19th August 2016

Object No. 2: England’s First Female Jockey

‘A view of the race between Mrs. Thornton and Mr. Flint of York’, 1804, G. Thompson, on loan from York Museums Trust

To celebrate this week’s Ebor Festival at York Racecourse, the second object in our ‘Weird & Wonderful’ countdown is this engraving depicting a rather unusual race contest at the Knavesmire on 25th August 1804. The race, across a four-mile course, took place between female jockey Mrs. Alicia Thornton (riding side-saddle) and her brother-in-law Captain Flint.

Nearly 100,000 people came to place their bets and watch this thrilling match in which Mrs Thornton ‘displayed great ability in the management of her horse and kept the lead nearly the whole race’. Sadly Mrs. Thornton lost … but her striking attire, spirited acceptance of the wager, skill and courage, coupled with her admirable good humour in defeat made her a favourite of the crowd and long-celebrated even after the race was concluded.