7

In the novel "Brighton Rock", Graham Greene refers to a "half-crown enclosure" in the context of horse racing.

My guess is that it may refer to a type of horse race where half-crown refers to a betting limit, or the size of the purse or payout.

Alternatively, the phrase may refer to a type of race track.

I tried searching the internet but found no explanation except for a few vintage postcards.

Any insights would be appreciated.

  • Welcome to ELU, Marc. This is a free combination (like 'intelligent boy') rather than a collocation ('strong tea') or compound ('camomile tea'). It might as well be a 'five-bob enclosure' or a 'two-and-ninepence enclosure' – or 'the ten-bob stands'. The premodifier merely states the admission price to the stated restricted part of the racecourse. – Edwin Ashworth May 19 at 16:41
  • Not an answer, but here's an article on that (dated 30 years before the book). See p. 444: books.google.com/…. – KannE May 19 at 23:08
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A half-crown is an obsolete, pre-decimal British coin. A crown was worth 5 shillings old money (= 25p now) so a half-crown was worth 2s 6d or 12.5p decimal. There were 8 of them to the pound sterling.

A half-crown enclosure would have been a spectator area where the admission fee was a half-crown, probably with a better view of the track or finish line.

I can find 2 references to this phrase where the meaning can be inferred from the context
A report of the 1907 Brooklands 1st Race Meeting 7th paragraph
There is also a photograph of a spectator area entitled half-crown enclosure
and
an 1882 report of a horse race meeting in Australia

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    Sounds plausible. Do you have a link to back your horse so to speak... – S Conroy May 19 at 15:08
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    I've found two references that give this interpretation from their context.<br>. One is from a very old (1882) horse race report in an Australian newspaper [trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/91466102] and the other from a 1907 report of the opening meeting at Brooklands motor racing track [gracesguide.co.uk/1907_Brooklands_1st_Race_Meeting] 7th paragraph and a photograph ow what appears to be a spectator enclosure – Peter Jennings May 19 at 15:24
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    @SConroy Thanks for the comment, I've done as you suggested. by all means add to the answers, I'd be interested in seeing a different result. – Peter Jennings May 19 at 15:46
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    As Mark Hubbard's answer shows, the half-crown enclosure was the cheapest. It would have been better than no enclosure but it was clearly not prestigious. Even in those days 12½p was not a lot of money. – David Robinson May 19 at 21:52
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    @David Robinson A half crown (or, colloquially, a half dollar) wasn't the equivalent of a 10p, that was a florin. There were 20 shillings to the pound, a shilling became 5 new pence (instead of 12 old ones) so there were 10 florins to the pound. The half crown was worth two shillings and sixpence so was, as you say, worth 12.5 new pence. The half crown wasn't replaced by a new coin but the florin was replaced by the 10p. In Greene's time half a dollar was a fair bit of cash, enough to buy four or five pints of beer. It would probably be the equivalent of about £10 to £15 by now. – BoldBen May 20 at 0:52
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Here is an example from the 1907 Brooklands 1st Race Meeting (an automobile race, in this case):1907 Brooklands 1st Race Meeting

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    I think that rather confirms that it was the admission price to the viewing area. I don't think there were any bookmakers at British motor racing circuits so it wouldn't be the price of a bet. – Peter Jennings May 19 at 16:16
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    Peter Jennings - FT Harris ("Long Tom") was a famous bookmaker who operated at Brooklands in the 1920s: "Many of your readers will recollect the difficulty I had in persuading the Brooklands authorities that it was to their advantage to alter their regulations so as to permit of my making a book in the Paddock." - Making a Book at Brooklands - Motor Sport magazine, April 1925 – Michael Harvey May 19 at 19:41
  • @MichaelHarvey Thanks, I was not aware of that. – Peter Jennings May 20 at 2:02
  • I must say I think the idea of on-course betting at motor races is weird. – Michael Harvey May 20 at 11:18

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