Horseracing industry was a big breadwinner in Lewes

First past the post: 'Daily Sketch' winning the 1959 Larnach Plate at Lewes Racecourse
First past the post: 'Daily Sketch' winning the 1959 Larnach Plate at Lewes Racecourse

‘Racing Into History’ is the title of the talk being given to Lewes History Group on Monday (July 14) and offers the inside track on the town’s horseracing industry.

Lewes Racecourse is the fourth oldest in England and from the early 1700s until September 1964 it attracted top thoroughbreds, famous jockeys and large crowds of race-goers.

Fortunately, half-a-century after its closure, the course is still largely intact and used by current racehorse trainers.

Probably few people in Lewes are now aware that racing became the biggest employer in the town, even outclassing the local iron and brewing industries in the 19th century.

John Turley’s talk traces the history and fluctuating fortunes of Lewes Racecourse and its impact on the town. It will also look at some of the characters associated with this once-thriving industry, ranging from royalty and the elite of society through to infamous razor gangs.

John grew up in a close-knit racing community and the sport is very much in his blood. He will combine this experience with his keen interest in the rich history of racing to produce a fascinating talk for people with or without any prior knowledge of the ‘Sport of Kings’.

At one time there were as many as 60 training stables in Lewes. The late ‘Towser’ Gosden sent out Aggressor to win the 1960 King George at Ascot, while his successor Gordon Smyth landed the 1966 Derby with Charlottown. Auriol Sinclair, who was the second woman to obtain a licence, trained in Lewes with great success in the 1960s.

Monday’s talk is part of a series of events taking place in the town to mark the closure of the racecourse 50 years ago, including an exhibition at The White Hart Hotel on Saturday, September 13, and a parade through the town and a fete on Race Hill on Sunday, September 14.

The venue for the talk is King’s Church building, Brooks Road, opposite the Homebase car park. Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30 start and everyone is welcome.

There is a small admission charge on the door (£3 non-members and £2 members) and free refreshments. Visit for more information on the group, its meetings and other activities.