ weak; the other a Barnet breed, and the more robust: Vast numbers of the lower class of gentry attended on that occasion, expecting they would have run in puris naturalibus [in a state of nature, i.e. naked]; but that was over-ruled, and they were clad in white wastcoats and drawers, but without shoes or stockings. They perform’d it in 39 minutes; but the London girl falling down, was run over by a horse, much hurt, and thereby distanc’d, and the other won the wager. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

6 November 1725   Gloucester, Nov. 1. We had very good diversion this day upon Snow-Hill-Course, between two in that neighbourhood; the one of which rode a bullock, which was to trot, the other a mare, to pace a mile, for ten guineas; neither of them had either bridle, saddle, or whip; all jocking [riding methods] was allowed; the concourse was very great, and the entertainment answer’d expectation. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]



19 March 1726   Monday a person of distinction walk’d 30 times round St. James’s Park, in the space of 12 hours, for a wager of 500 Guineas, and won it. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

24 September 1726   Gloucester, Sept. 17. On Tuesday last arrived here, from Worcester, Mr. Rice, in his chair drawn by four dogs; and, tho’ the roads were rendered very bad for Travelling, by reason of the great rains, yet he came to this city about two o’clock the same afternoon: And, we hear, he intends to stay at our Castle a short time, in order to gratify those who are lovers of curiosity; whither abundance of Gentlemen and Ladies daily resort to see this new method of carriage; which is very wonderful. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

26 February 1730   Saturday, Feb. 21. Yesterday noon Mr. Newbol, a poulterer in Leadenhall-market, who had undertaken to walk 251 times round the upper quarter of Moorfields (which is somewhat more than 100 miles) in 27 hours, finished the same in few minutes less than the time, tho’ the weather was very wet, and he was very much obstructed by the great number of people present. He was walking about 24 hours, 2 he was in bed, and 1 he spent at several times in refreshing himself. He is the son of the person, who walked 100 miles by the river side, near Molesey Ferry in about 28 hours, for a wager, which he won. [Grub-street Journal]

5 March 1730   The walking match which was compleated last Friday noon, being performed in 10 minutes less than the time stipulated, by a poulterer of Leadenhall-market, who walked 100 miles in less than 27 hours; occasioned the promoting divers other matches of the like kind, which were put by by the Constables. [Grub-street Journal]

22 July 1730   A race was run on Monday morning, between John Appleby, a drawer at the King’s Head Tavern in Canterbury, and Tho. Phillips, 12 miles on Utbridge Moor, for 60 guineas, which was won by the former, who run it in 57 minutes, the other in 57 minutes and one quarter.

The same day the said Appleby run with another noted footman 4 miles on the said Moor, for 10 guineas, which he also won by about a yard, having run the 4 miles in less than 18 minutes. He now lies dangerously ill. [Daily Journal]

29 October 1730   Thursday, Oct. 22. Yesterday a person walked from Hyde-Park corner to Windsor, and back again, for 20 guineas: he had 12 hours allowed; but did it in 10 and a half. — The same day a lawyer famous for walking, walk’d round the upper Moorfields 22 times, which is computed 11 miles, for 10 guineas, against the famous poulterer of Leadenhall [see 28 Feb. and 5 Mar. 1730], who declined walking, he being obliged to go the ground; he walked it in 1 hour and 40 minutes. — Lawyers are frequently good tongue-pads; and, it seems, sometimes rare foot-pads. [Grub-street Journal]

28 August 1735   The Walking Taylor, who set out on Monday last to walk four times every day that week to Hampstead, which he had done with success the week before, perform'd very well till Saturday, when 'tis said being taken ill, he walk'd but three times, coming in the last time between eight and nine o'clock. The wagers laid upon his performance were greater than can be imagin'd, as was the crowd about the George Alehouse when he declined going the fourth time. He had a Guard walk'd with him to prevent interruption, and such numbers of people were got together to see him, that he walk'd in a lane of them almost the whole way. (The Old Whig)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Foot-Racing, 18 November 2001, updated 30 December 2005 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/racing.htm>

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