Presented by: Derek Martin
At Newmarket in 1809 Captain Barclay walked one mile each hour for 1,000 consecutive hours (42 days). This made him the most famous gentleman pedestrian of his age and fixed ‘the Barclay Match’ in public memory as an event that was unprecedented, had not been repeated and was probably unrepeatable. This paper identifies some misconceptions in this view:
- although the precise format of the Barclay Match was new, the practice of long distance walking (along with cricket, boxing and equestrian sports) had been practised and patronised by ‘gentleman amateurs’ from at least the 1760s;
- the ‘pedestrian mania’ around Barclay was quickly exploited by pedestrians who were not ‘gentlemen’ – working class male pedestrians enjoyed a ‘boom’ period between 1815 and 1821, and revived the event with success in the late 1840s/early 1850s;
- the Match was relatively more important to the largely unrecognised class of female pedestrians for whom it provided a way into pedestrianism otherwise denied to women in the Victorian period –‐ in the century out of the 214 Barclay Matches so far identified, no less than 115 were by women; and
- the Barclay Match retained a surprising appeal for a long period and like any successful sport adapted to changing tastes; pedestrians experimented with distance and time – Ada Anderson walked 1.5 miles an hour for 42 days at Leeds in 1878 and the last great exponent of the Match, William Buckler (who died a century after Captain Barclay’s Match) in 1902 walked 4,000 quarter mile segments, one every 9 minutes for 25 days.
Article © Derek Martin