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Holywell Racecourse

There was rain in the air, and the winds did blow, but after two weeks of Covid related isolation, nothing was going to stop me - Lord no, so it I was away, following a genuine curiosity.


You may have gathered, that my head is in the past - and when I say past, I mean millennia past. But, here's a thing. While I was burying myself in OS maps of the mid 19th century Caerwys and Holywell area, I came across Holywell Racecourse. A quick shufty on Google Earth and there it was still, clear enough to be seen, clear enough to visit. A look at a modern OS map, and would you believe it. much of it is still traceable by footath and, irony of ironies, brideways. Now, that had to be visited...


At two miles and a furlong, it wasn't the longest of courses (although a smidge longer than the much older Chester Racecourse. Laid down in the 1760s by the racing fanatical Mostyns, the first race was on 9th November 1769, and run in the October of every year after until 1836, when it seems to have come to an end. It was run once more in 1852, but then seems to have died a death for good.


There are a few tales surrounding the races, possibly apocryphal, but possibly not. Richard Grosvenor, the 2nd Marquis of Westminster is said to have lost his temper when he found that one of the rooms in the White Lion in Holywell, an establishment he was in the habit of booking in its entirety during the Holywell Races for his guests, had been taken by a commercial traveller who refused to leave. Grosvenor is said to have never returned to the White Lion, and instead built Halkyn Castle for himself and his guests.


Another, is how Lord Mostyn was so happy with a win at one of the Holywell Races, he gave an inn at nearby Caerwys to the jockey - an inn that is to this day, still named after the horse - The Piccadilly Inn.

Today, other than the Racecourse itself, much of which is still there to be walked, the ghostly remains of the grandstand and starters tower remain - scattered masonary amongst a field of turnips - winter feed for the sheep.



The starters tower today...


...and what it used to look like.


The grandstand today...


...and how it used to look, a few years after the end of the races in 1852.


All in all, a rather wonderful day.

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