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Local Rural Races

During one of his research sessions, our local historian, David Hayns came across a plan showing 'the old Race Course' at Threapwood.

The style of writing on the plan suggested a date during the first half of the 19th century.

Initial enquiries asking local residents if they knew anything about a race course in the area, proved ineffective in locating the site.

Some years later, David identified a triangular patch of rough ground known in those days as the Cinder Common, lying between Lower House and Topwood.
Referring to the layout of the plan it was possible to positively identify this area as the location of 'the old Race Course'!

threapwood races
Location of part of the old racecourse with the inset depicting the area covered by the course.

Today that same patch of ground is an attractive grassed public amenity area, planted up with bulbs and shrubs.

Around the same time as the site was identified, the late Gerrard Barnes was working through 'The Cheshire Sheaf'; a 'notes and queries' publication which first appeared in 1878.
In one issue he found a copy of a poster from 1800, advertising 'Worthenbury Wakes and Threapwood Races'.

Worthenbury Wake and Threapwood Races 1800
On Monday and Tuesday the 29th and 30th September 1800.
On Monday the 29th will be run for on The Holy Land at Thomas Hughes a piece of plate, value Fifty pounds. On Tuesday the 30th will be run for by Ponies at Jane Richards a piece of plate, value Fifty Pounds. Each of the above plates are subject to Articles.

Every Horse to be entered on each Morning before eleven o'clock, or pay double Entrance at the Post and start each evening exactly at three o'clock. Not less than three to start.

Balls, Assemblies and great public and private Diversions. Bull and Bear Baiting as usual.

At the foot of the poster were the cryptic comments: 'N.B. All Tailors seen on Horseback will be taken up and whipped' and 'Those that won't come shan't see it'.

Eddie Broad, who lived then at Topwood Farm in Threapwood, found further references in a history of Worthenbury, published in 1890, which revealed that Threapwood Races had been patronised by many of the local aristocracy and gentry, including the likes of Lord Molineux, Sir Robert Grosvenor and Watkin Williams Wynn.

To add to the research he found that a small field near the course had been known as the 'Jockey Field' (a collecting area for the riders?).
The whole course, about one mile long, can still be followed on today's lanes and public footpaths.

Gerrard, Eddie and David published our research in the Malpas History magazine in July 1984 (now available on-line) and the article has also been reproduced on the Threapwood History Group's website.

Indications of an early race course was laid out around the fields of what is now Larkton House Farm.
It would seem this was a four-mile steeplechase course, the layout of which was drawn in pencil on a Cholmondeley estate plan, dating from around 1705, which shows clearly the starting and finishing positions, and some of the mile posts.

Overton Heath
Until around 60 years ago point-to-point steeplechases were still hosted by the Barnett family at Overton Hall, just outside Malpas.
They were organised by the Wynnstay Hunt, and presided over by the joint Master Sir Watkin Wynn, whose photo appears in a Cheshire Life article about the event, published in May 1962.

Many older Malpas residents have memories of going to watch the point-to-point, remembering it as a great day out and a very social occasion.

As a child growing up at Kidnal, my two brothers and I looked forward to the race days.

With very little motor vehicle traffic on the Tilston road in the late 1950's, we would often have a full game of cricket in the middle of the road.
The wickets were 5 gallon oil cans, and we only had to move them when the odd car or commercial van came past.

Race days at Overton were a highlight for us, when we would sit by our garden gate taking car registration numbers, and trying to identify the various makes.

When there was a break in the stream of cars heading for the race venue, as a competition we would each pick a make of car, with the winner being determined by which make came around the corner at the bottom of the road first.

Chris Whitehurst
1st December 2023

Information sources from research by David Hayns.
Article on A Day at the Rural Races published in My Village News

overton hall races

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