Well in Hand: The Four-Horse Club
Originally one of the clubs frequented by the notorious Earl of Barrymore, the Four-Horse club had been a wild group of young men who enjoyed bribing coachmen to give them the reins to the vehicles and then driving them at break-neck speeds along the very poor British Roads. By the early nineteenth century it was a respectable club for superb drivers. At its peak it only had some 30-40 members. It was often also called the Four-in-Hand Club, the Whip Club or the Barouche Club - the last from a description in "The Sporting Magazine" of Feburary 1809, which also noted: Here, a Landeau from 1816 is compared with a Vis Landeau or Landeaulette from Ackermann's Repository, March, 1819. The term Vis-a-vis vs Vis stems from the idea that with the first, four passengers could face each other, i.e. Vis-a-vis Club rules stated the the barouches should be yellow bodied with 'dickies', the horses should be Bays, with rosettes at their heads and the harnesses should be silver-mounted. However Mr Annesley - a club member, drove roans, and Sir Henry Peyton drove Greys so the colour of the horses wasn't as strictly enforced as the colour of the carriage. The uniform of the club was strictly enforced. A drab coat that reached to the ankles with three tiers of pockets and mother of pearl buttons as large as five shilling pieces. The waistcoat was blue with yellow stripes an inch wide, the breeches of plush with strings and rosettes to each knee. It was fashionable that the hat should be 3 1/2 inches deep in the crown. In his1889 book, Driving, Henry Charles Fitz-Roy Somerset, 8th Duke of Beaufort notes, The first meeting of the Four-Horse club was held in April 1808 and subsequent days of meeting were the first and third Thursdays in May and June. The members assemble at Mr Buxton's house in Cavendish Square and drove to Salt Hill to dinner at the Windmill first and then the next time at The Castle alternating between the two. There was rather a long complicated time when the club could not decide which hostelry to provide give their full membership too and alternated until the matter was decided by the Windmill on one broiling hot day. The cloth had been cleared and the wine placed before them when a waiter entered and asked each man to rise, the chair was removed and cool one put in its place. This attention to detail decided the Four-Horse club in its favour. The procession was always the same. Club rules stated that each member in single file, no overtaking was allowed, and no one to exceed a trot. The procession set out from London to Salt Hill at noon, following along the Bath Road. It was 24 miles to Salt Hill so the club lunched at the Packhorse on Turnham Green and then took further refreshment at the Magpies on Hounslow Heath. They ran to Salt Hill where they remained overnight. The popularity of the Four-Horse club began to wane around 1815 and it was disbanded in 1820. It was revived briefly in 1822 and finally died out in 1824. The Four-in-Hand club was another driving club completely which was not established until 1856. It based on the old rules of the the BDC or Bensington Driving Club. The BDC was the great rival of the Four-Horse club during the Regency era.
Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information. This piece originally appeared on Anne's site and is used here with permission.