ABERGAVENNY RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Wednesday 29th October 1834  
Final meeting: Saturday 8th April 1899

The Welsh market town of Abergavenny, in Monmouthshire, lies just 15 miles west of Monmouth and barely 6 miles from the border with England. The town was the site of a Roman fort and contains a medieval stone castle built after the Norman conquest of Wales.  In the mid-1800s the town had its own racecourse on the Ynys-y-bwa, which were fields owned by Thomas Hill of Blaenavon visible from Castle Walk, but on the opposite side of the river to later courses. The Hereford Times recorded the first meeting to take place at Abergavenny racecourse was on Wednesday 29th October 1834 when it was organised by the Abergavenny & Monmouthshire Hunt Race Committee. The attendance by residents and neighbouring gentry at the inaugural meeting was described as ‘numerous and fashionable’. At the end of the first day there was a Ball at the Angel, which also served Ordinaries on the second day.  A later course was located in Chapel Meadows, next to Chapel Road, operating for just one year, after which meetings transferred to meadowland on Company’s Farm. The final course, on which the most prestigious races were run, was given to the town by the ‘Squire of Coldbrook’ on land which is now the site of Monmouthshire Golf Club, offering a varied programme of flat racing and steeplechases. The flat racecourse was just a mile in circumference with a 2 furlong run-in, gently rising in the final 150 yards. The steeplechase course stretched over three miles using ploughed, grass and wheat fields, and contained 23 fences which included a 13 feet wide water jump in front of the stands, providing a spectacle for all to enjoy. This course was well regarded throughout its history and the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup over 4 miles and 24 fences, which is now contested at the annual Cheltenham Festival in March, was held at Abergavenny in 1872 when Red Nob, ridden by Captain Holyoake, was successful. The race attracted 23 entries, although only 9 faced the starter, and in the event Red Nob ran out a convincing 2 length winner. Racing continued for a further 27 years until a final meeting was held on Saturday 8th April 1899. Evidence still remains of the old racecourse, especially at the sixth tee where the foundations of the grandstand can still be viewed.
This racecourse is covered in Volume 3 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Captain Becher, Captain Rhys
Principal Races Llandilo Stakes, Danypark Stakes, Scurry Stakes, Monmouthshire Hunt Cup

The Hereford Journal of Saturday 1st November 1834 reported on the inaugural meeting and extracts are given below shown courtesy of the British Newspaper Archives Online.
Wednesday 29th October 1834
The Usk Stakes over a mile and a half

1. Busk, aged chestnut mare owned by Mr Haller
2. Tipple-Cider, aged chestnut gelding owned by Mr Newman
3. Hounslow, 6 year old bay gelding owned by Mr Gilbert
4. Deceiver, 6 year old bay gelding owned by Mr Howell
5. Little Blue Boy, 5 year old bay gelding owned by Mr Potter
6. Cymro, 5 year old chestnut gelding owned by Mr Morgan

Wednesday 18th April 1838

Monmouthshire Hunt Cup
1. Fugleman owned by Mr Lawrence and ridden by Barker
2. Harkaway owned by Mr Edwards and ridden by Captain Becher
3. Worcester owned by Mr Stretton and ridden by Powell

Scurry Stakes
1. Ludford owned by Mr Bellamy and ridden by Williams
2. Tom Thumb owned by Mr Phelps and ridden by Oliver
3. Wexford owned by Mr Stretton and ridden by Powell

Wednesday 18th to Thursday 19th April 1855

The Monmouthshire Stakes over 1 ½ miles
1. Royalist owned by Mr Sherring
2. Master Horton owned by Captain Rhys
3. Wantage owned by Mr T Parr

The Danypark Stakes over 1 ½ miles
1. Tower owned by Mr Parr
2. Gaslight owned by Mr Land

The Llandilo Stakes over a mile
1. Cardiff Lass owned by Mr H Lewis
2. Tower owned by Mr Robson
3. Donna owned by Mr Lowe

The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, over 4 miles and 24 fences, is now contested at the annual Cheltenham Festival in March, but in 1872 it was held at Abergavenny, and the result is shown below.
1872 Red Nob ridden by Captain Holyoake

I am grateful to Ordnance Survey (© Crown Copyright) for permission to use the map shown below.

The final meeting took place on Saturday 8th April 1899.
Course today The former course on the outskirts of the town was a mile round, perfectly flat with the exception of a slight hill in the final furlong, and is now a golf course.

The rare handbill shown below is provided courtesy of the Robert Shaw collection.

If you have photos, postcards, racecards. badges, newspaper cuttings or book references about the old course, or can provide a photo of how the ground on which the old racecourse stood looks today, then email johnwslusar@gmail.com

Much of the information about this course has been found using internet research and is in the public domain. However, useful research sources have been:-

London Illustrated News

Racing Illustrated 1895-1899

The Sporting & Dramatic Illustrated

Northern Turf History Volumes 1-4 by J.Fairfax-Blakeborough

The Sporting Magazine

A Long Time Gone by Chris Pitt first published in 1996 ISBN 0 900599 89 8

Racing Calendars which were first published in 1727

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

Copies of the above books are only available by emailing johnwslusar@gmail.com stating your requirements, method of payment (cheque payable to W.Slusar) or Bank transfer, and the address where the book(s) should be sent.
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