a selection of gold and silver whip handles shown by Swaine & Adeney and Sangster,
both of London, at the Great Exhibition of 1851;
the design of the central example, by Swaine & Adeney,
was emblematic of the Exhibition, with figures representing the four quarters of the globe
(from The Illustrated Exhibitor, London, 6 December 1851, p. 510,
and The Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue, London, 1851, p. 313)
A visitor to the Great Exhibition of 1851 thought few gentlemen there ‘and possibly few of the ladies’ could have failed to admire the handsome show of riding whips by English, French, Belgian, Spanish and American manufacturers. The best whips were, and always had been, silver- (or gold-) mounted and the different types, from strong whips for coachmen to those for children, were legion. So too were patterns: Mrs Barnard, a whipmaker of Fleet Street, was indignant when in 1766 some of the best of her stock was stolen, including one ‘mounted with treble Silver Engine turned buttons [and] a Diamond-buttoned Jockey, the Handle of each Silver stitched.’
While in 1821 a London jeweller, John Brogden, was prosecuted for thrashing another member of the trade with his whip, most were used for legitimate purposes and, unsurprisingly in that age of universal equine transport, were everywhere in evidence. Swaine & Adeney, whipmakers to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and probably the busiest of the London firms, was represented at many international exhibitions; ‘Blessed is the steed on whose fleet flanks such whips are ornamentally applied!’ thought one New Yorker when the firm showed there in 1853.
The more expensive whips were sometimes very elaborate, made from combinations of exotic materials including clarified rhinoceros hide and carved ivory. Chowrie riding whips with fly-whisk horse-hair plumes for use in India were a staple item, and in 1851 William Slark of Burlington Arcade sold flexible rubber whips mounted in turquoise-set gold.
two celebrated Victorian equestrian performers with whips: Louis Francisco, trainer and rider (circa 1862),
and Jenny Louise Hengler, noted as ‘a graceful exponent of haute Ä—cole riding‘ (circa 1872)
(photos: John Culme’s Footlight Notes Collection)
- Several items items of equestrian interest are currently featured on myfamilysilver.com.