BECCLES RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Monday 4th July 1709
Final meeting: Wednesday 9th September 1857

Beccles is a market town in the Waveney District of Suffolk, located 33 miles north east of Ipswich and just 16 miles south east of Norwich. The earliest record of racing taking place near the town was on Beccles Common on Monday 4th July 1709.  It was a two day affair accompanied by evening fireworks and cock fighting at the local pubs. The result was not recorded in the Norwich Gazette, but the race was a match 3 times around the course for 20 guineas, with each horse carrying a massive 18 stone. There were several other matches on the same day. The Norwich Gazette did report that meetings took place annually at Beccles, often two day meetings normally held in June. By 1745 a two day meeting lasted from Wednesday 19th to Thursday 20th June when it was noticeable that races were becoming more organised, administrators stipulating that ‘No horse to be entered to run that stands at any stable except where the owner has contributed to the Beccles Town Plate, and horses must be shod by a Beccles Blacksmith’. Entrants also had to pay 5 shillings towards repairing and roping the racecourse, while persons wishing to erect booths also had to pay. The local artist Edwin Cooper was born in Bury St Edmunds in 1785 and was a frequent visitor to Beccles races, painting many of the famous racehorses of the day and racing scenes from Beccles. Races were very popular and continued annually until the final meeting on Wednesday 9th September 1857.
This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons

Colonel Wilson, Lord Stradbroke, Sir C Sedley

Principal Races Gentlemans Purse, Town Plate, Cup Stakes

The Norwich Gazette of 1709 reported on a meeting taking place at Beccles racecourse on Monday 4th July. The result was not recorded, but the race was a match 3 times around the course for 20 guineas, with each horse carrying a massive 18 stone. There were several other matches on the same day.

The Norwich Gazette of 1716 reported races taking place on Tuesday 12th June for a purse of 30 guineas. The next day there were cock fights for gents.

By 1718 Beccles Races had extended to 2 meetings. The first of the year was a two day meeting on 11th and 12th June. A second meeting took place on 8th July for a pair of Silver Spurs worth 30 shillings. The race was over 2 circuits of the course, for mares or geldings, and consisted of 3 heats. The second horse received a saddle, value 1 guinea, while the 3rd horse received the stakes. Entrants had to present themselves between 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock the day before to Mr Tobias Chandler who collected the stakes of half a crown.

The next occasion the Norwich Gazette reported a meeting taking place at Beccles was a two day meeting on Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th June 1721. By then Thomas Randall was Clerk of the Course. Wednesday race was for a purse of £10, whilst Thursday’s race was for £30. On both days the races were followed by cock fights.

By 1722 the races had become an extended social event. Races took place on 30th and 31st May with James Harris acting as Clerk of the Course. On each race day there was evening entertainment at the Great Barn. On Wednesday 30th May there were two comedies, Love Makes a man and Fop’s Fortune. On Thursday 31st May there was The Benny Stratagem, and on Friday 1st June there was The Wife’s Relief and The Husband’s Cure. Alternative entertainment was singing and dancing by Mr Tollett and Messers Roe and Baker from Norwich. For the first time actual horses and riders were mentioned, with the Black Galloway of John Fuller, from Pulham, taking on the Chestnut gelding of John Dickenson from Eye.

The Norwich Gazette continued to report that meetings took place annually at Beccles, often two day meetings, normally in June. By 1745 the meeting took place on Wednesday 19th and Thursday 20th June, the races were becoming even more organised, with organisers stipulating that ‘No horse to be entered to run that stands at any stable except where the owner has contributed to the Beccles Town Plate, and horses must be shod by a Beccles Blacksmith’. Entrants also had to pay 5 shillings towards repairing and roping the racecourse, while persons wishing to erect booths also had to pay.

The Racing Calendar of 1754 shows that Beccles held a one day May meeting and a 3 day June meeting.

May and June 1754

Monday 13th May 1754 a Match of 3 Heats for 49 pounds a side.
1st A grey owned by Captain Dickens
2nd A brown horse owned by Mr Long

Tuesday 18th June 1754 Hunters Stakes
1st Badsticks owned by Mr Maskill
2nd Smiling Molly owned by Mr Woodthorpe
3rd Doctor owned by Mr Blake

Wednesday 19th June 1754 A Give and Take Handicap
1st Speculist owned by Mr Stamford
2nd Mother Prat owned by Mr Wanley
3rd Shadow owned by Mr Alexander

Thursday 20th June 1754 Fifty Pounds Stakes
1st General owned by Lord Portmore
2nd Doctor owned by Mr Blake

The Racing Calendar of 1755 shows that Beccles held a two day meeting in June.

Tuesday 24th - Wednesday 25th June 1755

Tuesday 24th June 1755 A Hunters 50 pounds Stakes
1st Sturdy owned by Mr Meen
2nd Smiling Jenny owned by Mr Woodthorpe
3rd Lady Love Rule owned by Mr Dawson

Wednesday 25th June 1755 Fifty Pound race for non-Kings Plate winners
1st Ruby owned by Mr Keck
2nd Buff owned by Mr Doughty

The Racing Calendar of 1759 shows that a 2 day meeting took place on 26th and 27th June.

Tuesday 26th - Wednesday 27th June 1759

Tuesday 26th June 1759 For 4 year olds, run in heats twice round the course:-
1st Cat a bay filly owned by Mr Meridith 1st and 1st
2nd Weazel a bay colt owned by Mr Larkin 3rd and 2nd
3rd Young Shakespear a colt owned by Mr Maskill 2nd and wdr
4th Pinwire a colt owned by Mr Cook 4th and dnf

Wednesday 27th June 1759 a Weight For Age Handicap
1st Ill-Bred owned by Lord Portmore
2nd Queen Mab owned by Lord Orford
3rd Maggot owned by Mr Leath

Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th June 1762

Beccles 2 mile Purse
Notus owned by Sir C Sedley walked over

Beccles 2 mile Stakes
1. Phoenix owned by Mr Johnson
2. Unnamed horse owned by Mr Woodcock
3. Wolfe owned by Mr Keck

I am grateful to Mike Hicks for the Beccles race posters shown below. Below each are results sheets together with actual colours worn by the jockeys.

Tuesday 20th & Wednesday 21st July 1824

Beccles Cup Stakes over 2 miles 1 furlong
1. Isabella owned by Mr R Wilson
2. Unnamed filly sister to Schedam owned by Colonel Wilson
3. Furbisher owned by Lord Stradbroke

Beccles Gentlemen’s Purse over 2 and a half miles
1. Camilla owned by Mr T L Gooch
2. Apparition owned by Captain Cay

Beccles Town Plate over 2 and a half miles
1. Isabella owned by Mr R Wilson
2. Unnamed filly sister to Schedam owned by Colonel Wilson

James Whyte’s History of the British Turf notes that racing first took place at Beccles in 1802 and that the course, on which there were two handsome, commodious stands, is situated near the town and is extensive and well kept. Racing usually consisted of a two day meeting. Whyte records the end of September1839 races as:-
Beccles £80 Subscription Stakes;
Beccles £100 Subscription Stakes;

I am grateful to Clive Elliston for two maps he has provided. The first, from 1832, shows a general indication of where the racecourse stood on Beccles Common, whilst the second, from 1883, is his view of two possible positions of the actual course.

His excellent website about the History of Beccles is well worth a visit and a link is provided below.

www.bygone.wix.com/beccles

The final meeting took place on 9th September 1857
Course today Beccles Common
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:-

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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Volume 1 North of Hatfield £19.99 + £4 postage    
Volume 2 South of Hatfield £14.99 + £3 postage    
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Volume 4 Ireland £9.99 + £3 postage    
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