Kirkham’s own Grand National

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I recently went on a pub trip to the races, and the coach driver said he’d been told there used to be a racecourse in Kirkham. Needless to say, nobody, apart from one of us, believed him. He was 76 years old and claimed he was born on the opening day of Kirkham racecourse. Was he right?

Mr R N

Wesham

Yes, he was right! The ‘Sport of Kings’ was witnessed by thousands of people who flocked to the inaugural meeting at Carr Hill Racecourse on Easter Saturday, 1934.

The promoter was Mr Edward Sergeant, who earlier had purchased Carr Hill House and the Manorial Rights of Kirkham.

It was situated almost opposite Kirkham Windmill.

He turned the house into the Carr Hill Hotel, and built the racecourse in the grounds to the rear of the hotel.

The half-mile oval track cost £6,000 and ran parallel to the new main Preston to Blackpool road that was to open later in the year.

The gardens to the rear of the hotel were used as the Paddock, and also the Members Enclosure. The second meeting attracted such a huge entry that the track length was extended to one mile, with extra accomodation added for the public.

The venue was set for success after the very popular Whitsuntide meeting, until Kirkham Urban District Council said the racecourse was detrimental to the neighbourhood. Mr Sergeant held a local referendum, and in August 1934 a public enquiry was held.

In evidence, Mr Sergeant produced the voting papers, showing 1,614 votes in favour and only 17 against!

Another example of the public, rather than the council, knowing what they wanted!

In October, notice was given by the Government minister responsible that he’d decided that the venture “would not injure the amenities of the neighbourhood”.

Carr Hill Racecourse retained its popularity, continuing to receive entries from many parts of the country, the horses being stabled in local hotel yards.

However, disaster struck in 1938 when Lancashire County Council acquired a 140ft strip of land – intended for future road widening – between the new main road and the race track. This made it impossible for racing to continue, and the course closed.

During the Second World War, the hotel was used as an officer’s mess, and the racecourse was requisitioned by the War Agricultural Committee. The hotel re-opened after the War. Eventually, however, it closed and later, in 1963, it was demolished and houses built on the site.

Much of this information is based on an article from the 1960 Express archives. We are also grateful to Mr Andrew Wareing, from Wrea Green, for providing the photographs.

ALEX MAITLAND and MATT WARHURST

If you have a local puzzler from the past, write to The History Detectives at The Express.