NORTHAMPTON RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Monday 9th April 1632
Final meeting: Thursday 31st March 1904
The first recorded meeting at the Northamptonshire county town of Northampton took place in 1632 when races were inaugurated by the Corporation of Northampton and held on Harlestone Heath annually each Easter.  If that is the case then it was likely they took place on Monday 9th April 1632, although this is only speculation. At these early races the Corporation donated a silver-gilt cup which, at the time, was valued at £16 13s 4d.  The next time a meeting was recorded in the town was on Thursday 11th April 1672 when the Northampton Silver Cup was won by Lord Sherard’s horse which defeated Sir W Hazlewood’s selected gelding and Lord Cullen’s horse which fell. A further Michaelmas meeting took place that year on Saturday 14th September 1672. It was not until 1728 that Baily’s Racing Register first provided detailed results from races held at Northampton. The meeting on Saturday 25th September 1728 saw the £15 Selling Plate go to Mr Cole’s Sooty Don, while the £40 Plate was won by Mr Bertie’s Lady Thigh. By 1834 a new period of racing in the town began, the track staging the Northampton Steeplechase, one of the premier chases in the country at this time, which on Friday 4th April 1834 was won by Captain Lamb’s Vivian ridden by the infamous Captain Becher. Five years later, in August 1839 the track was hosting some of the most prestigious Flat races in the calendar, including Her Majesty’s Plate for 100 Guineas. New grandstands were erected in 1844 and the track began to lose its dubious reputation as being a site for public executions. Despite hosting extremely important races, the course was unenclosed and on common ground. This meant that all and sundry could wander where they pleased, making the course a dangerous place for horses, riders and spectators. There were many occasions when horses fell, or were brought down by incidents with spectators, and it concerned the racing authorities. The final two day flat meeting took place on Wednesday 30th and Thursday 31st March 1904 when racing was marred by the fatal accident of one of the spectators. The course remains for all to see, to walk over and to enjoy, but races no longer take place in Northampton.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Lord Spencer, Lord Essex, Lord Craven, Lord Cullen, Lord Sherard, Honorable William Howe, Sir E.O'Brien, Sir W Hazlewood
Principal Races Northampton Corporation Silver Cup, Gold Cup

11th April 1672

Northampton Silver Cup
1. unnamed horse owned by Lord Sherard
Also unnamed horse owned by Sir W Hazlewood
Also unnamed horse owned by Mr Digby
Also unnamed horse owned by Lord Cullen fell.

Also in 1672 a further Michaelmas meeting took place on 14th September 1672.

Baily’s Racing Register first provided detailed results from races held at Northampton in 1728. The meeting was held in September and the results are shown below.

Saturday 25th September 1728

Northampton £15 Selling Plate
1. Sooty Dun owned by Mr Cole
2. Miss Tippet owned by Mr Wilson
3. Last-time-of-asking owned by Mr Fauquier
4. Bay Motte owned by Lord Essex

Northampton £40 Plate
1. Lady Thigh owned by Mr Bertie
2. Polly Peachum owned by Mr Fauquier
3. Macheath owned by Sir E. O’Brien

Tuesday 7th to Wednesday 8th September 1762

Northampton 2 mile Weight for Age Handicap
1. Cuckold owned by Mr Lenton
2. Rockatina owned by Mr Egerton
3. Squirril owned by Mr Adams

Northampton 2 mile Purse
1. Valiant owned by Lord Craven
2. Peggy owned by Honorable William Howe
3. Aesop owned by Mr Panton
This was an action packed race in which Peggy won the first heat, Valiant the second, then in the deciding heat Peggy was brought down by a loose horse.

Wednesday 15th September to Thursday 16th September 1824

Northampton Gold Cup over 3 miles
1. Isabella owned by Mr R Wilson
2. Vision owned by Mr Gray
3. Unnamed filly by Orville owned by Mr Dodington

Northampton County Plate over a mile 1 furlong
1. Triumph owned by Mr Sadler
2. Blunder owned by Mt T Scaith
3. Vargus owned by Mr Messer

James Whyte’s History of the British Turf notes that Northampton racecourse was oval and a mile and a half in circumference, with a strong hill after 6 furlongs but a straight run in for the final 4 furlongs. Whyte records the August 1839 races as:-
Her Majesty’s Plate for 100 Guineas;
Northampton Town Members Plate for £50.

The scan above, donated by Richard English, shows the members badge once owned by Honourable Captain Lord Spencer, Princess Diana's Great Grandfather.

Richard has also donated the scans shown below.

Racecourse circa 1905 Racecourse buildings circa 1954

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

A National Hunt meeting was held on 15th March 1907.

Course today Initially on Harlestone Heath, then on Dallington Heath and Freeman’s Common.

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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