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Earliest meeting: Thursday 9th April 1863
Final meeting: Thursday 9th April 1863
The Hertfordshire market town of Hitchin was first mentioned in the 7th century when known as a place where the Hicce people gathered, although in the Domesday Book the town is known as a Royal Manor. The town was the central point around which race meetings organised by the Hertfordshire Hunt were based. The inaugural card was held on Thursday 14th March 1861 in the nearby village of Buntingford. The next year the meeting was staged at Stevenage on Thursday 6th March 1862 when the Hunters’ Stakes was won by Mr Jenkins’s Express, beating Gisors and Forester. However, it was in 1863 that the Hunt Group switched their attention to the village of Pirton and organised a meeting on Thursday 9th April 1863. The small village is located 3 miles north west of Hitchin and was recorded in the Domesday Book when known as Peritone. Its church was rebuilt in 1877 using the stones from the bailey of its former castle, incorporating the original 12th century tower. The 3 mile course was in fields, complete with stand, on the Pirton to Hitchin road, and the meeting opened with a Farmers’ Plate over 3 miles which saw Mr J B Wilkinson’s Malta beat Gibraltar and Otho. The later Hunters’ Stakes was won by Captain A Burnand’s Conjuror, while the principal Hertfordshire Hunt Open Steeplechase went to Oliver Twist. Meetings continued under rules for a further 15 years until a final card was staged on Friday 22nd March 1878. Even after this date meetings were organised well into the start of the 20th century, but were by then popular point-to-point meetings.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Lord Dacre, Lord Royston, Earl of Strathmore
Principal Races

United Hunt Steeplechase, Hertfordshire Open Steeplechase

Thursday 9th April 1863
Hertfordshire Hunt Open Steeplechase over 3 miles
1. Oliver Twist, bay gelding owned by Mr B Land
2. Playman, bay gelding owned by Mr Arthur Yates
3. Magician, bay gelding owned by Mr Richardson
7/4 Oliver Twist, 5/1 Playman, 5/1 Magician

The final meeting took place on Thursday 9th April 1863.
Course today Initially at Tennis Court Farm in Buntingford, but then Pirton, Stevenage, Letchworth and Hitchin.
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:-

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.
Download an order form
  Quantity Cost
Volume 1 North of Hatfield £19.99 + £4 postage    
Volume 2 South of Hatfield £14.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 3 Wales & Scotland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 4 Ireland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volumes 1 - 4 £54.96 + £5 postage    
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