There were once far more racecourses than there are today. The huge majority have now disappeared. The single county of Shropshire will serve to show what has happened.
Albrighton first staged races o
n 26 July 1830 and racing continued for 45 years with the last meeting on 17 April 1875. Today, no one can even say for certain where the racecourse was.
Steeplechases were staged from 1860 till 1879. As they were steeplechases, it is likely that there was never an actual racecourse and that the races were run on local fields. In any case, their whereabouts is not now known.
Racing started on Oakley Mynd in 1780 and an annual two-day meeting was held every year until 1785. Then there was nothing until 1809 when a new course on Aston Hill staged races until 1840. Since then, nothing.
Bridgnorth Racecourse was well supported by notables including Lord Molyneux, Admiral Piggott and Mr Williams Wynn. The first race was run in 1690; today Racecourse Farm is the only record of racing there, since the last meeting was held in 1839.
And so by the letter B there are already four defunct racecourses in one small county, and another score or so Shropshire racecourses have not even been mentioned. One that must have its place in the sun is:
Racing started in Oswestry about 1680. And, in fact, it wasn’t actually “in” Oswestry, because the racecourse was about 2 miles outside the town on a hill that marked the boundary between England and Wales. By 1719 at the latest, the local landed gentry were paying subscriptions each year so that a three-day meeting could take place and by 1728 things were well enough established that Baily’s Racing Register was marking the meetings and reporting results.
Then came the railways. Punters could travel to larger meetings and local racecourses began to die. Today, local people still walk the figure of eight track and take photographs on a stone monument from the 19th-century, but nothing else remains.