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Earliest meeting: Tuesday 27th May 1712
Final meeting: Monday 14th September 1964
The East Sussex county town of Lewes, famous for its castle, its former racecourse and as a market town, lies less than 9 miles from Brighton. The earliest record of racing taking place in the town was from an article in the London Gazette 8th – 10th May 1712 which stated, ‘A Great Plate, a Town Plate of 15 pounds, and a Galloway Plate, to be run on the Lewes Plate Course on 27 May 1712’. The town was certainly staging regular race meetings by 1727 when a two day meeting was held on 10th and 11th August with the highlight being the King’s Plate. The course was located just a mile west of the town centre, on excellent racing ground 500 feet above sea level, at the foot of Black Cap Hill. The first stands at the course were erected in 1772 and the course attracted some of the top thoroughbreds of the day, including Derby winners. Indeed the first Derby winner, Diomed, ran his last race at the course in 1783. The course was also popular with Royalty and the Prince of Wales, later to become King George IV, was a regular visitor. Its biggest claim to fame was that it witnessed a triple dead-heat in the Astley Stakes of 1880, not remarkable in itself (although unusual) but the next 2 horses, a short head behind, also dead heated. Remarkably 5 horses finished within a short head of each other. The handicapper certainly earned his money that day. The Champion jockey for 13 consecutive years, Fred Archer, frequently rode at Lewes and on 5th August 1882 he was aboard 6 of the 7 winners at the meeting. In its heyday the course was hosting six meetings within nine days of each other on a Monday and Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, as well as the following Monday and Tuesday. However, once a halt was called to these extended meetings in 1955 the course was allocated meetings predominantly on a Monday and a steady decline began. The final meeting was held on Monday 14th September 1964.

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

Lord Verulam, Lord Egremont, Lord Cavendish, Lord Exeter

Principal Races Lewes Handicap, Kings Plate

Sunday 10th August 1727

His Majesty’s 100 Guineas Plate
1. Sampson owned by Lord Halifax walked over.

The King’s Plates, valued at 100 guineas, were a series of annual races which date from the time of Charles II and continued in some form or other up to 1887. From the publication of the first Racing Calendar in 1727 by John Cheny, up to 1751, the Plates were restricted to 6 year olds each carrying 12 stone and were run over three 4 mile heats. In 1751 they were staged at Guildford, Hambleton, Ipswich, Lewes, Lincoln, 3 at Newmarket, Nottingham, Winchester and York. After 1751 younger horses were permitted to run in King’s Plates, with 5 year olds allocated 10 stone and four year olds 9 stone.

13th to 14th August 1762

Lewes 2 mile Purse
1. Lincoln owned by Mr Wildman
2. Unnamed gelding owned by Mr Todd
3. Smiling Sally owned by Mr Blackman

Tuesday 5th August 1813
His Majesty’s Plate over 4 miles
1. Whalebone, 6 year old bay horse owned by Mr Ladbroke
2. Lutzen, 4 year old bay horse owned by Mr Trevannian
3. Judgment, aged bay horse owned by Sir G Webster
4. Bellator, aged bay horse owned by Captain H Vyse

Wednesday 4th August to Friday 6th August 1824

Lewes Majesty’s Plate over 4 miles
1. Mina owned by Lord G H Cavendish
2. Augusta owned by Lord Exeter
3. Spermaceti owned by Lord Egremont

Lewes Members Plate over the New Course
1. Marksman owned by Mr Brown
2. Roulette owned by Mr A T Berkeley
3. Haphazard owned by Mr Evans

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

The final meeting took place on 14th September 1964.

Course today

Just a mile west of the town centre, at the foot of Black Cap Hill, and the majority of the course is still visible today.

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

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

1894 Gents 1897 Gents 1897 Ladies 1898 Gents
1898 Ladies 1905 Gents 1926 Ladies 1926 Gents
1927 Ladies 1927 Gents 1933 Gents 1934 Gents
1935 Gents 1936 Gents 1937 Gents 1938 Ladies
1938 Gents 1939 Gents 1940 Gents 1947 Ladies
1947 Gents 1948 Gents 1949 Gents 1950 Ladies
1950 Gents 1951 Gents 1952 Pair 1953 Ladies
1954 Ladies 1954 Gents 1955 Pair 1956 Ladies
1956 Gents 1957 Ladies 1957 Gents 1958 Gents
1959 Gents 1960 Gents 1961 Gents 1962 Gents
1963 Gents 1963 Ladies 1964 Gents  

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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