Although Job Toon, the central character in this story was not originally from Walsall he did live in the town in his early life and also ended his days there. In the years in between he became a jockey, head lad, assistant trainer, trainer/stud manager and finally, the licensee of the New Inn, John Street, Walsall. How many other Walsall publicans can say they came second in the Irish Derby as a jockey and then won the same race a few years later as a trainer?
Job was born in 1851 in Atherstone, Warwickshire to Job and Elizabeth Toon, the sixth of their seven children. In the census of 1851 Job was just 5 months old and the family were living in Woolpack Yard, Atherstone where Job senior made his living as a wood turner. By 1861 the Toon family had moved from Atherstone to 4 Birchill Street Court in Walsall where Job senior was now earning his living as a hame maker in the leather trade. The young Job, now 10 years old had given up on school and was employed as a brush maker at one of the several brush manufacturers in the town.
When exactly the next chapter in young Job’s life began is uncertain but it appears he followed his thirteen year old brother, James, who by 1861 was listed in the census as a groom at Thomas Cliff’s stable in Hednesford. Another apprentice in Cliff’s stable at this time was another thirteen year old, the Champion Jockey of 1866, Manchester born Samuel Kenyon, also aged thirteen in 1861.
Of all the jockeys associated with the Hednesford training grounds, John Wells was the most successful. During his career he rode eight Classic winners and was champion jockey twice.
Born on Christmas Day 1833 in Sutton Coldfield, Wells became apprenticed to Thomas Flintoff at Prospect House, Hednesford around the age of thirteen. His first ride in public came at Northampton in 1848 on a horse of Flintoff’s named Ribaldry. A few months later the same horse gave Wells his first taste of victory in the Birmingham Stakes at Walsall.
At Wolverhampton in August 1849, while Wells was riding Cingari, another of Fowler’s horses at the Flintoff stable, John Heitt, a much more experienced jockey, tried to take Wells’s position on the rails by forcing his mount through. Despite his youth, Wells kept his ground and his nerve won the race much to the annoyance of Heitt.
With Hednesford’s rich history in horse training, try as it may over many years it only managed to claim two Classic winners, one English and the other Irish. The man who trained the English Classic winner was Thomas Flintoff of Prospect House and the race was the Great St. Leger in 1830 with a horse named Birmingham who was owned by John Beardsworth, a carriage and horse dealer from Birmingham, hence the horses name.
The engraving below shows the 1830 St. Leger winner Birmingham with Patrick Connolly up. Birmingham was a brown colt by the outstanding sire, Filho da Puta out of the mare Miss Craigie by Orville and bred by a Mr. Lacy of Colwick near Nottingham.
Strangely, when one reads about Hednesford’s success in the Grand National the one that wasn’t trained in the town seems to be the one remembered most by local historians. The horse regularly recorded as being trained in Hednesford and winning the ‘National was the 1861 winner, Jealousy, a mare……but more of that later.
Marlow was born in 1814 at Thorney Lanes, Newborough, Hanbury, Staffordshire which was in Meynell Hunt territory, young Charlie was around horses from childhood as his father Richard was a groom, possibly at Hoar Cross Hall. At his peak as a jockey he lived in Hazel Slade about a mile from where I live today. The house is long gone, but it stood on what is now the corner of Hazel Drive and Rugeley Road, a detached house now occupies the site. With Hednesford being a well known and quite large training ground a 150 years ago myself and my co-author automatically assumed Charlie became apprenticed to one of the many trainers in or around Hednesford at that time. A recently discovered article from the January 1857 edition of The Sporting Review tells a different story however. Rather surprisingly the young Marlow did not “go down the road to Hednesford” to learn his trade but to Newmarket, Suffolk, a considerable distance to travel in those days. The brother of Mr. Meynell Ingram, the hunting squire of Hoar Cross Hall, Staffordshire, was the well-known Captain Meynell of Phantom Cottage, Newmarket and it was he that arranged for the 12 year old Charlie to “study for his degree as a horseman at the great equestrian University of the world” as The Sporting Review put it. Captain Meynell, after testing his young prodigy for over two years on the Beacon Course, paid him the compliment of a ride in public. So at just 14 years of age Charlie Marlow, jockey, was first seen in public at the Newmarket Houghton Meeting of 1828 riding as “a feather” (the lightest weight allowed back then) on an un-named two year-old filly by Gulliver out of Parma on which he was unplaced. In the same race one of Marlow’s ablest contemporaries, Samuel Rogers, also made his riding debut also being described as “a feather”. In 1830 Marlow left Newmarket for Epsom to work for Mr. Lumley who trained a string of horses for Mr. Mabberley. This venture turned out to be a short one as just after The Derby of that year the Lumleys training establishment was broken up leaving Charlie to look for another master.
The sport of horse racing is centuries old, but training stables, as we know them today, are a relatively new idea. Two hundred years ago horses were either trained privately for the nobility and gentry on their estates by training grooms or by public trainers who took the horses of more than one owner into their stables. It is the latter that Hednesford and Hazel Slade built their reputations on.