WAKEFIELD RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Wednesday 21st August 1678
Final meeting: Wednesday 21st February 1849
The first evidence of racing at Wakefeld was in 1678 on the third Wednesday in August. It took place on The Ings near to Law Hill. However, once gentlemen landowners laid claim to The Ings the racecourse was relocated to Outwood, a course of about 2 miles round. It became established and a grandstand was built from subscriptions from supporters who were given life membership badges, but racing only lasted until 1794. There was a lull in organised meetings until 1847 when the Wakefield Grand National was launched by the Earl of Strathmore. It was contested over a 4 mile course, consisting of 53 fences, starting at Sandal Castle, but lasted for just 2 more years, with the final meeting on Wednesday 21st February 1849.

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

Earl of Strathmore, Lord Effingham, Sir G Armytage, Honourable J S Barry

Principal Races Wakefield Grand National, Wakefield Hunters Subscription Stakes, Wakefield Handicap Plate
14th to 16th June 1762

Wakefield 4 mile Purse
1. Squib owned by Honorable J S Barry
2. Saffron owned by Mr Preston
3. Tranquillo owned by Mr Wilbraham

Monday 8th to Wednesday 10th September 1794

Wakefield Hunters Subscription Stakes over 4 miles
1. Wentworth owned by Mr Lee
2. Little John owned by Sir G Armytage
3. Looby owned by Mr Reece

Wakefield Handicap Plate over 2 miles
1. Hornet owned by Mr Crompton
2. Champion owned by Mr Wentworth
3. Briar owned by Mr Hutchinson

There was a lull until 1847 when the Wakefield Grand National was launched by the Earl of Strathmore. It was run over a 4 mile course, consisting of 53 fences, starting at Sandal Castle but lasted for just 2 more years, with the final meeting on 21st Februray 1849.

The extract shown below is for the meeting held on Monday 27th December 1847 and is taken from the Morning Post of Wednesday 29th December 1847

Monday 27th December 1847
Wakefield Grand National over 4 miles and 53 fences
1. Proceed, 11 st 4 lbs owned by Mr Maddock
2. Sailor, 10 st 2 lbs owned by Mr S Mason jnr.
3. Langley Lass, 10 st 2 lbs owned by Mr Surtees

I am grateful to Martin Dolby for the photograph shown below which was taken on the Outwood Industrial Estate in Wakefield and is the only remaining evidence of the previous existence of a racecourse in Wakefield.

I am grateful to Richard Lowther who provided the following article from the Wakefield Express of September 1924.
LAST RELIC OF WAKEFIELD RACES GONE.
DEMOLITION OF OLD GRANDSTAND AT OUTWOOD.
THE HAUNT OF ‘THE GREEN LADY OF LAWNS’.
RACES DISCONTINUED ON PASSING OF THE WAKEFIELD INCLOSURE ACT.

No longer will ‘The Green Lady of Lawns’ nightly walk the topmost terrace of the old Grandstand on Wakefield’s long-forgotten racecourse at the Outwood, for yesterday afternoon, after three days strenuous work, this historic landmark was reduced to a pile of tumbled brick. In recent years the building had become derelict, and the present owners, Messrs. T. Macaulay and Sons, decided that it was unsafe, and would be better raised to the ground.
Wakefield, as the ancient capital of the West Riding, the centre of government for the great and important Manor of Wakefield, had race meetings of its own in the dim distant past before Pontefract and Doncaster became race meeting centres. In the first half of the 18th century the Wakefield Races were held on the Ings, but as the town grew in importance it was deemed advisable to put the races on a proper footing, and a course was laid out on the elevated plateau of the Lawns, or Laundes meaning clearing in the wood, at Outwood, and here a substantial red brick grandstand was erected. In those days it must have been considered a very fine building, and tradition has it that the furnishings were of a most sumptuous character. There were three terraces reached by stairs from inside the building, and in front of the stand was an excellent straight of between a half and three quarters of a mile in length. The scene on the lawns must have been a gay and picturesque one in those good old days, when the dress of the young bucks was as brilliant in its finery as ever is that of ladies of modern race meetings. The Wakefield racecourse was a noted gathering ground of the fashionable people of this part of Yorkshire, and there must have been gay doings at the grandstand, with its finely furnished saloons.
There seems to be no actual date known of the opening of the Outwood course, but in the books of the Constable of Wakefield there is an entry under the date September 13th 1787 of an allowance of 15/- for attendance and assistance on Outwood at races. The races were discontinued shortly after the passing of the Wakefield Enclosure Act in 1793, in the reign of George III, and authorities appear to agree that the last race was probably run in 1794. The Outwood then became enclosed along with other common lands in the neighbourhood of Wakefield, and passed on to other usages, the grandstand being turned into a farm house, and the plateau itself converted into what afterwards became a noted fruit farm. Thousands of tons of strawberries have been grown upon it, and to this day people speak of the fine crops obtained there in days gone by, but at the present time it is more of a rhubarb farm, the land being very suitable for this purpose.
Thirty years ago the grandstand was the home of the Ramsden family, and Benjamin Ramsden, who owned five large farms, was regarded as the most important agriculturist in the whole countryside. He was followed by Jesse Ramsden, and then Mr T Macualey, of Springfield House, variously known as Cat Hall and Madame Hall, took it on a twenty years lease, eventually buying the property outright before the lease ran out. Latterly it has been run as a strawberry and rhubarb farm by D. Macaulay, of White Hall Farm, Newton, under the old title of Messrs T Macaulay and Sons.
Messrs Macualay used the grandstand farm as the residence of one of their farm men, but ten years ago a great storm carried off part of the roof, letting in the rain, and latterly it became absolutely derelict. An attempt was recently made to pull it down in the usual way, but it was found that the walls were at least sixteen inches thick, with pillarings of much greater thickness, and it was deemed advisable to blow it up. This was done piecemeal on three days of the past week, the final shots being put in yesterday. The shot-firing was carried out by Mr T Tolson, assisted by Mr Tom Soar, an electric cable and detonator shots being used. In spite of its great age, the timbering of the building is practically as good as on the day that it was put in, and the salvage includes many fine oak beams and roof timbers, some of the beams being over 30 ft long. The origin of the ghost of ‘The Green Lady of Lawns’ is lost in antiquity, and no one seems to know anything of her history, yet the belief in her presence on the estate is as prevalent today as ever it was. He was a very brave man indeed who dared go anywhere near the grandstand after dark if he had been brought up in the lawns district and had had his mind steeped in the awesome tales that had been handed down from generation to generation of the apparition that nightly walked the terraces.
With the demolition of such an historic building it was only natural that there should be some talk of treasure trove, and on Wednesday afternoon the whole district became wildly excited over the alleged finding of a bag of gold by one of the farm hands engaged on the demolition. It was generally known in the district that the grandstand was being blown up, and in an incredibly short time after the alleged finding of the hidden treasure the news was known throughout the district, and within an hour had been carried to men at work in Newton Pit. Careful enquiries however, fail to prove that the bag of gold is any more real that was ‘The Green Lady’.

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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