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Earliest meeting: Wednesday 31st August 1836
Latest meeting: Wednesday 24th November 1847
The wonderfully picturesque Buckinghamshire villages of Brill and Dorton lie close to the Oxfordshire border and were once part of Oxfordshire. Brill is situated 11 kilometres South-East of Bicester, and Dorton lies just 3 miles from Brill. Brill has a rich history, the name Brill being a combination of Brythonic and Anglo-Saxon words for Hill, namely breg and hyll, and in the reign of Edward The Confessor it was known as Bruhella. The village has a Royal Charter to hold weekly markets, although these have not taken place for some considerable time. The Church of All Saints dates back to the 12th century. The manor of Brill was the administrative centre for the royal hunting held in the Forest of Bernwode. However, it seems appropriate that the two villages held a combined race meeting in the mid-1800s. The nearby village of Dorton lies in the west of Buckinghamshire some 8 kilometres north of the market town of Thame. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 when recorded as Dortone, and in the 13th century it changed to Durtone. The manor of Dorton was held by Alric during the reign of Edward the Confessor. The small village also contains Dorton House which is a Grade I listed Jacobean mansion which is now a school close to the Parish Church of Saint John the Evangelist.

The original idea for a race at Brill and Dorton was mooted by Mr Parsons, a brewer and landlord of the Spa Hotel in Brill. He advertised a Sweepstakes of 10 sovereigns each over 4 miles of fair hunting ground, each horse to carry 12 stones but with conditions applied for weight allowances. Entries were to be made at the Spa Hotel by Saturday 20th November 1847, with the race scheduled for Wednesday 24th November 1847. A second race of 2 sovereigns per entry was also advertised, open to horses hunted in Berkshire, Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire or used in the cavalry, requiring at least 6 entries for it to take place. In the event neither of the two races were sufficiently subscribed to take place, and so the landlord adjusted the conditions to ensure a race took place.

The start was from the Brill Kiln Ground by the Spa Hotel, across Moor’s Hill heading for Chilton; across a plantation with Watson’s Hill to the left; on a straight line past the village of Dorton to the left; to the centre of How Wood in a line for Wotton; around some new buildings on the edge of the Wood and back straight towards the Spa Hotel, finishing over a flight of topped hurdles near to the Spa Hotel starting point.

The race was described as Clinker having it all his own way from the start. At the fifth fence Toney Weller fell, and had other mishaps in the race. Clinker came in at a canter and won by 20 lengths from The Sluggard, who raced hard for second with Toney Weller and prevailed by a length. As a result of his fall, Toney Weller’s jockey Yates was much shaken and his thigh hurt by the horse stepping on him.
Brill & Dorton Steeplechase 15 Sovereigns Race over 4 miles, 3 Sovereigns to enter
1. Clinker, a bay gelding owned by Mr G Symond and ridden by Barker
2. The Sluggard, a chestnut gelding owned by Mr Carter and ridden by Burnester
3. Toney Weller, bay gelding owned by Mr Dewe and ridden by Yates

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.

Mr Parsons, landlord of the Spa Hotel

Principal races Brill 15 Sovereigns Steeplechase
Course today Still remains glorious countryside which is predominantly common land, overlooked by a Mill, for all to enjoy.

As well as a course running between Brill and Dorton, promoted and supported predominantly by Brill residents, there was also a meeting which took place between Brill and Ludgershall, billed in the Bucks Herald as 'Ludgershall Races' but supported by Brill residents and Landlords. The exact location of the course followed is not known, and the paper did not subsequently publish the results from the meeting. However, the newspaper extract below, shown courtesy of the Bucks Herald and British Newspaper Online, reveals that there was a tragic outcome to the meeting staged on Wednesday 31st August 1836.

The Following article was in the Bell’s Life and Sporting Chronicle, produced courtesy of British Newspaper Archives Online.

The Following article was in the Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, produced courtesy of British Newspaper Archives Online.

Race details are taken from the Oxford Journal of Saturday 27th November 1847, produced courtesy of British Newspaper Archives Online.

Article from the Bucks Herald, produced courtesy of British Newspaper Archives Online.

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette Saturday 27th November 1847, produced courtesy of British Newspaper Archives Online.

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

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

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 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    
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