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Horses in early modern Shropshire

27 Oct 2018

Horses in Early Modern Shropshire: for Service, for Pleasure, for Power

The Victoria County History (VCH) Shropshire has invited historian, Professor Peter Edwards, to give its third annual lecture. Professor Edwards will show how the horse revolutionised the way rural society worked, played and operated in the period between c.1500 and c.1750.

The lecture will take place on Saturday 27 October at 2pm at Central Shrewsbury Baptist Church in Claremont Street, Shrewsbury.

Professor Edwards’ lecture will demonstrate that the possession of a horse empowered individuals in an unimaginable way – lives changed forever.

Early modern Shropshire, like so much of England, was a predominately rural society and most horses worked on farms, preparing the ground and hauling agricultural products. Oxen provided the main alternative source of power but by the end of the period horses were replacing them at a steady rate. Owning a horse immediately allowed individuals to take a greater quantity of goods to market and to serve customers over a wider area. People could also travel further and more freely.

The consequences of horse-ownership were far reaching in other ways too. Professor Edwards will shed new light on the significant dividing line that separated owners who kept horses specifically for riding from those who used them as work animals. Shropshire’s top families ­- the Actons, the Cravens, the Egertons, the Foresters, the Leveson-Gowers and the Pigots for example - who could indulge themselves in riding for pleasure, could literally as well as metaphorically look down on those on foot. Like others, they rode on horseback as a means of getting from place to place but they did not view horse riding merely as a utilitarian exercise. They valued it as a signifier of their social status too. Not only was good horsemanship an essential attribute of a gentleman but the landed elite also participated in exclusive equine pursuits such as hunting, horse-racing and the manège (akin to modern dressage). Moreover as officers in the cavalry they kept mettlesome horses to serve in the county militia and to ride into battle.

Information for the public

Date: Saturday 27 October 2018
Time: 2pm – venue opens at 1.30pm
Venue: Central, Shrewsbury Baptist Church, Claremont Street, Shrewsbury
Programme: VCH Annual Meeting at 2pm chaired by VCH director, Professor Richard Hoyle followed by refreshments from 2.30pm.
3pm Annual lecture by Professor Peter Edwards: Horses in Early Modern Shropshire: for Service, for Pleasure, for Power.
5pm close.

Members of the public need to register via the Eventbrite website: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/vch-shropshire-annual-lecture-tickets-45480150354.
The lecture is free but a £5 donation would be gratefully received.

Media contact (not for publication): Nigel Semmens on 07766 014229

Professor Peter Edwards D.Phil (Oxon)
Professor Edwards has published a number of books on the social and economic life of the period including The Horse Trade of Tudor and Stuart England (1988), Dealing in Death: the Arms Trade and the British Civil Wars, 1638-52 (2000) and Horse and Man in Early Modern England  (2007). His latest book, Horses and the Aristocratic Lifestyle was launched earlier this year.

Professor Edwards grew up in a rural community in Shropshire and worked on local farms as a teenager. His dissertation at Oxford University dealt with farming and rural society in North Shropshire in the Seventeenth Century.

The Victoria County History Shropshire

The first Shropshire volume was published as long ago as 1908. Six volumes were published between 1968 and 1988 including three topographical volumes covering large areas of Shropshire, for example parishes in parts of the Severn valley, the South Shropshire hills and Telford. There have also been thematic volumes on administrative and political history, ecclesiastical history and agriculture. VCH is about to publish its latest volume which will be about Wem.

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