Author Topic: The Wrexham Races part 1  (Read 402 times)

Offline wxmafc

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The Wrexham Races part 1
« on: Thursday 25 January 18 08:04 GMT (UK) »
When I first started researching the history of The Racecourse, it seemed that it was widely accepted that The Wrexham Races were started on a new course, now known as ‘Y Cae Ras’ which was developed by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn in 1807. This seems to have arisen due to the fact that Sir Watkin had a lifelong connection with equine sport, as well as being a founding member and serving officer with a local cavalry force. It is also known that he had deliberately widened Regent Street to cater for riders and their horses to parade from their stables at Eagles Meadow up to the course on race days, and he was also known to have developed or upgraded the course around this time, as well as promoting and providing financial support, and commissioning and donating silverware as prizes
The 1807 date then appears to have been widely accepted after local author- Arthur N Shone published a book in 1999 called ‘The Wrexham Races, The Forgotten Welsh Racecourse’, in which he identified an announcement in The Chester Chronicle in 1807, which advertised (what he thought was) the first race meeting on The Racecourse. Other people since, appear to have identified different newspaper announcements from the same year, which advertised The Wrexham Races ‘on the new course’, and so it appears that the term ‘the new course’ cemented the idea that The Wrexham Races first started on The Racecourse in 1807, and this date was then circulated on the internet.
Since then, however, access to historic information through online archives, has greatly improved and I soon found a newspaper advertisement for The Wrexham Races ‘on the new course’ for a three-day meeting on 6/7/8th October 1806, followed by an article in a silversmith’s magazine, which published the design of a motif on a trophy, which was presented to the winner of The Wrexham Races in 1803.
I then found a newspaper advertisement in The Chester Courant for The Wrexham Races ‘on the new course’ consisting of a four-day meeting, which commenced on 15th September 1800, followed by another article in The Chester Chronicle, dated 7/9/1792, which advertised The Wrexham Races to take place on the 17th of the same month. This article identified that the races incorporated other ancient community sports and activities, such as smock racing and pudding eating, as well being the venue for the election of a mayor, thereby suggesting that the races had evolved as part of a much older tradition of community sport and social gatherings. This article appeared to confirm another article, written by a local author- Major Charles James Apperley, who became famous as a sport and social commentator of his time, under the pseudonym ‘Nimrod’.
Apperley wrote a series of his memoirs in Fraser’s magazine in 1842, in which he recalled going to The Wrexham Races with his childhood friend, during his bachelor days, and he described the races as little more than leatherplate races; the term ‘leatherplate’ being used to highlight a more rustic event, wherein riders sought to unseat their competitors during races by any means deemed necessary, without the gentleman’s rules that would be incorporated into the so-called sport of kings that were later frequented by the gentry of the land. By extrapolating from his age at death and his year of marriage, it is found that his bachelor days at the races would relate to a period before he joined The Ancient British Light Dragoons, to serve in Ireland from 1798.

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Offline wxmafc

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Re: The Wrexham Races part 1
« Reply #1 on: Thursday 25 January 18 08:08 GMT (UK) »
However, the format of the races appears to have changed over time, as a number of advertisements for race meetings in Wrexham had appeared in The London Evening Post, dating from as far back as January 1739. The articles advertised a two-day meeting for The Wrexham Races ‘on the new course’ for Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th April 1739, with a considerable purse of £30 for the winner of the first days meeting and a £20 purse for the winner of the second day. The following year, the same newspaper also advertised another, well organised three-day meeting ‘on the new course’ from the 8th to 10th April 1740, which also offered a purse of £30 for the winner of the first days meeting and a £20 purse for each of the winners of the following days meetings. It was also published in a book in 1845 that a horse named Black Chance was the winner of one of these meetings. The advertisements from both of these years each stipulated rules and regulations akin to those which were later adopted in races in the 19th Century, which seems to suggest that The Wrexham Races were indeed an ancient custom that stretched back deep into history, and whilst occurring at least once a year, the races seem to have been sometimes better organised, and better rewarded, than at other times, when the format appears to have reverted to a more rustic meeting, which incorporated more of the traditional community activities, as identified in the reports from the 1790’s.
While initially it had seemed that Sir Watkin Williams Wynn -the 5th Baronet (1772-1840) had been responsible for the founding of The Wrexham Races, further investigation has shown that although he may have built or upgraded The Racecourse to a better standard, as well as promoting and financially supporting the races, he wasn’t really a lover of the turf, preferring instead to spend his days hunting, whereas his predecessors, at least as far back as Sir John Wynn, were more enthusiastic regarding the sport of kings.
Sir John Wynn (1628-1719) who had inherited the Watstay (Wynnstay) Estate was believed to have bred racehorses, and it was Sir John who had bought the Plas Coch Estate (where The Racecourse is now situated) in 1709. Sir Watkin’s grandfather- the 3rd Baronet then inherited the family estates when Sir John Wynn died in 1719 and his family continued to breed horses, with the 3rd Baronet having established The Ruabon Hunt, before he died when he fell from his horse while hunting at Acton Park in 1749. But it was during his lifetime that The Wrexham Races appeared in The London Evening Post (1739/40) along with an adage that there would be cockfighting at The Three Eagles in the mornings, before the races, and as The Three Eagles was owned by the Wynn family at that time, then it seems probable that The Wrexham Races were already being funded and promoted by the 3rd Baronet in the first half of the 18th Century.
When we consider where the racing took place in Wrexham, during the 18th Century, we are told by The London Evening Post that The Wrexham Races were held on ‘the new course’ in 1739 and 1740. Likewise, we also know that the races were also held on ‘the new course’ (Y Cae Ras) in 1800. It might therefore follow that there were two different racecourse locations; unless, that is, the location remained the same (Y Cae Ras) but the course was revamped as a new course in both the 18th and 19th Centuries. The latter appears to have been the case, due to the remarkable research of Alfred Neobard Palmer.
Palmer, who is regarded as the finest Wrexham historian of his time, published a series of 10 books on the local history of the area, at the end of 19th Century. There are a number of references to The Racecourse in its current location in his books, but only in the context of the 19th Century, which in itself seems to confirm that the location of The Racecourse had never been any different, as Palmer had specifically researched the fields and Streets of Wrexham
In his work ‘The Town, Fields and Folks of Wrexham in The Times of James The First’ Alfred Palmer had translated the oldest Latin records available to him since the early medieval period and made no reference to any racecourse. His research was based on a survey for Charles- Prince of Wales by John Norden, in 1620, although Norden’s Survey did not include land which had been previously owned by Valle Crucis Abbey, such as Stansty, which was not a part of the Prince’s estate. However, his book also gave commentary on those same areas up to the 19th Century and Palmer would most certainly have made reference to a racecourse, if another course was present in the town, as he was specifically providing a social history of the town in his work. In fact, of all of the known, main, published works on the history of Wrexham, no one has ever identified, or even suggested another location for a racecourse in the town, other than its current location. Therefore, it seems logical to deduce that the current racecourse has been a venue for community and sporting activity since at least 1739. Moreover ‘The Welsh history Review’ which is an academic paper from The University of Wales, has previously identified that the Myddleton family of Chirk Castle had been paying subscriptions to race meetings at Wrexham, since before 1700, and so the history of Y Cae Ras may well be pushed back into the 17th Century, at a later date.

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Offline wxmafc

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Re: The Wrexham Races part 1
« Reply #2 on: Thursday 25 January 18 08:38 GMT (UK) »
The Racecourse, or 'Y Cae Ras' in Welsh, is also the home of Wrexham AFC- the third oldest professional football club in the World (founded on The Racecourse in October 1864)
The stadium is the oldest international football stadium in the world and The Turf Hotel (previously The Turf Tavern) which is attached the stadium, appears to be the oldest public house at any sport stadium in the World