BUNGAY RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Thursday 6th May 1755
Final meeting: Monday 29th May 1939
The first recorded meeting in the tiny Suffolk town of Bungay took place on Tuesday 6th May 1755, when a 10 mile race for a 50 guineas purse was won by Mr Lewis with his bay mare, defeating Mr Boyce’s grey mare. However, there are indications that races might have been staged prior to this date. Racing then lapsed before returning on Monday 17th September 1827 on the racecourse on Bungay Common, to the West of the town, with the course being described as extensive and undulating. It seems that the meetings were annual events held each September to coincide with local fairs, possibly Harvest celebrations, given that it was a farming community, and included Ordinaries at the Kings Head. The Kings Head is still at the heart of the community today but was first opened by John Walby in 1632. It has witnessed numerous significant events in almost 400 years since it opened, notably a great fire which almost destroyed it in 1688, and the hosting of a Coronation celebration for George III in 1761. Only Flat racing took place at Bungay during this time, and those meetings ceased by the early 1850’s, but in 1888 the Bungay Racing Committee was formed, under the direction of Captain Boycott, with the express aim to provide National Hunt racing in Bungay. The course was laid out on a 1 mile 5 furlong course on Bungay Common which was enclosed and later had a grandstand erected. The first meeting took place on Tuesday 24th April 1888 and racing continued until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. After the War ended racing returned to Bungay in 1920, and by 1921 the meeting was extended to a second day. Whilst the Race Committee had ambitious plans to increase the number of days racing in the town, the crowds were never large and the number of meetings gradually decreased. The final meeting took place on Monday 29th May 1939 and the very last race to be staged at the course was the Eastern Counties Open Hunters Chase which was won by El Raljo ridden by Mr F Barclay. Further leases were taken on the racecourse and it was used for point-to-point races until the late 1950’s. The course was then dismantled and the grandstand taken down, with the ground being returning to common land.

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

Captain Charles Boycott, Colonel Wilson, Captain Elton

Principal Races

Berkley Open Hunters Chase, Eastern Counties Open Hunters Chase, Bungay 50 Sovereign Plate, Bungay 25 Sovereign Sweepstakes, Bungay Hunters Stakes

 

Tuesday 6th May 1755 Bungay 50 Guineas 10 mile Race
1. Bay mare owned by Mr Lewis
2. Grey mare owned by Mr Boyce

Wednesday 22nd July 1829

Bungay 50 Sovereign Plate
1. Little-Go owned by Colonel Wilson
2. Screw-Driver owned by Mr Pedgrift

Bungay 25 Sovereign Sweepstakes
1. Bungay Lass owned by Colonel Wilson
2. Mildew owned by Mr Pedgrift
3. Scarecrow owned by Captain Elton

Bungay Hunters Stakes over 2 miles & 3 hurdles
1. Mystery owned by Mr Webb
2. Fair Helen owned by Mr Palmer
3. Tristram owned by Mr Pierson

Only Flat racing took place at Bungay during this time, and those meetings seem to have ceased by the early 1850’s, but in 1888 the Bungay Racing Committee was formed, under the direction of Captain Boycott, with the express aim to provide National Hunt racing in Bungay. The course was laid out on a 1 mile 5 furlong course on Bungay Common which was enclosed and later had a grandstand erected. The first meeting took place on Tuesday 24th April 1888 and racing continued until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

After the War ended racing returned to Bungay in 1920, and by 1921 the meeting was extended to a second day. Whilst the Race Committee had ambitious plans to increase the number of days racing in the town, the crowds were never large and the number of meetings gradually decreased.

The final meeting took place on 29th May 1939 and the very last race to be staged at the course was the Eastern Counties Open Hunters Chase which was won by El Raljo ridden by Mr F Barclay.

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

Course today

Further leases were taken on the racecourse and it was used for point-to-point races until the late 1950’s. The course was then dismantled and the grandstand taken down, with the ground being returned to common land.

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    
Volume 3 Wales & Scotland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 4 Ireland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volumes 1 - 4 £54.96 + £5 postage    
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