Open main menu

Tattersall, Richard (DNB00)

TATTERSALL, RICHARD (1724–1795), founder of ‘Tattersall's,’ second son of Edmund Tattersall of Ridge and Hurstwood, Lancashire, by his wife, Ann Varley of Laund, was born in June 1724 in the hamlet of Hurstwood, with which place his family had long been connected. Having been educated at Burnley grammar school under Ellis Nutter, he left his native place in 1745, in consequence, it is said, of his father having thwarted his ardent desire to join the jacobite rebels. Young Tattersall, who had been distinguished from an early age by his love of horses, entered the service of Evelyn Pierrepont, second duke of Kingston [q. v.], and soon rose to be his stud-groom. Having put by a considerable sum of money, he purchased in 1766 from the Earl of Grosvenor the ninety-nine years' lease of some premises at Hyde Park Corner (then an outlying part of the town, now forming Grosvenor Crescent). There he set up as a horse auctioneer. His straightforward honesty and businesslike precision won him golden opinions. He soon numbered among his clients the chief members of the Jockey Club and the nobility, and he even procured horses for the king of France and the dauphin (his correspondence with M. de Mézières, grand écuyer du roi, 1770–84, is preserved in the French Archives, T. 132). In 1774 he sold the stud of his former patron, the Duke of Kingston, and had some difficulty in resisting the claims to the proceeds of the rapacious Elizabeth Chudleigh [q. v.] Early in 1779 he bought the famous racer Highflyer from Lord Bolingbroke for what was deemed the enormous price of 2,500l., being then described as ‘Richard Tattersall of the parish of St. George-in-the-Fields, liberty of Westminster, gentleman.’ He now started a stud farm at Dawley in Middlesex, which, together with his reputation for integrity, became the cornerstone of his large fortune. About the same time he fitted up two rooms at Hyde Park Corner for the use of the members of the Jockey Club; and these ‘subscription rooms’ soon became a most important resort of the sporting world, and the centre whence all betting upon the turf was regulated. An original copy of the ‘Rules,’ now in the counting-house at Tattersall's, bears the date 1780. Tattersall purchased the seat of New Barns, near Ely, known thenceforth as Highflyer Hall, where he regaled chosen spirits, such as the Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV), Charles Fox, and William Windham, with ‘some of the best port in England.’ The prince is said to have made Tattersall his almoner for the relief of certain decayed turfites, and in honour of his patron the auctioneer erected the cupola with a bust of the prince as a youth and an effigy of a fox, known to many generations as ‘the palladium of Tattersall's.’ Upon him devolved the arrangements for the sale of the prince's stud in July 1786 (Memoirs of Hurstwood, Appendix). About 1788 Tattersall became proprietor of the ‘Morning Post,’ which, in spite of the clever verses of Peter Pindar (Dr. Wolcott) and the attention paid to sporting matters, proved a losing venture, apart from the heavy damages (4,000l.) in which the paper was cast in July 1792 for an especially gross libel on Lady Elizabeth Lambert. The property was made over for a nominal sum in 1792 to Daniel Stuart [q. v.]

‘Old Tatt,’ as he was called in later days to distinguish him from younger members of the dynasty, died on 21 Feb. 1795, and was buried in St. George's, Hanover Square. His popularity was so widespread that he was said to be ‘free of the road, as no highwayman would molest him, and even a pickpocket returned his handkerchief, with compliments.’

One of the two portraits, of Richard Tattersall, by Thomas Beach [q. v.], is in the possession of the present head of the firm, and depicts a solid, benevolent, rather melancholy-looking man. The veteran's hand rests on the ‘stud-book,’ and beneath is the legend ‘Highflyer not to be sold,’ alluding to the decree by which the grateful owner assured the euthanasia of the famous racehorse. A mezzotint was engraved by John Jones in 1787; a similar portrait, by Sir William Beechey, belongs to Mrs. Philpott.

By his wife Catharine, a granddaughter of James, twelfth baron Somerville, Tattersall had an only son (‘Edmund I,’ 1758–1810), who succeeded him in the business and proprietorship of ‘the Corner.’ He was well known in France, had many dealings with the noblesse, and practically founded the foreign business of the firm; he died on 23 Jan. 1810, and was buried at Northolt, leaving by his wife Elizabeth, born Wilshin (d. 1843), three sons—Richard, Edmund, and George—and one daughter. Richard Tattersall (1785–1859), known as ‘Old Dick’ to distinguish him from his son ‘young Mr. Richard,’ succeeded to the command, and also, it is said, to all his grandfather's ability in the rostrum. He consolidated the business not only by his tact and firmness, but also by his intimacies with all the leaders of sport in his generation, both at home and abroad, and he was in many respects the greatest of his dynasty. He was assisted in the business by the second brother (‘Edmund II,’ d. 1851). Richard died at Dover on 22 July 1859 (a crayon portrait of him in the rostrum is in the office at Tattersall's), and was succeeded by Richard ‘the younger’ (1812–1870), under whose auspices, the old lease having expired in 1865, the buildings known as ‘the Corner’ were pulled down, and ‘Tattersall's’ removed to Knightsbridge Green (Albert Gate). George Tattersall (1792–1853), the youngest of the three sons of Edmund (I), started life as a farmer in Norfolk, but lost a good deal of money, and eventually moved to Dawley, where for some years he managed the Tattersalls' stud-farm, though he was never a partner in the business. He married Eliza Reeve of Wighton in Norfolk, and had issue a son Edmund (‘Edmund III,’ 1816–1898), who became head of the firm of Tattersall in 1870. The third Edmund, born at Sculthorpe, Norfolk, on 9 Feb. 1816, was from 1848 to 1895 an active participator in the business, and spared himself no pains to sustain the world-wide reputation of his firm. He died at Coleherne Court, South Kensington, on 5 March 1898 (Horse and Hound, 12 March 1898; Times, 7 and 9 March 1898); his eldest son, Edmund Somerville Tattersall, became the director of the business.

George Tattersall (1817–1849), the artist, best known under the pseudonym of ‘Wildrake,’ the younger son of Richard Tattersall the elder (1785–1859), by his wife, Mary Grace Robson, was born at Hyde Park Corner on 13 June 1817. He early developed talent as a draughtsman, and compiled an illustrated guide-book to the lakes when only eighteen. He entered an architect and surveyor's office, and eventually set up for himself at 52 Pall Mall, opposite Marlborough House. He built the extensive stables at Willesden, whither Messrs. Tattersall had removed their stud-farm from Dawley, and he also built largely for Serjeant Wrangham and other well-known sportsmen, embodying the results of his experience in his work on ‘Sporting Architecture.’ In 1836 he visited America, and executed a portfolio of sketches in watercolours or sepia, now in the possession of his sister, Mrs. Philpott. Some of these sketches (particularly those of Washington's tomb in its original simplicity) have an antiquarian as well as an artistic value. ‘Wildrake’ died prematurely of brain fever at his house in Cadogan Place, London, in 1849. He married, in 1837, Helen Pritchard, and had issue.

George Tattersall's small handbook of ‘The Lakes of England’ (London, 1836, 8vo) was illustrated by forty-three beautiful outline drawings by the author, ‘etched on steel’ by W. F. Topham. He published in 1841 ‘Sporting Architecture’ (London, 4to), with plates and designs of grand-stands, stables, and kennels; and in the same year, under the pseudonym ‘Wildrake,’ he edited ‘Cracks of the Day’ (London, 8vo), a set of plates, with descriptive letterpress, of sixty-five racehorses from Recovery (1830), the model for Wyatt's equestrian statue of Wellington, to Crucifix, who won the Oaks in 1840. An enlarged edition, with seventy-five engravings, appeared in 1844 as ‘Wildrake's Picture Gallery of English Racehorses,’ and a similar ‘Pictorial Gallery’ was issued posthumously in 1850. In 1843, in conjunction with Henry Alken [q. v.], he illustrated the well-known ‘Hunting Reminiscences’ of Nimrod (i.e. Charles James Apperley). Both this volume and ‘Cracks of the Day’ are greatly prized, when in a good state, on account of the steel engravings, which rank with Browne and Leech's illustrations to the sporting novels of Surtees. Scarcely inferior are some of the plates in the ‘New Sporting Almanack,’ which ‘Wildrake’ edited for 1844 and 1845. ‘Wildrake’ also contributed some excellent illustrations to ‘The Book of Sports’ (London, 1843, 4to). In addition to his pictorial work he was an active journalist, editing the ‘Sporting Magazine’ during 1844 and 1845, and being a large contributor and, for a short time, editor of the ‘Era.’

[Gent. Mag. 1795 i. 348, 1854 i. 110, 1859 ii. 315; Morning Post, 23 Feb. 1795; Memoirs of Hurstwood, 1889; Life of Col. George Hanger, 1801, ii. 144; Croston's Lancashire, iii. 389; Baily's Mag. 1 Jan. 1888; Sala's Twice round the Clock, 4 p.m.; Knight's London, vi. 353; Thornbury's Old and New London, vi. 317; Wheatley and Cunningham's London, iii. 347; Fox-Bourne's Hist. of Newspapers, i. 221; Campbell's Lives of Chief Justices, iii. 51; All the Year Round, May 1875, June 1885; Cushing's Pseudon. Literature; Lennox's Celebrities (2nd ser.); private information.]

T. S.