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Earliest meeting: Monday 30th July 1759
Final meeting: Monday 29th April 1935
Today Chelmsford has the newest course in Great Britain called Chelmsford City, which is dealt with in the Matches section of this edition, but back in the middle of the 18th century racing was staged in Chelmsford. The earliest record of racing was a two day meeting on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st July 1759, opening with a Plate for 4 year olds over 2 mile heats which went to Mr Stamford’s Sullen beating a good field of eight. The next day a Hunters race saw Mr Macclesfield’s Why-Not beat Copper Face and Badger.  The course, an oval of 2 miles in length with a half mile run in that was gradually uphill, also had a straight mile course adjoining the main course. It was situated two miles south of Chelmsford in the village of Galleywood on its Common. The steeplechase course enclosed the steeple of St Michael and All Angels Church, although the racecourse apparently came first to indicate that races of a sort were held prior to 1759. The meetings were held in very high regard and the three day meeting from Tuesday 23rd to Thursday 25th July 1782 was typical. It hosted a prestigious His Majesty’s Purse which was won by General Smith’s Rosaletta, defeating the strongly fancied Dido owned by the Duke of Cumberland, and also the Chelmsford Town Plate which went to the Duke of Cumberland’s Pumpkin. Leading up to the First World War the quality and size of fields decreased, as did attendances, and racing ceased between 1915 and 1923. When it returned it began to attract better horses, including Golden Miller who won twice at the course, including the Witham Hurdle on Monday 12th October 1931. Soon after this purple patch entries started to decrease, launching Chelmsford on the vicious circle of decreasing entries decreasing crowds. The final meeting took place on Monday 29th April 1935.

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

HRH Duke of Cumberland, Duke of Devonshire, Lord Spencer, Lord Clermont, General Smith

Principal Races Chelmsford Plate, His Majesty's Purse, Town Plate

The earliest evidence of a race meeting in Chelmsford was on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st July 1759. On the opening day a £50 Plate for 4-year-olds over 2 miles, each carrying 8st 7lbs was won after 4 heats by Sullen owned by Mr Stamford from Yorkshire. In the second heat Cullen overpowered his rider and ran loose straight into a nearby house where a woman, standing at the door, was knocked unconscious and was thought to be seriously ill, but after proper care she made a complete recovery.
1. SULLEN, brown horse owned by Mr Stamford 4 3 1 1
2. GAMBLER, bay horse owned by Mr White 6 1 2 2
3. MAIDEN, chestnut mare owned by Mr Mathews 3 2 3
4. STRANGER, chestnut mare owned by Sir Edward Hale 2 5 4
5. PICK POCKET, grey mare owned by Mr Wilkins 7 4 wdr
6. CULLEN,bay horse owned by Mr Cook 1 dist
7. VIGOUR, chestnut horse owned by Mr John 5 wdr
8. UNNAMED bay horse owned by Mr Croft dist

The next day, Tuesday 31st July 1759, a £50 Hunters race, each carrying 12 stone, was won by Why-Not owned by Mr Macclesfield after just 2 heats.
1. WHY-NOT, grey horse owned by Mr Macclesfield 1 1
2. COPPER-FACE, bay gelding owned by Mr Bennet 2 2
3. BADGER, grey horse owned by Mr Norton 3 3
4. WHITE-NOTE, bay mare owned by Mr Holden 4 4
5. RANGLING BETTY, brown mare owned by Mr Page 5 dist

3rd to 4th August 1762

Chelmsford 2 mile Purse
1. PRECIPITATE owned by Mr Panton
2. PLOUGH BOY owned by Mr Rogers
3. MISS DOE owned by Mr Matthews

Tuesday 23rd to Thursday 25th July 1782

His Majesty’s Purse over 2 miles
1. ROSALETTA owned by General Smith
2. DIDO owned by the HRH Duke of Cumberland
3. FORESTER owned by Mr Miles
The winner was favourite and wore Scarlet

Chelmsford Town Plate over 2 miles
1. PUMPKIN owned by the Duke of Devonshire
2. UNNAMED colt by Herod owned by Mr Carter
3. ORANDO owned by Mr Hambleton
The winner started favourite and wore Straw colour.

Monday 11th to Wednesday 13th August 1794

Chelmsford Plate over 4 miles
1. CORIANDOR owned by Mr Dawson
2. SWEEPER owned by Lord Clermont
3. PORTLAND owned by Mr Hamond

Very grateful thanks to Christine Potter for providing the following details:-

The steeplechase enclosed the steeple of St Michael and All Angels' church, although the racecourse apparently came first! Christine comments that recently there was an exhibition, organised by the Parish Council, entitled 'The Rural Life of Galleywood' and she contributed a number of items to the exhibition. Indeed, she is one of a small number of villagers still sharing common rights to Galleywood Common.

The church of St Michael and All Angels still survives although the former racecourse is now used as a bridleway. My thanks to Julia for the email informing me that the Old Stands might well be handed to the Parish Council with a view to them using it as a Heritage Centre. I look forward to hearing about this development. Since providing this information the Galleywood Heritage Centre is up and running and is well worth a visit.

The maps below, shown courtesy of John Hodges and Google, gives an aerial view of the former racecourse, including the location of the Horse & Groom pub relative to the racecourse:-

After the First World War the racecourse underwent significant improvements, and leading up to the start of the 1923 season the course, amenities, paddocks and security all were upgraded. As a consequence, there was a record number of entries, 176, for the meeting on Wednesday 21st March 1923, and the course had to send out a plea to trainers who were able, to not make use of the racecourse stables.

The final meeting under rules staged at Galleywood was on Monday 29th April 1935, with the last race, the Maldon Steeplechase over 2 miles, won by Sunbee owned by Mr A Sainsbury, trained by H Smyth at Epsom and ridden by E Taylor.
Maldon £70 Steeplechase over 2 miles
1. SUNBEE (11/10 fav), bay gelding owned by Mr A Sainsbury and ridden by E Taylor
2. LADY'S MAN (20/1), bay gelding owned by Mr C A Lundy and ridden by R Morgan
3. MARCARGO (20/1), bay gelding owned by Mr J M Little and ridden by R Edgeley

The final meeting under Rules took place on Monday 29th April 1935, although the track was then taken over by Northolt Park Ltd and they staged pony races on the racecourse until their final meeting on Wednesday 1st September 1937 when a feature of the meeting was the excellent arrangements for the punters and the splendid organisation for accommodation.
Course today Two miles from Chelmsford on Galleywood Common. In August 1939 Chelmsford Rural Council purchased the racecourse for £2100 and acquired bordering land, promising that the whole land would become a public open space.

I am grateful to John Hodges for recommending the following link:-
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:-

London Illustrated News

Racing Illustrated 1895-1899

The Sporting & Dramatic Illustrated

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

1924 1925 1925
1927 1928 1929 1930
1931 1933 1934
1935 1936

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 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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