BISHOP AUCKLAND RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Monday 3rd March 1662
Final meeting: Tuesday 12th May 1863
Racing first took place in the Durham town of Bishop Auckland as early as Monday 3rd March 1662 when the meeting was on Hunwicke (sic) Moor at Hunwick-Edge. Whilst the names of the horses are not mentioned, their owners and jockeys are. Mr Davidsons ‘little nag’ was ridden by Mr Bricknell against a horse owned by Captain Darcy, although the result was not specified. By the early 1700s such was the popularity of the races that a 4 day meeting took place each April. Baily’s Racing Register began including results from Bishop Auckland when the Plate was won by Mr Gallant’s Smiling Tom on 2nd July 1728. The Racing Calendar of 1751 was undertaken by Reginald Heber following the death of John Cheney who had initiated the project many years earlier, and he records results from a four day meeting in 1751, with entries having to be made by 4th April. By 1753 the races were extended to include a three day meeting each October as well as the annual four day April meeting, occasionally alternating between Byers Green Moor to the north east of the town, and Etherly Moor to the west. Crowd sizes began to decline and the meeting arranged in October 1754 gave an indication of the difficulties of staging races in the town. On 13th October, despite offering a £50 prize, there were no takers, so the meeting was rescheduled to 31st October when, once again, there were no takers. There are limited records of any successful meetings taking place between 1756 and 1769 as it appears that the gentry had withdrawn their support. This led to a vacuum which was filled with undesirables taking control of meetings and eventually a programme of flapping races. An attempt was made in 1862 to revive racing under rules, and a meeting did take on Tuesday 12th May 1863, after which racing ceased for good.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Duke of Cleveland, Lord Effingham, Colonel John Lambton, Captain Chaloner
Principal Races Bishop Auckland Plate, Bishop Auckland 20 Guineas Prize

Friday 2nd July 1728

Four Year Old Plate for 15 Guineas
1. Smiling Tom owned by Mr Gallant
2. Polly Peachum owned by Mr Croft
3. Stroker owned by Mr Byerly

Friday 9th April to Monday 12th April 1751

Bishop Auckland 20 Guineas Prize
1. Thompson’s Fancy owned by Mr Arundall
2. Charming Nancy owned by Captain Chaloner

Four Year Old Maidens Prize of £50 over 3 miles
1. Stripling owned by Mr Hutton
2. Samson owned by Mr Hall
3. Oralana owned by Colonel John Lambton

Wednesday 11th April to Friday 13th April 1753

Bishop Auckland Plate over 3 miles
1. Letter of Marque owned by Mr Settlington and ridden by Badger

Thursday 12th April 1753
Auckland £50 Plate
over 4 miles
1. Flora owned by Mr Cornforth

Friday 13th April 1753
Bishop Auckland £50 Plate
over 2 miles
Jessamy owned by Mr Shafto

Racing continued throughout the late 1700’s and by the early 1800’s its popularity was waning. The course finally closed in 1816 and the Railway Station was built on the land.

An attempt was made in 1862 to revive racing in the town and a meeting did take place, but by 1863 racing in Bishop Auckland ceased on Tuesday 12th May 1863.

Course today The course finally closed in 1816 and the Railway Station was built on the land, although racing was revived briefly in 1863.
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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