Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pauper Inmate - Derby winning jockey Charles Marlow

The Highworth and Swindon Union Workhouse at Stratton St. Margaret was built in 1845-6 in the wake of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. With outdoor relief - payment in cash or kind - now restricted to only the deserving poor, the workhouse was the destiny of those down on their luck.

At the time of the 1881 census the workhouse at Stratton contained 206 people. Among them was Charles Marlow, a man who had enjoyed both fame and fortune.

In the 1840s Marlow was ranked as one of the top jockeys of his day. It was his association with the Earl of Eglinton and his horse The Flying Dutchman that secured Marlow's place in horse racing history.

Marlow rode the Dutchman to an exciting win in the 1849 Derby. After three false starts Hotspur with George Whitehouse onboard stole the Dutchman's early lead. But as the runners and riders turned into the home straight Marlow struck his horse with the whip and the Flying Dutchman won by a short neck.

Marlow was in the saddle again later that year when the Dutchman won the St. Leger at Doncaster. Both horse and jockey were at the height of their fame when they joined forces for the Doncaster Cup of 1850.

The race, a two hander saw the Dutchman matched against Voltigeur, a young, inexperienced horse. The result should have been a foregone conclusion. Opinion was divided as to the cause of the Dutchman's poor performance. Some said Marlow was drunk.

With the Dutchman's worth at stud compromised by this defeat, Eglinton arranged 'A Great Match' between Voltigeur and the Flying Dutchman. Raced over York's Old Course on May 13th 1851 and watched by a huge crowd, the Dutchman romped home to win by a length, his reputation, and Marlow's restored.

In 1853 Marlow ran the third of his classic race successes, winning the Oaks on John Wauchope's filly Catherine Hayes. At what point did the drinking become a problem for the top class jockey? Was it after the disastrous 1855 Oaks when he broke his leg riding a horse named Nettle? Did that injury signal the end of his career?

In 1871 Marlow was employed by Grand National winning jockey turned trainer, Tom Olliver at stables in Wroughton where he headed a team of five. Ten years later he was in the Highworth and Swindon Workhouse, his career finished, the glory days just a memory. He is recorded on the census as - Charles Marlow - Jockey 1849 Winner of the Derby With Flying Dutchman. The following year Marlow was in the Devizes workhouse where he died in October 1882.

Image is a reproduction of The Great Match (The Flying Dutchman and Voltiguer) by John H. Herring


  1. What a story. We found the entry in the work house census return and you filled in the gaps about this gentleman. Was it the drink or simply no means of support that drove him into the work house? Thanks for sharing and doing the leg work.

    Ending up in Devizes - is there more to this story, or was it drink and decline?

    Pete and Leo, Chiseldon

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Marlow_(jockey)