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Earliest meeting: August 1705
Final meeting: Thursday 14th January 1875
The Berkshire town of Reading was important in the medieval period as the site of Reading Abbey, a monastery with Royal links. Its prominent location meant that it was a prize worth winning in the English Civil War, and much later the Great Western Railway brought growth and prosperity to the town. Although it is known that racing took place as early as 1705 on ‘Early and Bullmarsh Heath’, the first time the town had its results listed in the ‘Historical List of Horse-Matches Run in 1751’ was when the calendar recorded a meeting taking place in Reading, at Bullmarsh Heath on a 3 mile course in August. The three day festival opened on Tuesday 6th August 1751 with the Reading Purse which was won, after 3 demanding heats, by Highlander owned by the Right Hon. Lord Onslow. Over the next two days the Hunters Purse was won by What You Please for Mr Churchill, while the Third £50 Purse went to Little Driver. The Racing Calendar later indicated a meeting was held at Reading in August 1762 when Lord Castlehaven’s strongly fancied Milk Maid was overturned by Violet. Meetings continued to be staged until 1814, after which racing lapsed. The vicinity of the course then changed to King’s Meadow when racing was reintroduced in 1843, lasting until 1860. It was to be six years before a steeplechase meeting was staged on Mr Young’s Whitley Park farm in 1866, lasting until 1868 when the severe fences caused Cripple and Farnborough to fall with fatal consequences.  The final recorded meeting took place on Thursday 14th January 1875, although racing began just 3 miles away in Maiden Erlegh on 18th May 1886 and lasted for twenty years.

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

Duke of Bolton, Lord Castlehaven, Sir Charles Bunbury, Lord Craven, Sir J Shelley, Captain Bertie, Captain Hoar

Principal Races Reading Town Plate

Tuesday 6th August 1751

Reading £50 Purse
1. Highlander, bay gelding owned by the Right Honourable Lord Onslow 3 1 1
2. Endymion, chestnut horse owned by Anthony Langley Swymmer 1 3 3
3. Margery Daw, chestnut mare owned by James Lenox Dutton 2 2 2

Wednesday 7th August 1751

Reading £50 Hunters Purse
1. What You Please, bay gelding owned by Mr Churchill 1 1
2. Why Not, grey gelding owned by Mr Proctor 2 2
3. Unnamed chestnut gelding owned by Mr Shorter 3 3

Thursday 8th August 1751

Reading Third £50 Purse
1. Little Driver, chestnut horse owned by Mr Josiah Marshall 1 1
2. Garland, grey horse owned by Mr Benjamin Rogers 2 2

10th to 12th August 1762

Reading 4 mile Hunters Stakes
1. Lincolnshire Lady owned by Mr Withers
2. Last of All owned by Mr Shorter
3. Smiling Molly owned by Mr Newland

Reading 4 mile Give and Take
1. Violet owned by Mr Hilliar
2. Milk Maid owned by Lord Castlehaven
3. Trinissime owned by Mr Matthews

Tuesday 22nd August 1775

Reading 4 mile Weight for Age
1. Wafer, a bay gelding owned by Mr Yeats
2. Pastime, a grey horse owned by Lord Craven
3. Cockspur, a grey horse owned by Mr Jennings
4. Fantail, a bay horse owned by Sir J Shelley
5. Wolsey, a bay horse owned by Sir Charles Bunbury

Reading Handicap over 4 miles
1. Tiddidol, a bay horse owned by the Duke of Bolton
2. Miss Paigent, a grey mare owned by Mr Tilbury
3. Tartar, a bay horse owned by Mr Sutton

Reading Town Plate over 2 miles
1. Heinel, a bay filly owned by Mr Compton
2. Trimmer, a bay colt owned by Mr Green
3. Bean, a bay colt owned by Mr Sparrow

Tuesday 17th to Friday 20th August 1782

Reading Give and Take over 4 miles
1. Copper Bottom owned by Captain Hoar
2. Little John owned by Mr Wildman
3. Miss Nightingale owned by Mr Tate
The winner was Evens favourite.

Reading Town Plate over 2 miles
1. Unnamed colt by Eclipse owned by Mr Carter
2. Pantalon owned by Mr Richardson

With grateful thanks to Stephen McCurrie for these scans.

Great new book by Nigel Sutcliffe priced at £9.99 and available from A very detailed 118 page booklet, written by Nigel Sutcliffe and published by Two Rivers Press , 35-39 London Street, Reading. The booklet examines the history of races at Reading from 1705 to the very last jumps meeting held at Maiden Erlegh in 1906.

The final meeting took place on Thursday 14th January 1875.
Course today Initially on Bullmarsh Heath and then King’s Meadow.
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

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.
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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