Chester racecourse, sometimes known as the Roodee, is according to the record books, the oldest racecourse still in use in Britain. Unique as a racecourse, it is situated within Chester city walls.
Races are thought to have been held at Chester as early as the sixteenth century. Lying on the banks of the River Dee, it was once the site of a Roman harbour. The course has a small raised mound in the centre which is decorated with a cross, sometimes known as a ‘rood’, hence the name ‘Roodee’.
According to local legend, this marks the site at which a statue of the Virgin Mary, sentenced to hang after causing a death, is buried.
The legend states that Lady Trawst who was the wife of the Governor of Hawarden, was killed by the statue as she prayed for rain at the church. A fierce storm erupted and the statue was loosened, thus falling on her head, killing her. The statue is a holy object so could not be hanged or burned for fear of sacrilege; it was instead left by the river banks from where it was carried to Chester.
The first recorded race at Chester is believed to have been in 1540 when races were held on Shrove Tuesday, as indeed they were up until 1609. After this time the races were moved to St.George’s day, April 23. The Chester Goldsmiths Company supplied a silver bell for the winners of these races, although it had to be returned every year. It was not until the early 17th Century that they were permitted to keep it. Later in the 1600’s this was replaced by a silver cup and over the course of the years it was changed for a gold cup, awarded by the Grosvenor family.
The course is notable for several features that mark it out from other courses throughout the country. It is crossed by the Grosvenor Bridge, formerly the longest single arch bridge in the world. As well as this, the North of the course is bordered by the North Wales Coast Line railway. On the South bank of the river, the course is overlooked by the mansions of Curzon Park.
Major Races and Events
Chester plays host to several race meetings throughout the year all of which are very popular among race goers due to the proximity of the course to local hotels, bars and restaurants. Among the most popular races at Chester are the Cheshire Oaks, Chester Cup, Chester Vase, Dee Stakes, Huxley Stakes and Ormonde Stakes races, all held in May. These races are within the May Festival which takes place between the 7th and 9th of May in 2008 (ladies day is the 8th).
In June and July there are several evening meets and the year is rounded off with several key events including Sunday Funday (3rd August 2008), August Festival (29-30 August 2008) and the Summer Finale (27 September 2008).
Tickets can sometimes be bought at the entrance depending on the meeting. If you prefer to book in advance, you can order tickets online here or by telephoning the course on 01244 304610.
Ticket prices vary for the different meetings throughout the year from £7 for tickets on the course to £40 for some grandstand tickets. Car parking ranges from £7-£10. Anyone wishing to become an annual member can do so for £380.
As Chester racecourse is in the centre of Chester, the hardest part is finding your way to Chester. Once there the race course is suitably signposted on race days and also on non race days. If you’re driving to Chester from the south, take the A41 once you’ve left the M6. If you’re coming from either the North or East head for the M62 and then the M56 towards Chester. One the roads in to Chester, the racecourse is signposted.
Chester is on the North Wales Line and is served by trains from most parts of the UK. Once at Chester station, you are not far from the racecourse and your easiest option would be to take a taxi.
Chester Racecourse Chester CH1 2LY Tel: 01244 304600 Fax: 01244 306648 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org