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Earliest meeting: September 1730
Final meeting: Tuesday 27th July 1875
The Oxfordshire market town of Abingdon, which lies on the Thames, was at one time the county town of Berkshire.  Race meetings in the town were first mentioned in John Cheny’s listings in 1730 and again in 1731, but were then not mentioned again until 1767. Racing Calendars then show that racing took place on Culham Heath Common, which Jackson’s Oxford Journal described as ‘a course most judiciously laid out, both as a fine racing ground, and also for affording diversion to the Company, as the horses may be seen quite round from an easy eminence’. The perfectly flat, oval racecourse had a circumference of 10 furlongs and a separate 6 furlong section for sprint races. At the inaugural meeting on Tuesday 22nd September 1767 the 4 year old Purse was contested over 3 demanding heats with Cadmus winning the first heat. In the second heat Phoenix pushed Cadmus into third place, meaning a third heat was required which Phoenix duly won.  It was the norm in the early days for races to be won by Lords and land owners, but seldom landlords. They could not afford to keep horses, but an exception occurred when local landlord John Alder won £20,000 in the State lottery (equivalent to £3 million in 2017) and invested his winnings in a racehorse called Sulphur which won at the 1768 Abingdon meeting (result shown below). At the two day meeting on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th September 1800 the Members’ 4 mile Purse was won by Jack Andrews for Major Rooke, while a Purse restricted to three and four year olds went to Allegranti for Mr Fletcher. Up until 1810 the local Corporation supported the event, often sponsoring the races, but when their support waivered the races transferred to Abingdon Common. Within a year the council had provided the funds for a grandstand and racing flourished once again. The inaugural meeting on the New Course on Abingdon Common, close to the town centre, was in excellent order on Tuesday 10th September 1811, being much approved of, with most of the nobility and genteel families of the neighbourhood attending. Details of the meeting are shown below, and such was the success of the meeting that sufficient subscriptions were raised to fund a Gold Cup in 1812. Racing continued for a further 75 years until the final meeting was held on Tuesday 27th July 1875.

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

Lord Ailesbury, Lord Warwick, Captain Bertie, Captain Hoar

Principal Races Abingdon Stakes, Abingdon Members Cup, The Old Berkshire Hunt Stakes, The Culham Stakes, The Holme Park Stakes, The Abingdon Cup, The Bear Wood Handicap Stakes, The Pusey Stakes

Tuesday 22nd September 1767

Abingdon 4 year old Purse
1. Phoenix, bay filly owned by W.Payne 3 1 1
2. Cadmus, bay colt owned by Mr Tombs 1 3 2
3. Unnamed grey filly owned by the Honourable Thomas King 2 2 dist.

Wednesday 23rd September 1767

1. Sloven, bay horse owned by W.Payne 4 1 1
2. Pine Apple, brown horse owned by Count Laraguai 1 5 3
3. Badger, grey gelding owned by Sir Fred Evelyn 3 3 2
4. Essex Nancy, bay mare owned by Mr Bloss 2 2 4
5. Grig, bay horse owned by Mr Kinneir 5 4 5

At the 3 day meeting from Tuesday 27th to Thursday 29th September 1768 it was the norm to run the main race on the first day. At this meeting the reverse occurred and the Gentlemen’s Subscription Purse was run on the final day with an amazing result.
Thursday 29th September 1768
Abingdon Gentlemen’s £50 Subscription Purse

1. Sulphur, grey horse owned by Mr John Alder 3 5 1 1
2. Don Quixote, chestnut horse owned by Mr Wildman 4 1 3 2
3. Juliet, bay mare owned by Mr Merrit 1 2 wdr
4. Chiquine, bay horse owned by Mr Dighton 6 4 2 wdr
10 ran
Mr John Alder purchased Sulphur (aka Prize) from Mr Fettiplace after winning £20,000 in the State Lottery. It was so uncommon in those days for a landlord, or any ‘common’ person, to own a horse that after Sulphur won by half a neck the bells rang to mark the occasion.

Tuesday 24th to Wednesday 25th September 1782

Abingdon Members Purse over 4 miles
1. John-a-Nokes owned by Captain Bertie
2. Sappho owned by Mr Cresswell
3. Grasshopper owned by Mr Twycross

Abingdon Give and Take over 4 miles
1. Copper Bottom owned by Captain Hoar
2. Juno owned by Mr Tate
3. Freeholder owned by Mr Davies

Tuesday 10th & Wednesday 11th September 1799

Results from the inaugural meeting on the New Course on Abingdon Common are shown below.
Tuesday 10th September 1811
Member’s £50 Plate over 4 miles

1. Genseric, bay colt owned by Mr Morgan 1 1
2. Levant, bay horse owned by Mr Hallett 2 2
3. Unnamed black colt owned by Mr Tyrwhit 3 3

Abingdon 10 Guineas 3 year old Sweepstake over 2 miles
1. Philadelphia, bay filly owned by Mr Dundas
2. Ambrosio, chestnut colt owned by Mr Mills
5 ran

Abingdon 25 Guineas Produce Stakes
1. Ambrosio, chestnut colt owned by Mr Mills
2. Fling, bay colt owned by Mr C Day

Wednesday 11th September 1811
Abingdon 35 Guineas Sweepstake (25 added)

1. Sunbeam, 6 year old owned by Lord C Somerset
2. Witch of Endor, 4 year old owned by Mr Dundas

Abingdon £50 Maiden Plate
1. Sly Dick, chestnut colt owned by Mr C Day 0 4 1 1
2. Louisa Maria, bay filly owned by Mr Tyrwhit 0 3 3 2
3. Governor, bay filly owned by Mr Calley 3 1 2 4
There were 6 runners and the winner won at 4/1

Tuesday 10th August to Wednesday 11th August 1824

Abingdon Stakes over a mile and a half
1. Triumph owned by Mr Ockenden
2. Milto owned by Mr Fulwar Craven
3. Nicolo owned by Mr R Pettit
Milto had earlier finished 3rd in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket behind Cobweb and Rebecca.

Abingdon Members Plate over a mile and a half
1. Monimia owned by Mr Messer
2. Miller of Coleshill owned by Mr Sadler
3. Grey Robin owned by Mr Dundas

Abingdon Members Cup over 3 miles
1. Triumph owned by Mr Ockenden
2. Cephalus owned by Mr Ransbottom
3. Blunder owned by Mr T Scaith

Wednesday 14th September 1836

The Abingdon Cup was contested over a two and a half mile course with 12 runners each subscribing 10 guineas. The result was:-

1. FELIX 4 years old 8st 7lb Owned by Mr Houldsworth
2. DIANA 5 years old 8st 13lb Owned by Mr Day
 3. LUCIFER 4 years old 8st 7lb Owned by Mr Robertson

Wednesday 12th September & Thursday 13th September 1838

Abingdon Cup over 2 and a half miles
1. Chapeau d’Espagne owned by Lord George Bentinck
2. I-wish-you-may-get-it owned by Mr Fulwar Craven
3. Calmuck owned by Mr Coleman

The Holme Park Stakes over a mile and a quarter
1. Doncaster owned by Mr Fulwar Craven
2. Zethus owned by Mr Isaac Day
3. Oberon owned by Mr Isaac Day

The Pusey Stakes over 2 miles
1. Barnacles owned by Mr Fulwar Craven
2. The Bodach Glass owned by Lord George Bentinck
3. Gimcrack owned by Mr Stevens

I am grateful to Bob Frampton, and his designer Dan, for the poster they have designed for Abingdon races.

James Whyte’s History of the British Turf records the September 1839 races as:-
Abingdon Cup over 2 and a half miles;
Witham Stakes over 2 miles;
Holme Park Stakes over a mile and a quarter;
The Old Berkshire Hunt Stakes over 2 miles;
The Marcham Park Stakes;
The Bean Wood Stakes over a mile and a half;
The Wolley Park Stakes over a mile and a half;
The Buckland Stakes over 6 furlongs.

The postcard shown above includes from top left: Maria 1827 Abingdon Sweepstake; Felix 1836 Abingdon Cup; Barnacle 1838 Pusey Stakes; Triumph 1824 Abingdon Stakes.

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

The final meeting took place on Tuesday 27th July 1875.

Course today

Whilst there is some uncertainty as to the exact location of the course, the likely venue is now covered by a supermarket.

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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