HARROGATE RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: 1793
Final meeting: Monday 3rd November 1856
The earliest record of racing taking place in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate was in 1793 on a course laid out by Colonel Clement Wolsley, although it is known that racing of a sort did take place prior to this date. Blind Jack Metcalfe, a notorious 18th Century gambler, reported that he had placed bets on races held at Harrogate in 1730 and throughout the 1740s. No race details were given, but the course, with a mile and a quarter circumference and breadth 16 yards, was described as a pleasant and profitable place to pass the time. The course was in Higher Harrogate, with the thirsty punters well served by the Queen Hotel and Granby Hotel. The first occasion when race results were generally recorded from the town was at the two day meeting on 23rd and 24th July 1849 on a racecourse located in the centre of the town on 200 acres of open parkland called The Stray. There was then a lapse of 3 years before racing returned in October 1852 with such success that the number of meetings doubled to include a June meeting. However, success was short-lived, and the final meeting took place on Tuesday 10th July 1855, closing with the Innkeepers’ Handicap Plate in which Menzir was successful.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Colonel Reynard, Mr H Stebbing, Mr J Gill
Principal Races Harrogate Stakes, Harrogate Sweepstakes, Harrogate Hunters' Stakes, Harrogate Grandstand Stakes

Monday 23rd & Tuesday 24th July 1849

Harrogate Stakes over 1 ½ miles
1. Present owned by Mr H Stebbing and trained in nearby Hambleton

Harrogate Hunters’ Stakes
1. King Pippin owned by Colonel Reynard

Harrogate Sweepstakes over 1 ½ miles
1. Lady I Am Off owned by Mr J Gill

Monday 9th & Tuesday 10th July 1855

The Harrogate Handicap Stakes over 1 ½ miles
1. The Rajah owned by Mr Knowles
2. Phoenix owned by Mr Menzie
3. Cardsharper owned by Mr Bennett

The Harrogate Grandstand Stakes over 6 furlongs
1. St Mark owned by Mr Masterman
2. Unnamed filly by Faugh-a-Ballagh owned by Mr Morris
3. Notre Dame owned by Mr W Baron

The Consolation Handicap Stakes over a mile
1. Maid of the Tees owned by Mr E Gill
2. Lady of the Lodge owned by Mr Cooke
3. St Mark owned by Mr Masterman

Shown below is a map of the Racecourse in 1846. Zoom in to enlarge.

Monday 3rd November 1856
Harrogate Handicap Hurdle twice round and 4 flights
1. Prodigal, brown horse owned by Mr Groves
2. Slender Billy, grey horse owned by Mr Clark
3. Harry, chestnut horse owned by Mr Jones

There was then a lapse of 3 years before racing returned in October 1852 (see link to newspaper reports below) and it was such a success that the number of meetings doubled to include a June meeting. Success was short-lived, and the final meeting took place on Tuesday 10th July 1855. No evidence of the old course on the Stray remains, although a picture of the ground is shown below.

Friday 8th October 1852

Saturday 9th October 1852

Thursday 23rd June 1853

I am grateful to Eloise Flint for the plan on tracing paper shown below. It was a Deed of Enfranchisement dated 4th October 1887 and formed part of the title deeds of a property on Wheatlands Road.

Course today

At one side of the Racecourse was Christchurch which was built in 1831 and is shown above. At the top end of the Racecourse was St John's Well, shown above, which was built in 1631.
The Racecourse was on The Stray and a plaque marks this vast area of parkland. The Prince of Wales had runners at the races and a plaque marks the glorious Prince of Wales Mansion Building on the edge of The Stray. Crowds at the races were boosted when the Brunswick Railway Station opened on the York Midland Railway line in 1848. Maybe the heyday of racing in Harrogate was in the late 1840s and mid 1850s.
Serving thirsty punters at the entrance to the Racecourse was the Queen Hotel and a plaque marks its entrance today. However, the hotel is now the Cedar Court Hotel.

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 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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