Victorian Era Derby Day

Most of you may have heard the popular saying

All work and no play make jack a dull boy.

One can conclude from the saying that entertainment plays a very important role in ones life. Since time immemorial different forms of entertainment were in existence and ways and means of entertainment differ from person to person. Listening to music may be soothing for some and one might find himself relieved while playing a game.

The Derby Day 1856-8 William Powell Frith 1819-1909 Bequeathed by Jacob Bell 1859 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00615
The Derby Day 1856-8 William Powell Frith 1819-1909 Bequeathed by Jacob Bell 1859 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00615

Watching a movie may be exciting when someone wants to relax and others will find entertained when they read a book. Derby day races were a means of entertaining the masses during the Victorian era.

Horse-racing was one of the greatest obsessions of the Victorian era. It was often referred to as the Victorian derby day races. Horse- racing was loved by the people in the Victorian era and the people of the Victorian era welcomed the idea of celebrating it as the derby day.

Victorian era horse racing
Victorian horse racing: Derby

The societies of the Victorian era were simply amused by the very idea of enjoying a day of their lives completely devoted to entertainment. To make their day entertaining they could find no better sport other than horse racing.

There are certain excerpts which mention derby day as the day of the sport of the kings. The masses had a difficult time managing the problem during the time of troubles. Something new was required to help people to ease out their tension.

The concept of having a day to enjoy and celebrate was wholeheartedly accepted by the people. A change wherein there was a day to forget all your troubles was indeed the need of the hour. Derby day was a whole new opportunity in itself. The races became a reason for the people to do all that they wanted. Boxing, sparring and skittles…it was opening up an entire path for discovering oneself.

The derby day races of the 19th-century Victorian era bring the complete society into one big frame. To witness the biggest and most important race of the year people from all walks of life came together. There were society beauties capturing the attention from the crowd on one hand and Whitechapel street girls enjoying the excitement on the other hand.

It was not just the upper class there. The era witnessed an amalgamation of high life and low life. Even the thieves and punters watched the race enjoying the company of bookmakers, gypsies, acrobats and hawkers.

The Victorian derby day was the lucky charm for William Powell Frith. The artist was recognised was by the monarchs and earned reputation for portraying the life during the Victorian era through his painting on derby day.

Derby day was an inspiration for writer DJ Taylor and he said, Everybody lives or falls by the outcome of the race. Some have their lives transformed for the better but the race is the catalyst that changes everybody’s lives in one way or the other.

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