williamhill.com OSWESTRY RACECOURSE

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The Oswestry racecourse, on the hillside Cyrn y Bwch, or Horns of the Buck, was unique in that it formed a figure of eight consisting of two loops with total distance two miles meeting at the Llansilin Road, now the B4580, and when racing was in progress the road was blocked off by chains which were kept at Chains Cottage. The earliest record of racing in the town was in 1719, although this relates to annual subscriptions being collected from the landed gentry of Oswestry to finance a yearly 3 day meeting. Clearly this implies that the collection had been going on some time prior to this date, and a reasonable assumption is that racing first took place on, or before, 1680. Baily’s Racing Register first provided detailed results from races held at Oswestry in 1728. The meeting was held in July and the results are shown below. The famous ‘Historical List of all Horse Matches run and of all Plates and Prizes ran for in England and Wales’, first written by John Cheny in 1729 mentions racing at Oswestry.

Local Patrons

Sir W W Wynn, Lord Derby, Lord Grosvenor, Sir T Stanley, Sir Roland Hill, Mad Jack Mytton

Principal Races Wynne Silver Cup, Stewards Cup, Gold Cup, Silver Hunters Cup, Foal Stakes, Produce Stakes

Friday 9th to Saturday 10th July 1728

Oswestry 30 Guineas Plate
1. Molly-in-the-Moor owned by Mr William Wynne

Oswestry Second 30 Guineas Plate
1. Unnamed Roan gelding owned by Lord Molyneux
2. Carlisle Gelding owned by Mr Bainbrigge

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 1729

Oswestry Free Purse of 20 Guineas
1. Molly in the Moor owned by Sir William Wynn

Oswestry Purse of 10 Guineas
1. Smiling Nancy owned by Mr Makin

Oswestry Free Purse of 30 Guineas
1. Tickle me Quickly owned by Lord Molyneux
2. Silver Tail owned by Mr Mackworth

One keen local racing enthusiast was Mad Jack Mytton who first attended Oswestry Racecourse in September 1817. His green and white colours with black cap were seen to good effect when he won the Silver Cup just once, in 1822 with his unnamed mare by Milo. He was appointed a Steward in 1818 and again in 1830. Another of the key families who ensured that Oswestry races thrived and developed was the Watkin Williams Wynn family. They owned the country house of Wynnstay and its estate. The Fourth Baronet Sir Watkin was a keen racing enthusiast, a Jockey Club Member and Steward at Oswestry. His racing colours of crimson and white quartered with a white cap won many of the prestigious races at his local course, and he donated a Silver Cup to be contested annually from 1776 through to the final meeting held at the track in 1848. Winners of the Silver Cup are shown below.

WYNN’S SILVER CUP WINNERS
1776 Intrepid owned by Mr Norcop
1777 Malton owned by Mr Hill
1779 Sportsman owned by Mr Davenport
1780 Diana owned by Mr Hall
1782 Barley-Corn owned by Mr Hill
1783 Justice owned by Mr Allen
1784 Minion owned by Mr Corbett
1785 Charactacus owned by Mr Wynne
1802 Paul owned by Mr Boate
1803 Ultimate owned by Mr Groom
1804 Sir Christopher Hutton owned by Mr C W Williams Wynn
1805 Nimrod owned by Mr E Youde
1806 Unnamed gelding by Fergus owned by Mr Lloyd (Walked over)
1807 Gleaner owned by Mr Wynn
1808 Surprise owned by Mr J Corbet (Walked over)
1809 Banker owned by Mr F R Price
1810 Unnamed gelding by George owned by Mr Price
1811 Unnamed filly by True Blue owned by Honourable T Kenyon
1812 Brown Charlotte owned by Mr T Lloyd
1813 Hebe owned by Mr Niccolls
1815 Rosalind owned by Mr Roger
1816 Robin Adair owned by Mr J Roger
1817 Plautus owned by Mr Owen
1818 Minuet owned by Mr R Roberts
1819 Amelia owned by Mr Cockerill
1820 Tom Paine owned by Mr J Bennion
1821 Mad Moll owned by Mr Ormsby Gore
1822 Unnamed mare by Milo owned by Mr Mytton
1823 Oliver Snape owned by Mr Hughes
1824 Spot owned by Mr Ormsby Gore
1825 Sir Gregor owned by Mr Cockerill
1827 Orthodox owned by Mr Thompson (Walked over)
1828 Unnamed gelding by Tiresias owned by Sir T Stanley
1829 Pelion owned by Lord Grosvenor
1830 Tib owned by Mr Gore
1831 Pluralist owned by Mr Palin
1832 Pluralist owned by Sir John Hanmer
1833 Pluralist owned by Mr Palin (Walked over)
1834 La Grace owned by Mr T Jones
1835 Lucy owned by Mr B King
1836 Mezereon owned by Mr Painter
1837 Ratcatcher owned by Mr Nanney
1838 King Cole owned by Mr T Walter
1839 Maid of Monton owned by Mr Holkens
1840 Chantilly owned by Mr T Walter
1841 Prince Albert owned by Mr Price
1842 Miss Kitty Cockle owned by Mr Fox
1843 Princess of Wales owned by Mr Davies
1844 Tippoo owned by Mr C B Borough
1845 Dr Husband owned by Mr Worthington
1846 Little Hampton owned by Mr Standish
1847 Master Downes owned by Mr W Smith (Walked over)
1848 Master Downes owned by Mr W Smith

In the 1800’s the course was re-laid with new turf by French Napoleonic War prisoners, with a grandstand built to house the rich nobility.

Monday 27th September to Wednesday 29th September 1824

Oswestry Stewards Cup over 2 miles
1. Hengist owned by Mr Painter
2. Alecto owned by Mr Barrow
3. Hesperus owned by Mr Ormsby Gore

Oswestry Silver Hunters Cup over 2 miles
1. Spot owned by Mr Ormsby Gore

Oswestry Gold Cup over 3 amd a half miles
1. Whittington owned by Mr Mytton
2. Sir Edward owned by Mr Rogers
3. Rowlston owned by Mr Ormsby Gore

Oswestry Produce Stakes over 1 mile
1. Unnamed colt by Rubens owned by Sir W W Wynn
2. Orthodox owned by Sir W W Wynn

Oswestry Town Plate over 3 and a half miles
1. Sir Edward owned by Mr Rogers
2. Unnamed filly by Comus owned by Sir W W Wynn
3. Aimwell owned by Sir T Stanley

The Foal Stakes over a mile and a half
1. Thyraina owned by Mr Ormsby Gore
2. Manoeuvre owned by Lord Grosvenor

James Whyte’s History of the British Turf notes that racing took place at the Shropshire town of Oswestry in September 1839 and the races were:-
W W Wynne Handicap Cup over a mile and a half;
Shropshire Innkeepers Stakes over a mile and a half;
North Shropshire County Members Stakes over a mile and a half;
Oswestry Stakes over a mile and a half;
Oswestry Gold Cup over 2 and a quarter miles;
The Clerk of the Course at this time was R Edwards

By the mid 1840’s the increased use of the railways provided new opportunities for punters and horses to travel greater distances than had previously been possible. Oswestry suffered as a consequence because punters and owners chose to travel on the railway to Shrewsbury or Chester, when the line opened in 1848, rather than their ‘local’ course. It also meant that winners at Oswestry were no longer contained to the landed gentry and rich owners, and they were not keen on their prizes being won by the hoi polloi. The popular Ordinaries often held at the Queens Head or Wynnstay, and the Assemblies held at the Wynnstay Arms, no longer welcomed the crowd sizes needed to make them viable, and Oswestry races sank into oblivion.

The final meeting, a two day meeting, was held in September 1848. The last days racing was on Saturday 23rd September 1848, although a one off one day meeting apparently was held some 20 years later on Friday 18th September 1868.

Course today

Significant evidence of the old racecourse remains. It is possible to walk around the figure of 8 course on racecourse common, a walk of about 3 ½ miles. The remains of the old grandstand can still be seen, and the Chains Cottage, the Wynnstay Arms and Wynnstay Hotel can still visited.

For those wishing to carry out further research, I can fully recommend ‘Oswestry Racecourse’ by Harry Ruckley

ISBN 0-903802-41-4

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 johnslusar@fsmail.net

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