Paulsgrove Racecourse

 Created 24-10-2003    Last update 24-10-2003

 

In 1891 Portsmouth opened its first racecourse, called 'Portsmouth Park', at Farlington which is located on the lower southern slopes of east Portsdown. With its excellent facilities and transport links - it had its own railway station - it was set to become one of Britain's premier tracks. However race meetings were suspended during World War One and the War Office turned the course into one of the country's biggest ammunition dumps. They were reluctant to return it to its owners even after hostilities ceased in 1918 and disposal of the ammunition did not begin until 1922 when it was cleared at the rate of 3,000 tons a week by detonating it! The site was not released until 1929 when it was bought by Portsmouth City Council for 65 an acre who then sold it on for private housing development.

George Cooper a local businessman who lived at Paulsgrove House was ever adept at spotting a business opportunity and decided Portsmouth should have its racecourse back, but this time on land that he owned at Paulsgrove - then known as Wymering three miles west of the old Farlington track. This course went the same way as the Farlington one, and you can read the continuing story here.

 
Sources: Portsmouth History in the Hiding - Anthony Triggs; Portsmouth City Records Office; Portsmouth News.
 

Original Location SU 638058


  


 
 

An advert for a day at the races 1920s style. It's a bit confusing because north is at the bottom of the page. The area marked 'Portsmouth Harbour' has now been reclaimed for the M27 motorway and the Port Solent complex.

 

Aerial photo of Paulsgrove racecourse

On the 10 August 1928 the Portsmouth Racecourse opened. It was located right alongside the south coast railway line and had its own Halt. It could accommodate 8,000 punters and had parking for 2,000 cars. The course was laid with 40,000 square yards of turf taken from the downland of Portsdown. The bridge over the railway still exists (arrowed) and provides a good marker of the racecourse location - it's where the Paulsgrove playing fields are today. On the bottom left of the photo is a rare view of the now vanished 'Paulsgrove Quay'.

 
 
The stands  

Paulsgrove Racecourse (usually referred to as Wymering or Portsmouth Racecourse) looking southeast.  The railway bridge is arrowed and Paulsgrove Halt can be seen behind the stands. The bridge was built by the Victorians to allow access to Paulsgrove Chalkpit along a track called Paulsgrove Lane. When the racecourse was built the name was changed to Racecourse Lane.

 
 
 
Punters

Although claimed as the sport of Kings, horse racing attracted every class of person.

 
 
 
A race in progress

Looking north at a race in progress. The foreground is now covered in housing. In the background is Portsdown Hill. To the right is Paulsgrove Chalkpit and on top of the hill on the left is Fort Southwick.

 
 

The race course from the Harbour

A view of the race track, Paulsgrove Chalkpit and Portsdown Hill looking north from Portsmouth Harbour. The houses on the shoreline were the first to be built in Paulsgrove and were demolished in 2002 to make way for retail development. Tescos superstore now stands where the photographer was.

 
 
 
Motorcycle racing

Dirt track racing was also catered for by incorporating a second track around the horse racing perimeter.