Search this blog

Friday, 11 November 2022

Tattersall's Horse Repository in Regency London

Tattersall's Horse Repository by Rowlandson and Pugin (pub Ackermann 1809)
Tattersall's Horse Repository
by Rowlandson and Pugin (pub Ackermann 1809)
What was Tattersall’s Repository?

Tattersall’s Repository was:

…the most fashionable resort of the sporting world for the purchase and sale of horses, hounds, carriages, &c.1

During the Regency period, when all road travel was horse-powered, there was a constant demand for horses, both to ride and to pull carriages. In addition, sportsmen needed hunters, and gentlemen of the turf bought and sold racehorses.

The best place to buy horses in Regency London was Tattersall’s Repository:

Where men of taste might enjoy the glimpses afforded of the most beautiful specimens of an exquisitely beautiful race, without being perpetually disgusted with the worst of all things—that of the jockey or horse-dealer.2

The founding of Tattersall’s Repository

Richard Tattersall, founder of Tattersall's from The Sporting Magazine (1795)
Richard Tattersall, founder of Tattersall's
from The Sporting Magazine (1795)
Tattersall’s Repository was founded by Richard Tattersall (1725–1795)—stud-groom for Evelyn Pierrepoint, 2nd Duke of Kingston.3

In 1766 Richard purchased a 99-year lease of property near Hyde Park Corner from Lord Grosvenor and opened his business as a horse and hound auctioneer.4

The Sporting Magazine (1795) wrote:

Although there were occasional sales by auction, of horses, at the time when Mr Tattersall commenced his business, yet there was no regular repository, nor fixed sales at stated periods. This was an inconvenience felt by the public, and particularly by those who had studs of race-horses.

Mr Tattersall, who was well known to the gentlemen of the turf, and to the horse-dealers, offered his services as an auctioneer, and solicited their patronage. Lord Grosvenor warmly espoused him, and built for him those extensive and commodious premises at Hyde-park-corner.5

Old and New London (1878) pinpoints the location:

At the south-eastern corner of St George’s Hospital, where now is Grosvenor Crescent, was formerly the entrance to Tattersall’s celebrated auction-mart…The building itself, at the back, occupied part of the grounds of Lanesborough House.6

A family business

Tattersall’s Repository was a family business. Richard Tattersall—“Old Tatt”—took his son Edmund (1758–1810) into business with him, and in turn, Edmund took his son, another Richard (1785–1859), into partnership in 1806. It was this Richard who was running Tattersall’s during the Regency period.

What was Tattersall’s like?

The Entrance to Old Tattersall's from Old and New London Vol 5 (1878)
The Entrance to Old Tattersall's
from Old and New London Vol 5 by E Walford (1878)
The fullest description I’ve found is in Old and New London (1878):

The entry was through an arched passage and down and incline “drive,” at the bottom of which was a public-house or “tap,” designated “The Turf,” for the accommodation of the throngs of grooms, jockeys, and poorer horse-dealers and horse-fanciers.

On the left, an open gateway led into a garden-like enclosure, with a single tree in the centre rising from the middle of a grass-plot, surrounded by a circular path of yellow sand or gravel.

Immediately beyond the gateway was the subscription-room; this building, though small, was admirably adapted for the purposes for which it was designed, and it contained merely as set of desks arranged in an octagonal form in the centre, where bets were recorded, and money paid over.

On the right of the passage, a covered gateway led into the court-yard, where the principal business of the place was carried on; this was surrounded on three sides by a covered way, and at the extremity of one side stood the auctioneer’s rostrum, overlooking the whole area.

The stables, where the horses to be sold were kept in the interim, were close at hand, and admirably arranged for light and ventilation. In the centre of the enclosure was a domed structure to an humble but important appendage—a pump.7

Interior of the Court-yard of Old Tattersall's from Old and New London Vol 5 (1878)
Interior of the Court-yard of Old Tattersall's
from Old and New London Vol 5 by E Walford (1878)

Sale by auction

Auctions were held on Mondays all year round, and on Thursdays as well, in the height of the season. In 1810, around 100 horses were sold each week, and Tattersall’s received a percentage commission on each sale.

  • A good saddle-horse cost 40–100 guineas.
  • A good pair of coach horses cost 150–400 guineas.
  • A top hunter cost around 350 pounds.
  • A racehorse cost about 1,500 pounds.

The premises were huge and could accommodate 120 horses. The sellers paid Tattersall’s a moderate fee for looking after their animals while awaiting sale, which was usually only a few days.

The horses to be sold in the main auction on Monday arrived on the previous Friday, and gentlemen could view the horses awaiting sale. 

According to The Microcosm of London:

On the mornings when there is no sale, this Repository is a fashionable lounge for sporting gentlemen. The horses, &c. are then examined, their merits or defects considered, and sporting intelligence from all parts of the country detailed and disseminated.8  

The Picture of London for 1818 is more specific:

Equestrians will be highly gratified every Sunday morning from twelve to two, at Tattersalls, where there is an exhibition of fine horses for sale, and often an assemblage of gentlemen of the first rank.9

Whole studs were sold at Tattersall’s, such as those of the Duke of Kingston (1774) and George, Prince of Wales (1786).

The Tattersall family developed their own stud. Old Tatt famously bought the unbeaten racehorse Highflyer for the incredible sum of £2,500 in 1779.

Though famous for selling horses, Tattersall’s also sold hounds and other dogs, and carriages and coach harnesses, by private contract.

A "Look in" at Tattersall's from Tom and Jerry: Life in London by E Pierce (1821)
A "Look in" at Tattersall's from Tom and Jerry: Life in London
by E Pierce (1821)
Why was Tattersall’s so successful?

Old and New London described Tattersall’s as

…renowned through all the breadth and length of horse-loving, horse-breeding, horse-racing Europe.10

The Microcosm of London echoed this:

This Repository has ever possessed an acknowledged pre-eminence over every establishment of a similar character, and may be justly considered as of much public utility. It greatly facilitates the business of buying and selling horses, &c. and attracts both parties to meet each other in the market; while the liberal dealings of the late and present proprietors have entitled them to receive that patronage which they have so long experienced.11  

But why was it so successful?

Tattersall’s was successful because it filled a gap in the market, connecting those who wanted to buy and sell horses through regular sales by auction. Old Tatt’s connections in London and Newmarket amongst the horseracing fraternity helped build Tattersall’s early reputation.

But according to The Sporting Magazine (1795), another factor that contributed to Old Tatt’s success in establishing the business was his willingness to give credit to his customers.

At other auctions the buyer generally pays a sum as a deposit when the lot is knocked down to him, and he is obliged to pay the remainder when it is taken away. But at Tattersall's, most men who were not of a very inferior order, or a disreputable class in life, took away the articles which they bought without making any deposit at the time of sale, and afterwards paid the purchase-money when it was convenient to them.12

It continued:

Gentlemen who sell, are often obliged to buy horses; with such he kept a running account, and served as a kind of banker to them. In some instances the balance was against him, but it was generally much in his favour. Those who had large studs to dispose of, found their account in enabling him to give credit. It increased the number of bidders, and always enhanced the price of the horses.13

Tattersall's from Real Life in London by E Pierce (1821)
Tattersalls - Tom and Bob looking out for a good one, among the deep ones from Real Life in London by E Pierce (1821)
The betting room

Tattersall’s was a fashionable venue for sporting gentlemen. A subscription room or betting room was set aside for the use of gentlemen of the turf, supported by a subscription of a guinea a year by its members. Here, bets were laid and settled.

Here the gentlemen of the turf assembled every sale day to lay wagers on the events of distant races, and here they met to pay and receive the money won and lost.14

The Sporting Magazine regularly reported the betting at Tattersall’s for the upcoming race meetings and boxing matches.

The Microcosm of London said:

Here the generality of bets which relate to the turf are settled, at whatever place they  may originate; as it is not the custom, among these noblemen and gentlemen, to pay on the spot where the bets have been lost, but, on the return of the respective parties to town, at Tattersall's: so that this Repository is become a kind of exchange for gentlemen of the turf. Debts of this kind are settled here to an incredible amount.15

Monday after the 'Great St Leger' or Heroes of the Turf paying & receiving at Tattersalls by R Cruikshank from The English Spy by B Blackmantle (1825)
Monday after the 'Great St Leger'
or Heroes of the Turf paying & receiving at Tattersalls

by R Cruikshank from The English Spy by B Blackmantle (1825)
After the Regency

Tattersall’s moved to a new location in Knightsbridge in 1865 when the 99-year lease on the Hyde Park corner site expired. It remained in the control of the Tattersall family until the 1940s, and is still one of the leading bloodstock auctioneers in Europe today.

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes faith-based Regency romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage and help us to keep making our research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.


  1. The Sporting Magazine (1811).
  2. Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places Volume 5 (1878).
  3. Sometimes the Duke of Kingston’s family name is written as Pierrepont.
  4. There are two dates I have come across for the foundation of Tattersall’s. 1766 is the date given on the Tattersall’s website for the founding of their firm, and this is supported by Vamplew’s article of the Tattersall family in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It also ties in with the move to Knightsbridge after the 99-year lease expired. The Microcosm of London and some other sources set the date as 1773—the year Richard Tattersall’s employer, the Duke of Kingston, died.
  5. The Sporting Magazine (1795).
  6. Walford op cit.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ackermann, Rudolph and Combe, William, The Microcosm of London or London in Miniature (1808-1810, reprinted 1904) Volume 3.
  9. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818).
  10. Walford op cit.
  11. Ackermann op cit.
  12. The Sporting Magazine (1795).
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ackermann op cit.

Sources used include:

Ackermann, Rudolph and Combe, William, The Microcosm of London or London in Miniature (1808-1810, reprinted 1904) Volume 3

Blackmantle, Bernard, The English Spy, illustrated by Robert Cruikshank (1825)

Egan, Pierce, Real Life in London or the rambles and adventures of Bob Tallyho, Esq, and his cousin, the Hon Tom Dashall, through the metropolis (1905 based on 1821 edition)

Egan, Pierce, Tom and Jerry: Life in London or the day and night scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq and his elegant friend Tom (First published  1821; 1869)

Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818)

The Sporting Magazine (various)

Vamplew, Wray, Tattersall family (c1765-1940) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)

Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places Volume 5 (1878)

Thursday, 27 October 2022

Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England by Brenda S Cox - book review & author interview

Front cover of Fashionable Goodness by Brenda S Cox - Regency couple standing outside church

You won’t travel very far in England without encountering a parish church building. Likewise, you won’t read much Jane Austen before running into a reference to the church.

The Church of England was deeply embedded in the landscape that Austen lived in and wrote about. But just as many of England’s church buildings are now considered relics, the references to church in her writing are seen as throwbacks to another time. The world she inhabited is no more.

What many Austen fans don’t realise is that there are subtleties and humour that escape the modern reader. While we can still laugh at the absurd Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, or Mr Elton in Emma, we can’t appreciate the depth of the humour or the pathos as Austen intended.

However, we can now get closer to it with the help of Brenda Cox’s excellent new book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England. Motivated by her own Christianity and love of Austen’s works, Brenda sought to better understand faith and church in Regency England.

Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas by Hugh Thomson in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1896 edition
Mr Collins and Charlotte Lucas
by Hugh Thomson in Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen 1896 edition
Fashionable Goodness: a resource for readers and writers

Brenda wanted to write her own version of an Austen story, but soon realised that to do so meant knowing more about how the church operated in England at that time. Unable to find a book that told her everything she wanted to know, she decided to write one herself.

It was a labour of love that took nearly ten years. The result is an in-depth study not only into the church, but also into Austen’s own experience of faith and religious institutions. It describes how this coloured her writing. This analysis is both broad and deep. It includes discussion of how the clergy were organised, how people worshipped, the different types of church buildings and the typical work of a clergyman.

The book also discusses faith in the community, attitudes to elopement, adultery and divorce, along with the relationship between faith and science.

However, Brenda doesn’t stop there—that’s just part one. In part two she discusses the challenges facing the Church of England during Jane Austen’s time. Part three looks at outreach and the legacy of church.

Chapters cover the Methodist movement, parishioners of colour, Nonconformists and dissenters, and the abolitionist movement. Brenda profiles a number of high-profile Christians such as John Newton (author of Amazing Grace), William Wilberforce, and Hannah More.

It’s easy to forget that the church in Jane Austen’s day had deep medieval roots. This was reflected in complicated, arcane structures that defied easy explanation. These fed into the language of the church, which used terms like  beneficed clergyman, living, advowson, glebe land and prebend stall. Brenda’s book explains all of these, and much more. 

Hannah More from Memoirs of the life and correspondence  of Mrs Hannah More by William Roberts (1835)
Hannah More
from Memoirs of the life and correspondence 
of Mrs Hannah More by William Roberts (1835)
Thorough, in-depth and well referenced

All this material is backed by glossaries and comprehensive notes. There are nearly 100 pages of reference material.

I was given a digital pre-publication copy of the book, so I can’t judge its size and weight. However, the number of pages imply that it’s sizeable.

Brenda states that she started looking into faith and church in the time of Jane Austen as research for a novel. But she learned so much that she wanted to share it with others who, like her, loved Austen and the church.

Arguably, she could have appealed to a wider audience by sharing less. Many researchers, excited by the wealth of their discoveries, are tempted to share everything they have learned. There will be some who appreciate that depth, while others would prefer a summarised approach.

There’s little to criticise in Brenda’s work. Inevitably, given the depth she goes to, the same passages of Austen are referred to over and over, with different emphasis. In some sections there’s quite a lot of explanations, or the reader is referred to the many pages of notes, or the comprehensive glossary. This is inevitable, given the unfamiliar and sometimes confusing terminology used by the church.

Box pews, Loughwood Meeting House, Devon (2015)
Box pews, Loughwood Meeting House, Devon (2015)

A fascinating read containing a wealth of stories

Brenda’s work makes a fascinating read for anyone who (like me) loves to dig deep into the world of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. So often I’m left wanting more— not so with this book.

The book contains a wealth of stories about Christians who lived around the time of Jane Austen. I was intrigued to learn about ‘spiritual routs’ hosted by Lady Huntingdon, the faith of property-owning black man Ignatius Sancho, and the evangelical fervour of Charles Simeon. Austen may have known about some, even all, of these people. While they, or characters like them, do not appear in her novels, they were part of the world around her.

I highly recommend Brenda’s book to anyone seeking to better understand the thoughts behind church and clergy references in Jane Austen.

From our twenty-first century perspective it’s easy to forget how deeply church and faith influenced every aspect of life in Jane Austen’s England. Any author claiming to write historical fiction of this period, and who wants to be taken seriously, can’t afford to neglect this.

Andrew interviews Brenda S Cox

Buy Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England

About the author 

Photo of Brenda S Cox
Brenda S Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (including three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line (JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen

You will look at Mr. Collins, the Crawfords, the Dashwoods, the Tilneys, the Wickhams, and Willoughbysand especially Fanny Price!with new and surprising insights. Bravo to Brenda Cox for giving us this very accessible, illuminating take on the ‘fashionable goodness’ of Austen’s era! 

Deborah Barnum, Jane Austen in Vermont