SOCIAL EVENTS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Nottingham recreation sport competition gambling lawsuits debt
Subject: Horse-racing
Original source: Borough court roll, Nottinghamshire Archives
Transcription in: W.H. Stevenson, ed. Records of the Borough of Nottingham, (London and Nottingham, 1882), vol.1, 150.
Original language: Latin
Location: Nottingham
Date: 27 June 1352


John Dauson brings a complaint against Henry Dromeys, on the accusation that he unjustly withholds twenty shillings that he owes him. Unjustly for the reason that it was agreed between them at Nottingham, on 8 May last, that John and Henry should ride together from the town of Nottingham to the town of West Chester on a particular day to be agreed upon by John and Henry – that is, John upon a stallion and Henry upon a mare – and that they return upon those horses from West Chester to Nottingham without any rest period; so that whichever of them was the later to arrive back at Nottingham should give to the one arriving first 20s. of silver the day after his return. In this regard John went to Henry on the day set and gave him notice to come and fulfill their agreement. Henry did not come, nor carry out the agreement; consequently John on several occasions afterwards went to Henry and asked him to pay him the 20s.; Henry did not wish to pay, but withheld it and continues to do so, to John's damage of 40d., whereof he produces suit etc.. And Henry comes and defends etc. and says that he made no agreement such as John has testified against him, and on that defence he wages his law with the 12th hand, and he is assigned a hearing at the next court session.


FitzStephen shows racing to have been a common sport at London and, although a churchman, clearly reveals how deeply such events affected him as a spectator. The races he describes were associated with showing off horses in order to sell them, and that may have been a common motive behind public horse-racing, although the desire to show off the superiority of horses and riders was by itself a motivation from the earliest time that horse-racing is evidenced in English records (seventh century). The proposed race described above was less of a sport, however, than a personal wager. Like many sports, horse-racing – whether a private or public race – attracted gambling.



"John upon a stallion and Henry upon a mare"
My interpretation of "super unum equum et ... super unum jumentum" is a hypothesis on the assumption that there must have been some reason for mentioning the different types of mounts in the evidence. Possibly part of the background to the wager was a disagreement between the two men as to what type of horse was faster or had more stamina. Stevenson interpreted jumentum as draught-horse, but the more common interpretation of mare would then suggest that the opposing horse might have been male.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: November 27, 2002 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003