HAVERFORDWEST RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Tuesday 30th August 1768
Final meeting: Thursday 11th April 1901

The earliest recorded race meeting to take place in Haverfordwest, the county town of Pembrokeshire, was in 1768 when a two day meeting was held on Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st August.  On the first day the Purse was won by Mr Wilkin’s bay horse Lofty after two heats, defeating Rambridge and Nonpareil, while the next day a Hunter’s Plate saw Mr Bowen’s Garret beat Brown Charlotte. After a day off for hunting on the Thursday, the Town Purse was scheduled to take place on Friday but only two horses entered, each being awarded five Guineas. The Bath Chronicle provided a detailed report of the meeting held on Tuesday 29th June 1773 ‘to cater for gentry pursuits’ on Portfield, or Poorfield, a large area of common land just outside the town. A few days prior to the meeting subscribers had to meet at the Castle Inn in the town to register their entries; the Inn also played host on the day of the races by providing Ordinaries. Celebrations at that inaugural meeting extended over a 5 day period to include three days of horse racing, a boat race and a yacht race. The principal race at that early meeting, the Hunters Purse, was won by Mr Bowen’s chestnut gelding Garret, getting the better of Crab and Childers. Meetings continued for almost 40 years until a three day event from Monday 10th to Wednesday 12th August 1812. The meeting opened with a four mile all-age Handicap which was won by Mr Powell’s Ad-Libitum from Kill Devil owned by Mr Colby. The next day the four mile race was restricted to horses bred in Wales, with Mr Batine’s Surprize springing a surprise against the more fancied Mountain Lass. The festival concluded on the Wednesday with a Free Plate sponsored by Mr Campbell which provided Ad-Libitum with a second victory at the meeting. By 1829 the meeting moved to a new location bisected by the B4327 Dale Road; the former racecourse was later taken over by the Cricket Club, the oldest Cricket Club in Wales founded in 1824. The initial two day meeting, staged from Wednesday 26th to Thursday 27th August 1829, opened with the Tradesmen’s Plate run in 2 mile heats. Only two heats were required before Mr Lucas’s The Deuce was declared the winner. The remainder of the two day meeting was dominated by Mr Allies brown 6 year old Sailor, winning the County Members’ Plate on the Wednesday; the Plate sponsored by local MP Sir R B P Phillips, the Orielton Stakes over three and a half miles, and the concluding one mile Handicap Sweepstakes. There was then a prolonged, continuous spell of racing which ended in 1845, although results towards the end of this period were not included in the Racing Calendars. Racing was revived for a single year in 1862 when a meeting took place on Thursday 20th November 1862, opening with the Town Plate when Mr Powell’s Biscuit defeated, amongst others, Gingerbread. The Handicap was won by Mr Yates’ Southampton and the Farmers’ Stakes by Mr G Thomas’s Freshwater. Both Flat and National Hunt racing were revived between 1887 and 1901 at a much improved Portfield course, although they were often billed as ‘Pembrokeshire Hunt’, the very last meeting to be staged on Portfield Common was on Thursday 11th April 1901.
This racecourse is covered in Volume 3 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Lord Kensington, Sir William Mansel
Principal Races Haverfordwest Silver Cup, Town Plate, Picton Stakes, Orielton Stakes

Tuesday 29th June 1773
Haverfordwest Hunters Purse
1. Garret, chestnut gelding owned by Mr Bowen
2. Crab, owned by Sir William Mansel
3. Childers, owned by Mr Thomas

Tuesday 29th June 1773 Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette Thursday 15th July 1773

29th July 1776 Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 1st August 1776

Monday 28th to Thursday 31st July 1794

Haverfordwest 3 Mile Plate
1. Unnamed horse by Hyder Ally owned by Lord Kensington
2. Silver Spoon owned by Mr Jones
3. Juliet owned by Mr Roberts

Haverfordwest Free Plate over 4 miles
1. Adventurer owned by Mr Colby
2. Pastor owned by Mr Campbell

Haverfordwest Hunters Stakes over 3 miles
1. Unnamed horse by Hyder Ally owned by Lord Kensington
2. Harlequin owned by Mr Vaughan
3. Cadet owned by Mr Colby

Tuesday 19th October , Thursday 21st October & Saturday 30th October 1824

Haverfordwest Hunters Stakes over a mile
1. Jane owned by Mr Gwyther
2. Trooper owned by Mr J Davies

Haverfordwest Members Plate over the St Leger course
1. Jane owned by Mr Gwyther
2. St Govin owned by Mr Peel

Haverfordwest Silver Cup Handicap Stakes over 2 miles
1. Fiddlededee owned by Mr B Davies
2. Hope owned by Mr Hazard

James Whyte’s History of the British Turf notes that racing first took place at Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire, in 1773 and racing usually consisted of a two day meeting in early August. By 1839 the meeting had moved from Portfield, or Poorfield, a large area of common land just outside the town to the Dle Road. Whyte records the August 1839 races as:-
The Pembrokeshire Stakes;
Haverfordwest Town Plate;

Extract from Bell’s Life and Sporting Chronicle of Sunday 30th November 1862

The final meeting took place on 20th November 1862, although it is thought that both Flat and National Hunt racing was revived in 1887 thorugh to 1901. Certainly a meeting on 2nd and 3rd April 1891 was advertised in the sporting papers.

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

Course today Despite the final meeting taking place over 150 years ago. a significant amount of the racecourse is still visible today. Pictures of the course are shown below.
A wonderful set of gates mark the entrance to the course.
Was this the finishing straight and, if so, where was the grandstand?
Was this the circular part of the course or just a viewing area?
Today the main road divides the two sections of the course. However, this would probably have been the final bend leading into the finishing straight.
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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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    
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