Tadcaster Races

It is perhaps not too well known but Tadcaster was the site of about 23 horse race meetings over a 50 year period between 1837 and 1888.  At its peak, special trains were run to bring in the spectators.

The 1837 Race

The first race was run on Boxing Day 1837.  It was a cross-country steeple-chase race, three miles in length.  The second race on that day was “two miles over the same course”.
The event certainly seems to have brought in the crowds.  A report says, “The population of the district mustered in very large numbers, all the stabling of the various inns was found insufficient to accommodate the horses, and the town was never before known to be so full of company.

Working out the route from the reports proved a challenging task.  One report said that the first race started at “Stutton Cross Hall” and another that it started “in a field belonging to Sir Edward Vavasour, near the river Cock”.  Stutton Cross Hall does not seem to exist but Stutton Cross was on Stutton Road very close to the present end of Woodlands Avenue.  The most likely start is between Stutton Cross and the Cock Beck probably on the line that the railway would take a few years later.

The second race started close to “Stutton Mill”.  At this date there were two candidates for “Stutton Mill”.  One was the windmill the remains of which can still be seen close to the bypass on Stutton Road.  The other was the water mill situated where the road from Stutton to London Road crosses the Cock Beck.

Route of 1837 Race

The descriptions of the finish point was more consistent as being “in a large field belonging to Mrs Kidd, about half a mile from town” with the last 100 yards of the race being “strong up-hill work”.  This seems to be a field just north of Inholmes in Leeds Road, probably close to Inholmes Lane.

Between these points the course followed a “horse-shoe shape” crossing the Turnpike (Tadcaster-Leeds Road) about 2 miles from Tadcaster.

This race was organised by Thomas Briggs, landlord of the “Swan Inn” (The White Swan) and Benjamin Blaydes Thompson, a solicitor whose initials can be seen above the Cycle Sense shop in Westgate.  The organisation perhaps reflects a more relaxed time, as the race which was scheduled to start at 11 a.m. finally got underway at 2 p.m.

The race is reported on in some detail, such as who led at what stage, but how this reporting was achieved is not clear.  It may have needed a number of reporters along the course who consolidated their reports at the end.  Because of the distance between start and finish, it seems unlikely that it was possible for someone to see both the start and end of the race.  The weather did not help in that there was dense fog all day.

The 3 mile race went into “Hazlewood Lane” before reaching “Sharphouse’s Mill”.  By reference to the 1841 Census, “Sharphouse’s Mill” seems likely to be the windmill.  Hazlewood Lane seems to be Stutton Road.

The race then headed for Jackdaw Crag quarry.  The course then seems to have crossed Leeds Road near the crossroads before paralleling Leeds Road to the finish.

The 1839 Race

Route of the 1839 Race

The next race meeting was just over a year later on 3rd January 1839.  This was again three miles but took a different route.  It ran from Lord Howden’s Grimston Park to the boundary between Tadcaster and Newton Kyme on the Wetherby Road.

It crossed the Cock Beck at Stutton water mill and then took a straight line to the finish.  The course included 35 fences “and comprised about a dozen rasping stag headed ones, two drains, and two or three bullfinchers, the remainder being fair average leaps”.

There is very little information recorded about this event.

The 1840 Races

1840 saw two race meetings, though the intention was for a single meeting.

Routes of the 1840 Races – the red route was the 21st January and the blue 3rd February

The first 1840 race was postponed from the 7th January to the 21st January because of a severe frost.  As well as coach traffic coming to the races, the reporter describes the excitement of his journey to the races by special train from York to Bolton Percy reaching the giddy speed of 35 mph and then by “an omnibus” to the races.  Unfortunately the day was wet and windy.

The course ran from near Toulston, crossing the Leeds Road near “the Hill of Comfort” about half a mile from Headley Bar, then via Jackdaw Crag finishing in the field which now is the home to the Police Station and Fire Station in Station Road (or Leeds Road as it was then).

The route included crossing “Cut-throat lane” which by the description seems to be the farm track/Dorchester Road as we know it today.

The second race of the day seems to have been interesting. Two of the six horses arrived at the starting point.  After waiting some time with no other horses turning up, the race was started.  After the race had been won, the 4 other horses arrived at the starting point, leading to a “considerable dispute”. Probably because of this, another race was run on 3rd February.  This was a circular 1 mile course around the enclosures of Inholmes, the course having 3 circuits to produce the 3 mile run.  This is shown in blue on the map.

1841 Race

Assumed route of the 1841 Race

Apart from the start and finish points of this race, the route is not well described, though it says that most of the course was visible from the finish point and it does not mention crossing any roads.

The start was the Newton Kyme – Tadcaster boundary on Wetherby Road and the finish was Mrs Kidd’s field.  The map shows the best guess for a three miles course visible from the finish line.

The 1842 Race


Route of the 1842 Race

This race was two miles in length and ran from the field in Leeds Road (now Station Road to Stutton Lodge (now Garnet Terrace) and back to Mrs. Kidd’s field near Inholmes.
Again, most of the race was said to be visible from the finish.  This points to their having been many fewer trees than we have today.

The 1843 Race

This was another two-mile race.  Unfortunately there is only a single report on the race and detail of the route is sparse.

Assumed route of the 1843 Race

It started at Stutton Lodge then ran westerly before turning back to Mrs. Kidd’s field.  The map shows the most likely route based on this information.

The 1844 Race

Again all we know is that it was two miles in length from Newton Field to the Ings.  The map shows the most likely route, there being no railway to cross at that time.

Probable route of 1844 race

Subsequent Races

There were no more races until 1852 and from then on they took a different form.  It is not clear why there was a gap of 8 years.  A possible cause may have been the building of the railway which began in 1845.  This may have restricted some potential routes.

The 1844 race had finished in the Ings.  Later races were to be based on the Ings where temporary stands were built making it more like conventional races.  The route became a 1½ mile loop, which was traversed twice for a 3-mile race.  The start and end was on the Ings but the track crossed London Road twice with the track paralleling the railway.

Route of 1852 and later races

Route of 1852 and later races

In the 1850s there were 5 races in 1852, 53, 54, 55 and 57.  The 1860s saw another 5 meetings in 1861, 62, 63, 64 and 68.  There were then a further 5 meets in 1870, 1885, 86, 87 and 88.

The 15 year gap before 1885 was explained in a report by saying “It is now fifteen years since the steeplechase meeting was discontinued at Tadcaster. but the military races which form the programme of the second day at Wetherby not being held this year. it was arranged to resuscitate the Tadcaster gathering.

For the race results see: http://www.greyhoundderby.com/Tadcaster%20racecourse.html

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