Whitehaven Racecourse

Whitehaven Racecourse was located on Harras Moor. It was established by Joseph Fearon, the proprietor of the Globe Hotel on Duke Street. The Racecourse, covered an area of 40 acres. A grandstand was erected in 1882, affording standage for about 1,000 persons; and a balcony in front gave it an additional capacity for 300 spectators. There were two courses that overlapped. The short course for flat racing formed an ellipse, some 700 yards long. The long course was for steeplechasing.

The inaugural two day meeting from Tuesday 7th to Wednesday 8th September, 1852, opened with the Whitehaven Castle Stakes over a mile and a half which was won by Mr J J Henderson’s Needle. On the same day the West Cumberland Stakes went to Mr Jackson’s Augean, while the Whitehaven Plate was won by Morgan Rattler.

The Cockermouth Stakes was the most exciting race on the second day, when The Judge got the better of Needle and Harker. Meetings continued on an annual basis until 1864, although mysteriously results were not included in the Racing Calendar in 1855. Nevertheless, a meeting was staged on Tuesday 25th September 1855 when the Whitehaven Castle Stakes was won by Mr Jopson's Rifleman.

At the meeting on Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th October 1864 the Whitehaven Volunteers Plate went to Mr Lindsay’s Measure for Measure, while the Cockermouth Hunters Stakes was won by Mr Fearon's Mountain Boy, but after that meeting racing ceased for 5 years.

By the 1870s meetings were billed as 'Whitehaven and Cumberland races', offering steeplechase racing as well as flat meetings. The West Cumberland Meeting moved to a new steeplechase course at Whitehaven on Tuesday 23rd April 1878 when the Open Hunters' Flat Race was won by Golden Pippin, owned by the Duke of Hamilton. A famous horse of the time was Lord of the Harem who won on 21 occasions but at Whitehaven on Saturday 18th April 1885 he suffered such a bad injury that he had to be put down. The final meeting took place on Monday 26th May 1890.

Whitehaven Racecourse c1882
Whitehaven Racecourse c1882
A press report in 1854 tells much about the fun enjoyed at Whitehaven Racecourse: "This meeting was celebrated on Tuesday and Wednesday last, under the stewardship of Captain Spencer and Thomas Salkeld, Esquire. Mr John Daly the well-know active C.C. from Carlisle threw his services into the scale, in a similar capacity, on the present occasion. Mr E.W Topham of Chester, was the handicapper. The weights were all raised by 8stn 7lbs. The fields it will be seen, were small; but the sport was quite up to the average usually witnessed in this locality."

"The Whitehaven Castle Stakes of five sovereigns each for two and three year olds was won by two year old Cherry Brandy. The Whitehaven Plate Race for 50 sovereigns added to the Handicap Sweepstakes of 10 sovereigns each.was run 'twice around and a distance' and won 'cleverly' won by Mr Robson's five year old Dalkeith, ridden by Howe."

This same horse was recorded as winning the Tally-Ho handicap stakes over two miles. Those who could enter were described in old fashioned terms as "bona fide hunters; gentlemen riders. But professional riders had to carry a 5lb extra weight."

The following day the Speculation Plate was only won by a head by Mr Hartley's Angelo (a four year old) after "a severe race between Angelo and Fairthorn."

In addition to the horse racing, greyhound racing was also quite popular among the masses. A report from 1848 said: "a very large assemblage of the friends of the leash, by many of whom a superior breed of greyhound was brought to compete for the different prizes. Many a brace (of hares) was doomed to yield to the greyhounds winged speed."

Plan Of Whitehaven Racecourse
Plan Of Whitehaven Racecourse


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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