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His life and times, his foibles and fancies

Research by D. Tilbury

"Scott & Sebright", June 1862

by Henry Hall Dixon ("The Druid")



The horse world of London could boast during this time of two men both equally great in their line ; to wit, "Old Tilbury" and Jack Elmore, the hunter dealers. The former lived to nearly eighty, and although he had signed no pledge, and received no pewter medal as a signet of his allegiance, there was not such a rigid teetotaller in the length and breadth of Her Majesty's dominions. He never got his full credit in this respect, seeing that the smell of ale or spirits was quite as exhilarating in its effect upon him, as if he had been in the Docks, and then he could be handicapped to give weight to most men in a story. In later life, he was generally black and all black in his attire, save and except his white neck-tie ; and to the last his whole talk was of horses.

Mr. Tilbury, the Dealer

The conventional pun upon the first syllable of the word had peculiar significance in his case, as, barring a little water when he could get nothing else, tea was the only fluid that ever passed his lips. He was always very neat in his dress, but short, and of the heavy-sternium build ; and it was this peculiarity which used to call forth some funny remarks from " The Squire,"* when they were going from covert to covert, in those merry days when the two Georges, equally great in their line, ruled at Windsor and Quorn*.

* Note: 'The Squire' and George of the Quorn was the famous, or should it be infamous, George Osbaldeston (1787-1866) — D.T.
His Class of Horses

1839 tilbury gig

He was never much of a rider across country, and perhaps not a first-class judge of a horse. As a general thing he seemed to go for horses of a certain power and substance, which would either frame into hunters or machiners, or as he used to put it,

"if there was not one there was the other."

When he first began, he had a little wheelwright's shop in Bryanston-street, Edgeware-road, and let out buggy horses. From this humble spot, he went on to South-street, the scene of his fine tilbury trade, and rising at last into all his glory in Mount-street, began to let out hunters, and took a farm at Elstree, three miles beyond Edgeware. After that, he took 200 acres at the Dove House, Pinner, which afforded plenty of exercise and larking ground, of which his aid-de-camps, Newcome and Jim Mason (whom Bill Bean claims to have led over his first flight of park palings), and Jim Payne availed themselves to the full. Mat Milton, who was wont to say, that if he did lose his horse in the hunting field, he could always

"pay five or six stout fellows and run him down"

was then at the head of the crack hunter business in Piccadilly ; but Tilbury's stud, many of which were purchased from the Elmores, was never under seventy. He would let them by the day or the season, and Count Matuschevitz and Mr. Harvey Combe opened very paying accounts with him. In fact, many of his sixty-pound horses would earn their fifty guineas per season, and if any accident happened, he had always another ready to send down. They were picketted out everywhere, all over the Midlands, but principally at Melton and Northampton ; and he would ride enormous distances, week after week, looking them up and making arrangements about proxies.

He also did a little in the steeple-chase line with his CULVERTHORPE, PROSPERO, and TOMBOY, when VIVIAN, CIGAR, and LOTTERY had brought up matters to a white heat ; but he left off on the wrong side, both in this and his hunter dealing. The latter sadly dwindled a few years before his death in 1860.

Mount-street and a few common stamp horses still remained, with a small farm at Thatch End, adjoining the Pinner acres of his more glorious days ; but the younger generation knew him not, and went elsewhere for their hunters.

On the box it might truly be said of him that

"Difficulties prove a soul legitimately great."

His Coachmanship

As a four-in-hand whip he had no particular pretensions ; but his delight was to have two raw young things in a break or a curricle, and drive them in and out of places and along thoroughfares which hardly any coachman, with the most metallic nerves, would have dared to essay.

"Such hands"

as a good whip once said to us,

"never let them begin kicking ; knew just when to stop them to a yard!"

If a young horse would not go on, he would sit as calm as a Mohawk Chief, biding his time. To take his tilbury into a field, and turn it neatly over, and step out of it, without the horse falling, was another sleight-of-hand diversion with the ribbons to which he was peculiarly partial. He had all the quiet manner of the old school, and was very full of anecdotes, which of course grew on as his life-shadows lengthened, till one or two of them became perfect sea-serpents.

The Two Frenchmen and the Three Pigeons - The Three Magpies on Hounslow Heath

To the last he was faithful to the one about the two foreigners who hired horses from him to meet Her Majesty's. Their horses were so beaten when they left off near Red Hill, that they were obliged to leave them and get a post-chaise. Then came the difficulty, which Mr. Tilbury told with appropriate action and streaming eyes. They had forgotten the name of the inn where they had left their hacks, and they only knew that it had to do with a bird.

"Drive us to the Pigons"

they said,

"de birds of colour ; you do know de black and white Pigons"

till they had utterly bewildered and exasperated their postboy, and were only helped out of the dilemma by a friendly scarlet.


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