Which is the oldest racecourse in Britain?
Established in 1539, perhaps surprisingly, on the site of a Roman harbour on the River Dee, Chester Racecourse is the oldest racourse in Britain, according to Guinness World Records. Chester Racecourse is also known as the ‘Roodee’ or ‘Roodeye’, meaning ‘Island of the Cross’, after the silt island which, by the Middle Ages, had accumulated in the middle of the watercourse and once bore a stone cross.
The first recorded race at Chester Racecourse was staged on February 9, 1539 and, in his second term as Mayor of Chester, Henry Gee gave his seal of approval to an annual meeting, which was held on Shrove Tuesday until 1609 and on St. George’s Day thereafter. Gee died in 1545, but is commemorated by the Henry Gee Stakes, run annually in July.
Chester Racecourse prospered and, although the first grandstand wasn’t built until 1817, the Dee Stakes, nowadays a Listed race, was run for the first time in 1813. The Chester Cup was inaugurated, as the Tradesman’s Cup, in 1824 and was followed by the Chester Vase, still a recognised Derby trial, in 1907. Some years earlier, in 1892, the racecourse was enclosed and admission charges made for the first time.