Where, and what, is the Knavesmire?

Where, and what, is the Knavesmire? Historically, ‘Knares Myre’ and, later, ‘Knavesmire’, was the name given to one distinct portion of an area of open land, known as the Micklegate Stray, within the with the City of York, to the southwest of the city centre. Unsurprisingly, the name was derived from the sodden, waterlogged nature of the terrain but, nowadays, the Knavesmire is best known as the site of York Racecourse, a busy Grade One track, which stages some of the best Flat racing in the country. Consequently, in the horse racing world, ‘Knavesmire’ has become a byname for the racecourse.

Following major levelling and drainage work, York Racecourse staged its first meeting in 1731. In 1756, the first modern grandstand built anywhere in the world was opened on the Knavesmire. York Racecourse was originally a dual-purpose venue, patronised by the Yorkshire Union Hunt, but National Hunt racing ceased in 1885. Likewise, York Racecourse was originally horseshoe-shaped but, prior to the ‘Royal Ascot at York’ meeting in 2005, the original horseshoe was extended by three furlongs to create an oval, 15 furlongs in circumference, capable of accommodating the Gold Cup and other long distance races.