Carlisle Racecourse History

The earliest record of racing at Carlisle was in 1559 when the famous Carlisle gold bell, donated by Lady Dacre, was presented for the first time. The Large Bell is inscribed 'The sweftes horse thes bel to tak for mi lade Daker sake' which translates as ‘The Swiftest horse this bell to take for my lady Dacre's sake’. A second, small bell is inscribed 1599 HBMC which is believed to stand for the Mayor of Carlisle at this time, Henry Baines. However, the next reference to races in the area was in 1619 when a meeting took place on the Kingsmoor (Kynges Moor) course. Records are then patchy, although races were staged at The Swifts in 1746, and by 1773 two meetings were taking place each year, one of them extending to a four day festival. The public’s interest waned by 1839 and the King’s Plate, which originally had a prize of 200 Guineas, was halved in value. This decline continued, with only 31 horses contesting the races throughout 1864, despite the introduction of the railway. The new course at Blackhall opened on Tuesday 28th June 1904 but was not an instant success, as indicated by the newspaper extract shown below, and was offered for sale in 1906. However, a white knight arrived in the form of Sir Loftus Bates. Between 1906 and 1914 the course was saved when he formed a company, together with Charles Henderson and George Todd, and was able to negotiate with the Railway Company to ensure that trains offered excursions with favourable fares to help boost attendances. Fortunately the course was on a firmer financial footing by 1914, although it closed during the war years. In 1929 Carlisle made a bid to become the first course to operate a Tote on 2nd July 1929. However, they were foiled when Newmarket ran their first race 15 minutes before the first at Carlisle. In 1946 Sir Loftus Bates, who had done so much to forward the cause of racing in the north, and who had been a Clerk of the Course at Carlisle, handed the responsibility of taking the course forward to Kit Patterson. Currently Carlisle has 19 meetings scheduled between May and December.

Carlisle continues to thrive today, whereas nearby Kendal closed its gates for the final time in 1882.

The Cumberland and Westmorland town of Kendal first held races on a new course to the west of the town in 1821. The 3 day meeting began on Tuesday 7th August, although racegoers would have been disappointed by a walk-over and a Maiden Plate. However, they would have been happier on Wednesday 8th August because the Kendal Gold Cup was won by Lord Queensberry’s Miss Syntax and the Kendal Town Plate went to Miss Wiks. The course was situated on Fisher’s Plain, at the foot of the local Scout Scar, and welcomed an immense crowd for the third day of the meeting on Thursday 9th August. The final meeting took place on 20th May 1834, although racing returned to the town for a two year period from 1879-82. The meetings between 1879 and 1882 were National Hunt meetings offering both Flat and Hurdle races, each over 2 miles. The curtain finally came down on Kendal races in 1882 when Mr C J Cunningham celebrated with a treble, scoring with Central Fire and Lindisfarne twice.

Wednesday 8th August 1821
Kendal Town Plate over 2 miles
1. Miss Wilks, a bay filly owned by Mr T Hutchinson
2. Creeping Kate, a bay mare owned by Mr Blizard
3. Miss Syntax, a bay mare owned by Lord Queensberry

I am grateful to Ordnance Survey (© Crown Copyright) for permission to use the map shown below.
1952 Gents 1954 Gents 1955 Gents 1956 Gents 1957 Gents
1958 Gents 1959 Gents 1960 Gents 1961 Gents 1962 Gents
The front cover/ principal races from this rare racecard are provided courtesy of the Robert Shaw collection.
1963 Gents 1964 Gents 1965 Gents 1966 Gents 1967 Gents

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

1979 Member 1980 Member 1981 Member 1982 Member 1983 Member
1984 Member 1985 Member 1986 Member 1987 Member 1988 Member
1989 Member 1990 Ladies 1990 Gents 1991 Gents 1992 Gents
1992 Ladies 1993 Gents 1993 Ladies 1994 Ladies 1994 Gents
1995 Ladies 1996 Gents 1996 Ladies 1997 Ladies 1997 Gents
1998 Ladies 1999 Gents 1999 Ladies 2000 Ladies 2000 Gents
2001 Ladies 2001 Gents 2002 Ladies 2003 Member 2004 Member
2005 Member 2006 Member 2007 Member 2008 Member 2009 Member
2010 Member 2011 Member 2012 Member 2014 Member 2016 Member

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

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