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Earliest meeting: Wednesday 21st June 1848
Final meeting: Thursday 7th May 1914
The earliest racing to take place at the Hertfordshire town of Harpenden was in 1848 when a meeting was arranged on Common ground on Wednesday 21st June 1848. The meeting was the brainchild of local landlord Henry Oldaker, who moved to the area in 1828 to run the Cross Keys and then transferred to larger premises at the Bull Inn. The course crossed Cross Lane and fields on the Childwickbury Estate before returning to the Common near Ayres End Lane. The main course, once established, was a large course of 2 miles in circumference, with a separate sprint shute for 5 furlong races.  The 1848 meeting opened with a lowly Maiden Stakes which went to Mr Hodgson’s Johnny, while the more prestigious Harpenden Parish Stakes, over 1 ½ miles, was won by Mr S Scott’s Daughter of the Star. A new course was introduced in the 1890’s which was used for races from 6 furlongs to a mile. The meeting on Saturday 20th May 1899 proved to be unlucky for one prominent owner, Sir J Blundell-Major, coming second with Royal Apple in the Rothampstead Stakes and occupying the same position with Palmerston in the Hertfordshire Handicap. The final meeting took place on Thursday 7th May 1914.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Sir J Blundell-Maple, Mr Henry Oldaker
Principal Races Hertfordshire Handicap, Rothamstead Stakes, Harpenden Town Plate

Wednesday 21st June 1848
Harpenden Parish Stakes over 1 ½ miles
1. Daughter of the Star, bay filly owned by Mr S Scott
2. Lovelace, chestnut gelding owned by Mr Smith
3. The Streamer, 3 year old owned by Mr Young

Saturday 20th May 1899

The Rothamstead Stakes over 5 furlongs
1. Westmoreland owned by Mr Barrow
2. Royal Apple owned by Sir J Blundell-Maple
3. Rathdonnell owned by Mr C S Newton

The Harpenden Town Handicap over 5 furlongs
1. Lady Athel owned by Mr R Maquire
2. Switch owned by Mr J Cannon
3. Miss Primrose owned by Mr J Barker

The Hertfordshire Handicap over a mile and 3 furlongs
1. Hornpool owned by Mr J S Diggle
2. Palmerston owned by Sir J Blundell-Maple
3. Sutton owned by Mr A van Hoboken

The final meeting took place on Thursday 7th May 1914
Course today Initially on Harpenden Common, but evidence of where the old racecourse stood can still be seen today within the grounds of Harpenden Golf Course and Clubhouse.

The rare handbill shown below is provided courtesy of the Robert Shaw collection.

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

The front cover/ principal races from this rare racecard are provided courtesy of the Robert Shaw collection.

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

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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