Racecourse Common was once the venue for the Sport of Kings.
it's one of the most beautiful places in the county, with spectacular
views for miles across the Shropshire and Cheshire Plains to the
east, and across Wales to the west - if you're lucky with the weather!
70 years this spot was a working, busy racetrack patronised by local
lords and gentlemen, including the infamous 'Mad Jack' Mytton.
on a hillside known as Cyrn y Bwch - the Horns of the Buck,
Oswestry Racecourse sits on a plateau running north to south just
to the east of Offa's Dyke and the Welsh border, some 1,000 feet
above sea level.
here to see our panoramic image of Racecourse Common
knows exactly when racing began here, although it's known to have
been at some point in the early 1700s.
were raced around a two mile-long figure of eight-shaped track that
straddled the road from Oswestry to Llansilin, today the B4580.
annual race meetings were a big event, usually lasting three days.
Chains were slung across the road to stop the traffic, and turf
was laid across the surface of the road. Everything stopped for
festivities were never confined to the common. Down in the town
the races were the signal for much in the way of drinking and merry-making,
as well as a packed programme of social events.
of the old granstand at Racecourse Common
the start the races were backed by the great and the good of the
Oswestry area. Jack Mytton was one. This legendary character once
owned a stable of 40 horses, although he had to sell them all to
cover his gambling debts.
incidentally, was also an enthusiastic backer of Shrewsbury races,
which were once staged on his land at Bicton Heath. But racing obsessed
this man so much that he even named his son after one of his horses.
the early 19th Century, business was booming at Oswestry. The course
was relaid with new turf - by French prisoners of the Napoleonic
Wars - and it was decided to build a grandstand close to the start-finish
building, the remains of which can still be seen, provided some
cover and a vantage point for those with the money to pay for a
seat, and was used by traders selling food and drink to the racegoers.
those with money sat in the grandstand, most of the racegoers had
to make do with the earth banks that lined the track and which can
also still be seen.
things didn't last.
of the grandstand as it probably appeared in its heyday by
local artist Gordon Jones
inevitably meant gambling took place here, and hard drinking was
rife among racegoers. And the presence of so many people drinking
and gambling meant that beggars and pickpockets were also at the
races in large numbers.
the 1840s outsiders and horse owners from the lower classes had
begun to win races, which, of course, wasn't popular among the great
and the good.
behaviour during race week - both on the course and down in Oswestry
- got worse and worse and people started to avoid the event.
fell and the revenues from stall holders, traders and admission
fees dropped correspondingly.
end of the races
development which helped spell the end of racing at Oswestry was
the arrival of the railways, which allowed horses to be transported
further afield, along with spectators.
last meeting took place in 1848 - the very same year that the Shrewsbury
to Chester railway line opened - and the course was abandoned.
a little while the grandstand was occupied by a group of mole catchers,
but gradually it fell into ruin and the stone was used to build
other houses nearby.
the Racecourse Common is a recreation area where some unusual plants
can be seen, thanks mainly to the acidic grassland of the former
racetrack. In spring, much of the site is covered by a carpet of
home to all sorts of wild animals, and attracts a wide variety of
birds, including Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff and Linnets.
the B4580, signposted Llansilin, from Oswestry town centre and follow
the road out of the town and up the steep hill. At the crest of
the hill follow the signs to Racecourse Common.