Wincester Races

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WINCHESTER RACES. English. England, Northumberland. One of the "missing tunes" from William Vickers' 1770 Northumbrian dance tune manuscript. The Winchester Races, Hampshire, were held four miles north of that English city, near the village of South Wonston close to Worthy Down army camp. Racing on the two-mile course was held there from the latter 17th century, and became the Royal Wincester when King Charles II attended in 1683. They continued to be popular and well supported for a further 130 years, until the last meeting in July, 1887. Jane Austen wrote a poem about Wincester Races, mocking the degeneration of the sporting event.

When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of Saint Swithin
And that William of Wykeham's approval was faint.

The races however were fixed and determined
The company came and the Weather was charming
The Lords and the Ladies were satine'd and ermined
And nobody saw any future alarming.--

But when the old Saint was informed of these doings
He made but one Spring from his Shrine to the Roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And then he addressed them all standing aloof.

'Oh! subjects rebellious! Oh Venta depraved
When once we are buried you think we are gone
But behold me immortal! By vice you're enslaved
You have sinned and must suffer, ten farther he said

These races and revels and dissolute measures
With which you're debasing a neighboring Plain
Let them stand--You shall meet with your curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I'll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command o'er July
Henceforward I'll triumph in shewing my powers
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers--'.


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