Wealthy pastimes through the ages
In our 2021-22 Private Wealth Guide, we explored some of the top leisure pursuits regularly enjoyed by wealthy residents of Hertfordshire and Essex. Based on data from Wealth X’s 2020 Billionaire Census, which listed sports, aviation and outdoor pursuits among the favourite pastimes of the super-rich, we explored some of the top destinations for those living in Hertfordshire and Essex to indulge in hobbies such as equestrianism, flying, golf and sailing.
Hobbies throughout history
The pastimes that people have indulged in over the centuries in can tell us a lot about their lives and social standing, and how this has changed over time. For example, prior to the industrial revolution and the invention of the printing press, having the means to purchase books (and the ability to read them) was a mark of significant wealth. Nowadays, all children are taught to read at school and books are available cheaply or at no cost through libraries.
However, there are certain pastimes that remain associated with wealth to this day – largely due to the costs involved in pursuing these activities.
For many years, horse riding for leisure and sport was a hobby out of reach to all but the very richest – less wealthy people may have owned horses, but they were used for work and transportation. These days, horse ownership and horse riding in general is not only available to the British aristocracy, but is a popular, well-loved hobby enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Equestrianism, however – and particularly for those competing at elite levels – remains predominantly the preserve of Britain’s wealthy.
According 2012 research from radio host Dan Gorenstein, a good dressage horse can cost between $60,000 and $100,000 (c. £45,000 – c. £75,000) – although the most expensive dressage horse ever sold cost his new owner a staggering €11 million (c. £9.2 million)! Eventing, introduced as an Olympic sport in 1912, and horse racing, a beloved pastime of the Queen herself, both have firm associations with royalty. Both the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, and granddaughter, Zara Tindall, having competed in elite eventing, while the Queen owns well over 100 elite racehorses and is a regular attendee at Royal Ascot. Essex horseracing enthusiasts looking for a taste of the high life can head to Chelmsford Racecourse, which runs regular racing days and social events throughout the year.
In the decades following its invention, flying – both commercial and private – was also firmly the preserve of the rich. Early commercial flights were luxury affairs, a world away from the no-frills budget flights today offered by the likes of EasyJet and RyanAir! Elaborate dishes and expensive drinks, served on porcelain crockery and in crystal decanters, were de rigeur. And prices were accordingly high – a ticket from Britain to Rome during the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of air travel would have set a traveller back by the equivalent of £3,000 today!
Private aviation is also a hobby associated with the Royal Family. For example, the late Prince Philip gained his Private Pilot’s License in 1959 and was an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Honorary Life Member of the Royal Aero Club and a Grand Master of the Guild of Air Pilots (among other patronages). To this day, it remains a singularly expensive hobby. In one article published on LinkedIn, private pilot Daniel Harrison calculated that he had spent nearly £10,000 on learning to fly. The ongoing costs of flying also put this hobby out of the reach of many. Hourly rates for plane hire at Andrewsfield aerodrome in Essex range between £151 and £237, while hangarage costs between £280 and £170 per month.
Interested in reading more?
If you’re interested in reading about more hobbies and pastimes enjoyed by Hertfordshire and Essex’s wealthy residents, please take a look at our Private Wealth Guide. And, of course, follow us on social media using the hashtag #PrivateWealthGuide for more insights.