|Location of Morpeth Racetrack (click to enlarge)|
|Armstrong Map of Northumberland 1769|
Research in the "Keys to the Past" sites and monuments website for Northumberland and Durham revealed:
Although the town was a centre of trade for the surrounding countryside, the citizens of Morpeth enjoyed their leisure hours. In 1730 they built a racecourse for horse racing. It was still in use in the mid-19th century. It only fell out of use when the asylum was built. The area around the two castles became a park in the late 19th century, and the people were able to follow riverside walks along the Wansbeck.Internet searches aimed at racing websites yielded this from greyhoundderby.com
The earliest recorded racing in... Morpeth was in 1720... and racing certainly took place prior to 1720. The course... [was] approached by a steep but narrow road. This would have meant that carriages would have found it difficult to access the course. Baily’s Racing Register first provided detailed results from races held at Morpeth in 1730, with the meeting being held in September... It is known that the famous poet, Lord Byron, owned horses which ran at the track in the early and mid-1750’s. By 1800 the only Northumbrian meetings to be sufficiently important to be included in Sporting Magazines and Racing Calendars were Morpeth and Newcastle. Racing ceased at the Collingwood course in 1854, and it took a further 17 years to re-establish racing at Morpeth. The new course, just ¾ of a mile from the town centre, was on Morpeth Common and included a grandstand which was opened by Robert Wilkinson, the Mayor of Morpeth, on 10th September 1875. http://www.greyhoundderby.com/Morpeth%20Racecourse.html [This site lists some memorable races and winners on the track]Subsequent editions of mapping all the way down to the 1970s and 1980s have shown the site to be reasonably well preserved. It is only in this latter period that buildings begin to be shown on the on the central part of the site and foliage masking the course. The site of the course does not seem to interfere with the asylum (now St George's hospital) so it is a question for further research as to the track's demise and, in fact, horse racing in general in 17th-18th century Northumberland.
To Be Continued...