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Earliest meeting: Sunday 28th August 1729
Final meeting: Wednesday 20th August 1879
The earliest record of a meeting on Barham Downs, near Canterbury, was on Monday 22nd March 1708 when an article appeared in the ‘Post Man and Historical Accounts of March 1708’. That meeting is covered in the Barham Downs section of this edition. However, one of the earliest recorded meetings mentioning the Kent City of Canterbury took place on 28th August 1729 when His Majesty’s 100 Guineas Plate over 4 miles was won by Mr Henly’s Thunderbolt. The course extended to 2 miles, although for the staying races the horses could start near the stands and go back on themselves for a distance until reaching the top turn, then rejoining the course for a straight run of a mile to the winning post, but there were also offshoots of the main course to cater for sprint races. By 1762 the meeting had been extended to a 3 day meeting from Tuesday 20th to Thursday 22nd July when the feature Canterbury 2 ½ mile Purse went to Brown George owned by Mr Rogers. At the 4 day meeting starting on Tuesday 20th August 1782 there was a royal win in the City Plate when Dido, owned by HRH the Duke of Cumberland, was victorious, while at a 4 day meeting from Tuesday 17th August 1824 the City Plate went to a Sir Huldibrand filly. Between these two meetings it is known that Jane Austen visited Barham Downs to enjoy the races on a number of occasions, probably around 1796 when she was 21. The final meeting took place on Barham Downs on Wednesday 20th August 1879.

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

HRH Duke of Cumberland, Sir F Poole, Captain Lock, Major Wellington

Principal Races Westwood Cup, Garrison Plate, City Plate, County Members Plate

Sunday 28th August 1729

His Majesty’s 100 Guineas Plate over 4 miles for 6 year olds
1. Thunderbolt owned by Mr Henly walked over

20th to 22nd July 1762

Canterbury 2 and a half mile Purse
1. Brown George owned by Mr Rogers
2. Taste owned by Mr Crosoer
3. Footman owned by Mr Ward

It is known that Jane Austen visited Barham Downs to enjoy the races on a number of occasions. I am grateful to Clive Webb for the image shown below and for the link which provides more details about the course and Jane Austen's visit.

I am indebted to Clive Webb for providing a map of Barham Downs showing the racecourse from around 1769.

Tuesday 20th to Friday 23rd August 1782

Canterbury City Plate over 2 miles
1. Dido owned by HRH Duke of Cumberland
2. Unnamed colt by Herod owned by Mr Wildman
3. Peacemaker owned by Mr Brown
The winner was 1 to 3 favourite and carried a Purple Waistcoat with a Black cap.

Canterbury County Subscription Plate over 2 miles
1. Diadem owned by Sir F Poole
2. Jockey owned by Mr Clarke
3. Fox owned by Mr Wildman
The winner was the 4/6 favourite.

I am grateful to Andy Thrower for the scan of the rare racecard shown below, part of his magnificent collection.

Wednesday 23rd August 1820
His Majesty’s Plate of 100 Guineas over 4 miles

1. Enchantress owned by Mr Lushington 3 1 1
2. Ranter owned by Colonel Murland 1 2 2
3. Marksman owned by Mr Brown 2 wdr
4. Grasshopper owned by Mr Bowman 4 3 wdr
Canterbury County Members’ Plate for £50 over 4 miles
1. Tempest owned by Mr Brown 2 1 1
2. Chance owned by Sir E Knatchbull 3 3 3
3. Sister to Phillippina owned by Mr Watson 1 2 2
4. Haphazzard owned by Mr Baldock 4 4 wdr

Tuesday 17th August to Friday 20th August 1824

Canterbury County Members Plate over 2 miles
1. Remnant owned by Mr Watkins
2. Peggy owned by Mr Holbrook
3. Greylock owned by Mr Coleman

Canterbury City Plate over 2 miles
1. Unnamed sister to Sir Huldibrand owned by Mr Farrall
2. Fortune Teller owned by Mr Whyte
3. Remnant owned by Mr Lushington

Westwood Cup over 2 miles
1. Logic owned by Mr Mount

Garrison Plate over a mile
1. Redgauntlet owned by Major Wellington

The final meeting took place at Barham Downs on Wednesday 20th August 1879.
Course today On a two mile course on Barham Downs.
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

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

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