TAVISTOCK RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Monday 29th May 1780
Final meeting: Wednesday 6th May 1857
Tavistock, on the River Tavy, is a market town in West Devon which dates back to AD 961 when Tavistock Abbey was founded. The ruins of the Abbey are a focal point in the town centre today. In 1780 the town held its first race meeting on Whitchurch Down on Monday 29th May 1780 when a 4 mile Sweepstakes was won by Pistol, owned by Major O’Kelly, who beat Venus and Nonsuch. Meetings were held, on and off, for the next 77 years with the highlight each year being the Tavistock Gold Cup. At the 2 day meeting on Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th August 1824 the Gold Cup and important Tavistock Plate were won by an unnamed colt by Anticipation owned by Mr King. The 2 mile oval course was still on Whitchurch Down, a little hilly but the last three-quarters of a mile was straight and level. The final 2 day meeting was held on Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th May 1857 when the Tavistock Steeplechase was won by Mr Deacon’s Egbert. However, meetings continued to be held at the same course well into the 20th century, but were not under rules and contained pony races and Hunters point to point races.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 2 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons

Sir J Buller, Sir W Trelawny, Colonel Gilbert

Principal Races Gold Cup, Endsleigh Stakes, Whitchurch Stakes, Mount Tavy Stakes

Tuesday 17th August to Wednesday 18th August 1824

Tavistock Gold Cup over 2 miles
1. Unnamed filly by Anticipation owned by Mr King
2. Grasshopper owned by Mr Trelawney
3. Grimace owned by Mr Worth

Endsleigh Stakes over 2 miles
1. Viscount owned by Mr Crapp
2. Miss Warwick owned by Mr F S wallis

Tavistock Plate over 2 miles 1 furlong
1. Unnamed filly by Anticipation
2. Viscount owned by Mr Crapp
3. Eglantine owned by Mr Taunton

Tuesday 1st May 1838

Mount Tavy Stakes over 2 miles
1. Mustapha owned by Mr Taunton
2. Wrestler owned by Sir J Buller
3. Great O owned by Sir W Trelawny

James Whyte’s History of the British Turf records the May 1839 races as being run on an oval course of two miles circumference, a little hilly but the last ¾ of a mile straight and level.

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

The final meeting was held on Wednesday 6th May 1857.

Course today A 2 mile oval course on Whitchurch Down with 6 furlong straight, about 1 ½ miles from the town.
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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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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