Richmond Racecourse
Sport Richmond North Yorkshire

Richmond Racecourse

Sport In Richmond, North Yorkshire

A former horse racing track on the outskirts of Richmond that contains what is left of the oldest, surviving, stone built, public grandstand in the world.

The story of Richmond Racecourse begins not on a manicured grass track like those we see today, but on the rugged terrain of High Moor. In 1765, driven by a local landowner's passion for equestrian pursuits, the first races were held, drawing crowds eager for a spectacle. However, the uneven grounds proved unsuitable, leading to a relocation to Low Moor in 1776. Here, a dedicated site was prepared, marking the official birth of Richmond Racecourse.

Between 1765 and the building of the main grandstand in 1775, a temporary wooden stand was erected each year, the impetus for a more permanent structure came about due to the course holding the Hambleton Hundred Guineas Race.

Public subscription funded the grandstand project, and renowned architect John Carr, famed for his work on other racecourses, is believed to have designed the structure. Completed in 1775, the imposing stone Grandstand, with its Palladian-inspired facade and elegant proportions, stood as a symbol of grandeur and civic pride. It remains the oldest surviving public grandstand of its kind in the world. Besides the main grandstand, a private stand was built in 1814 for the Zetland family.

The track was in a rough oval shape and ran for a distance of 1.5 miles (2.4 km) with the grandstand in the middle at the west end, which afforded the spectators views of the race without them losing sight of the jockeys. Races were run in a clockwise direction.

With the track and grandstand established, Richmond Racecourse entered a golden age. Renowned jockeys, thoroughbred champions, and enthusiastic crowds descended upon the venue, making it a fixture on the British racing calendar. The annual King's Plate, a prestigious race sponsored by the monarch, added to the allure, attracting national attention and boosting the local economy.

The mid-19th century brought challenges. The emergence of larger, more modern racecourses, coupled with stricter regulations and changing social attitudes, led to a decline in popularity. The King's Plate was discontinued, and by 1891, horse racing ceased entirely at Richmond. The Grandstand, however, continued to serve various purposes, from accommodating agricultural shows to functioning as a public library.

The site last hosted races in August 1891; the Jockey Club had decided that one of the turns on the course was too tight for the modern thoroughbred horses. The grandstand had its lead roof stripped in the 1950s and further demolition occurred in the late 1960s.

The late 20th century saw a growing appreciation for heritage and historical preservation. The unique significance of Richmond Racecourse and its Grandstand was recognised, leading to extensive restoration efforts. In 1968, the site was designated a Grade II* listed building, ensuring its protection, although it does seem to still be in a state of disrepair.

You can also find the “Judge's Box” on the racecourse site, which sits to the south east of the Grandstand. It has on it an iron plaque that states "Erected 1814/W S Goodburne Esq/Mayor."

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How To Find Richmond Racecourse

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54.414901, -1.75544

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54.412961, 54.412961

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Parking is available adjacent to the site.

Contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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Andrew Gardner

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Richmond Racecourse was listed in Sport // North Yorkshire // Richmond