Horse-racing? In Reading? We’ve all heard about Newbury and Ascot, but few people know that at various periods between 1705 and 1906 there were six racecourses in Reading, offering both Flat and National Hunt racing.
Local sports journalist Nigel Sutcliffe has researched their histories and written this fascinating account. There was a track at King’s Meadow, while another was on the site of Maiden Erlegh School. Meetings also once took place at Bulmershe Heath, Whiteknights, Calcot and Whitley, to the south of what is now Cintra Park. Races at Maiden Erlegh were staged under the patronage of Sol Joel, a diamond magnate and racehorse owner who also gave his name to the playing fields at Earley. One meeting in 1902 attracted more than 4,500 racegoers, and special trains were laid on to bring spectators from far and wide. The book lists the winning horse and owner of every race that took place at the six Reading tracks, and also contains the names of many of the winning jockeys, including the legendary Fred Archer.
As well as a wealth of detail about horses, riders and owners, the book describes the activities of local racegoers of all classes, from the balls and assemblies attended by the gentry and aristocrats to the crime and corruption inevitably associated with racing in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Nigel Sutcliffe. Paperback, 210 x 135 mm, 120 pages, July 2010.