In August 2017, Wincanton Racecourse turns 150 years old
In August 2017, Wincanton Racecourse turns 150 years old.
With a history as rich as it is long, Wincanton’s ties with the sport of National Hunt racing began in 1867 as the hunting community in Somerset staged what is believed to be the first ever National Hunt Steeplechase. In subsequent years, the National Hunt committee formed and introduced recognised rules into the sport, creating a series of races at Wincanton in a format that is now known as a fixture list. During the First World War the course, then situated at Hatherleigh Farm, was closed and did not reopen until 1920. With its reopening came financial hardship and it was the namesake of our bar, Lord Stalbridge, who saved the course from liquidation. He formed a new board of directors with himself as chair, and when the lease on Hatherleigh Farm expired, he made the decision to buy the racecourse’s current site, Kingwell Farm. With funding from Lord Stalbridge, a new course was built and the first meeting at the new venue took place on the Easter Monday of 1927.
The army requisitioned the land as a military base during the Second World War and with the health of Lord Stalbridge steadily declining, the course was put up for sale. A ten-strong group of local sportsmen refused to watch the course disappear and joined forces to purchase Kingwell Farm and carry out some much needed improvements to the facilities. The course opened its doors once again in 1945 after the site was vacated by military personnel. After playing such a vital role in the development and success of Wincanton Racecourse, Lord Stalbridge passed away in 1945 and is honoured each year on Boxing Day when the course runs the Lord Stalbridge Memorial Cup Handicap Chase
In the 1960s the course was purchased by the Racecourse Holdings Trust, now called The Jockey Club, who own Wincanton to this day. To commemorate this milestone we'll be holding a celebration in the new season, with a book to explore our history. As October rolls round we'll begin announcing the details of the Wincanton 150 Years Celebration - watch this space!
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