Photo finish for famous Lewes Racecourse

The famous Harveys Dray parades on the former course
The famous Harveys Dray parades on the former course

The 50th anniversary of the closure of Lewes Racecourse was marked with a series of highly successful events.

On Saturday, September 13, the White Hart Hotel was the venue for a very well-attended exhibition of memorabilia relating to the racecourse and the racing industry that once dominated the town.

Visitors were also treated to wonderful colour films from the last years of the racecourse and were able to chat with eminent historians of the turf such as Chris Pitt and Stewart Nash. Attendance was further boosted as the Tour of Britain drew more people to the High Street.

The weather could not have been kinder for the fete on the site of the old racecourse on the Sunday. This was preceded by a vintage car show in the Corporation Wharf car park and a parade through the town to the Race Hill. The parade included vintage cars and a special coach for local OAPs and was led by the local Hunt and Harvey’s dray. The organisers’ aim of reviving the old race days when traffic was bumper to bumper up the motor road to the course was magnificently achieved.

Another highlight was the unveiling of a stunning plaque on the site by Bobby Elliott, who rode the last ever winner at the racecourse in 1964. Bobby was accompanied by other jockeys who were there on the final day, including Bryan Leyman and Bunny Hicks.

Local trainer Suzy Smith opened her stables for a Sunday morning tour which included a parade of Suzy’s horses, a walk on the old course and a visit to the grave of 1921 Grand National winner Shaun Spadah.

The event organisers were invited by Brighton racecourse to attend the Monday race meeting, where Lewes memorabilia was again on display and Bobby Elliott was on hand to sign prints from 1964.

Lewes Racecourse Club founder Barry Foulkes was delighted with the success of the weekend. He said: “All of our hard work has been thoroughly worthwhile and we wish to thank everyone who has supported us by attending the events or helping in the preparations. Lewes Racecourse Club will continue to ensure this important part of the town’s heritage is not forgotten.”

The last ever Lewes racecard stated: “Racing has taken place in Lewes over two centuries with crowds of more than 6,000 attracted to meetings. Lewes had a useful function to fulfil in British racing.” It also said the decision would be regretted in the future.