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Earliest meeting: Monday 16th May 1853
Final meeting: Saturday 5th July 1884
The earliest record of racing in the Yorkshire town of Halifax was in 1853 when a meeting was held at West Hill Park on Monday 16th May 1853 beginning with the Hopeful Stakes. Racing continued at this course, and at maybe as many as 11 further ‘courses’ in the vicinity of Halifax, for the next 25 years. One such course, Belle Vue Racecourse, was on land between Wheatley, Ovenden Valley and Sowerby Bridge. However, it was not until 1878 that a local paper, The Leeds Intelligencer, reported that a company, The Halifax and Calder Vale Agricultural Steeplechase and Racing Company Limited, was formed with the sole purpose of providing the inhabitants of Halifax with a racecourse of its own. They leased land at Highroad Well, situated about 1 ½ miles from the town centre, which had previously included Belle Vue Racecourse. They appointed Mr Dawson and Mr Johnson to act as Clerks of the Course, and Mr J E Foster was the Secretary of the New Course. This new course was at Norton Tower and was a mile in circumference and spread over 90 acres. The course cost £12,000 to complete, but could boast a Gothic style Grandstand which could house up to 1,000 people. A special viewing of the new course was held on Tuesday 5th February 1878 to ensure that facilities were up to scratch. The inaugural race meeting, a two day affair, was held on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th August 1878 and was attended by an estimated crowd of 20,000. Whilst racing was very popular in Halifax, and the racecourse drew very large crowds, there was significant opposition to racing from some quarters, notably the church. The local vicar, Reverend Enoch Mellor, the Pastor of Square Congregational Church, resented racing in the area and stirred up locals through a sermon he delivered in 1879. The racecourse company was summoned to account for the illegal gambling that was taking place on the racecourse; opposition grew and the company was hit with heavy fines. Although meetings did continue for a further 5 years, crowd sizes gradually reduced as opposition increased. The final meeting, a two day affair, was held on Friday 4th & Saturday 5th of July 1884, and the racing was so poor that only two runners contested the Elland Hunters Selling Stakes, before the final race, the Beacon Handicap. The meeting was no longer financially viable and the inevitable happened. The Grandstand and racing equipment were auctioned by Messers. Davis & Shoesmith and raised £2,225, whilst the jockey’s scales went to the nearby racecourse of Thirsk. The land was then used by locals to play the game Knur and Spell, which used a ball and some clubs. Therefore, it seemed a natural progression for the land to be sold in 1906 to the West End Golf Club, which has operated on The Racecourse, Paddock Lane successfully ever since.

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

Prince Soltykoff, Marquess of Hartington, Duke of Montrose, Viscount Helmsley, Viscount Lascelles, Sir H Edwards, Sir George Armytage, Captain Inge, Right Honourable James Lowther

Principal Races

Halifax Cup, Beacon Welter Handicap, Calder Vale Handicap, Savile Park Plate

Monday 16th May 1853
The Hopeful Stakes over 1 mile
1. Ithanic, 6 year old owned by Mr Consitt
2. Guardsman, bay horse owned by Mr Lamplugh
3. Acomb, black horse owned by Mr William Scaife

Thursday 8th & Friday 9th August 1878

Halifax Inaugural Plate
1. Nutboy ridden by Fagan
The winner received a gold mounted whip for riding the first winner at the new racecourse.
Halifax Cup
1. Knight Templar & Pilchard dead heated for first place

Course today

Initially at West Hill Park and then at many other locations. The Grandstand and racing equipment were auctioned by Messers. Davis & Shoesmith and raised £2,225, whilst the jockey’s scales went to the nearby racecourse of Thirsk. The land was then used by locals to play the game Knur and Spell, which used a ball and some clubs. It seemed a natural progression for the land to be sold to a Golf Club in 1906, and the West End Golf Club, The Racecourse, Paddock Lane has operated successfully ever since.

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.
Download an order form
  Quantity Cost
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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Email order form to johnwslusar@gmail.com