Friday, 21 May 2010

The Official Ascot Racecourse Timeline 1711 - 2010

Summer 1711 It was Queen Anne who first saw the potential for a racecourse at Ascot, which in those days was called East Cote. Whilst out riding she came upon an area of open heath, not far from Windsor Castle, that looked an ideal place for “horses to gallop at full stretch.”
June 1711 Charles, Duke of Somerset instructed Sir William Wyndham, Master of the
Royal Buckhounds to have the open heath cleared of scrub and gorse in preparation for a race meeting.
11 August 1711 The first race meeting ever held at Ascot took place. Her Majesty’s Plate ,worth 100 guineas and open to any horse, mare or gelding over the age of six, was the inaugural event. Each horse was required to carry a weight of 12st and seven runners took part.
17 September 1711 the success of Her Majesty’s Plate in August meant the second meeting followed soon after in September.
31 July 1727 John Cheny published a prototype form book, which evolved into the Racing Calendar recording the conditions of each race and the prize.
1744 The Yeoman Prickers were formed. Employed by the Master of the Buckhounds, their distinctive livery of forest green coats with gold facings are worn today by the Ascot Greencoats, who attend Royal Ascot each year.
1752 The popularity of attending the racing at Ascot was becoming apparent in social circles, prompting the Duke of Bedford to write that when arriving in London ‘I could find no soul to dine or sup with.’
1762 The first use of racing colours was introduced, although it wasn’t mandatory for another two decades.
1773 James Weatherby, Keeper of the Match Book (the book of records for match races)was authorised by the Jockey Club to publish a racing calendar. James Weatherby began a family firm, still in existence today. Weatherbys are the secretariat of horse racing in Britain.
June 1791 – The Oatlands Stakes was run at Ascot – an important landmark race as it was the first handicap race, where the weights of the runners were adjusted according to their form to give them equal chances.
1793 The first permanent building was erected by George Slingsby, a Windsor builder. It held 1,650 people and was used until 1838.
1807 The inaugural running of the Gold Cup for three year olds and upwards. It insignificant that the first Gold Cup was won by a three-year-old, this was an event designed to attract horses bred to compete much younger than had been the case the previous century.
1813 Parliament passed an Act of Enclosure. This Act ensured that Ascot Heath, although the property of the Crown, would be kept and used as a racecourse for the public in the future.
Racing at Ascot was now secure. The Master of the Buckhounds continued to manage thoraces and the racecourse – just as it was more than 100 years before.
1820 George III died and the Prince Regent ascended the throne as George VI. He immediately ordered alterations to be made to the Royal Stand by John Nash. Nash’s alterations did not satisfy the King and so, in 1822, Nash designed a brand new Royal Stand, erected in just five weeks.
1825 King George VI’s greatest legacy to Royal Ascot was the Royal Procession. The King leading four other coaches with members of the Royal party drove up the Straight Mile in front of the crowds. A diarist of the day commented; ‘the whole thing looked very splendid.’
1837 Turf on the track was relaid by the Clerk of the Course, William Hibburd, to improve the ground. Rails and posts are constructed along the track.
1838 Queen Victoria pays her first visit to Ascot as sovereign. To mark her first visit, the Queen inaugurated a new race over one and a half miles, known today as the Queen’s Vase.
1838 Horses were numbered in the racecard.
July 1838 A decision was made to construct a new stand between the betting stand and the Royal Stand. The new stand took 10 months to build and was warmly welcomed when it opened on 20 May 1839.
1839 The first public Grandstand was erected next to the Royal Stand. The lower half of the stand could hold about 3,000 people and contained a betting hall.
1839 For the first time at Ascot, the judge hoisted the number of the winner onto a large blackboard, thus putting an end to the disputes as to which horse had won.
1845 The Royal Enclosure was born when King George IV commissioned a two-storey stand to be built with a surrounding lawn. Access was by invitation of the King where he entertained his friends in style.
1856 The railway was brought to Ascot with the opening of the Staines to Wokingham line.
1861 (approx) Racing in the mid-nineteenth century was becoming more professional with Ascot appointing its first official Clerk of the Scales, James Manning (whose family stayed in the post until 1970, latterly working for the Jockey Club).
1861 Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, died and Queen Victoria did not return to Ascot again.
1862 A new race at the meeting was named after Prince Albert: the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
1863 Prince Albert, eldest son and second child of Victoria and Albert, known as Bertie, attended his first Ascot meeting aged 21 and continued to lend his support to the Royal Meeting with enthusiasm. He restored the Royal Procession and revived the custom of inviting to take overseas visitors to Ascot.
1873 Ascot witnessed the first victory for the riding phenomenon: Fred Archer. Over 14 years, he rode 80 winners at the racecourse.
1896 The Grandstand had a clock tower erected.
1901 Racing at Ascot takes place in sombre mood to mark the death of Queen Victoria.
Prince Albert ascends the throne as King Edward VII.
1901 The role of Master of the Buckhounds was disbanded and a new role created, that of the King’s representative. The first man to undertake this role was Viscount Churchill.
1901 All three stands in the Royal Enclosure were demolished under the instruction of King
Edward VII and two new stands were built between September 1901 and May 1902. The total cost was £28,350.
1902 A third stand was built at a cost of £27,636. This stand included lifts, the first to be installed on a British racecourse. In order to have the work completed by May 1902, some 500 men were employed on the task, working day and night shifts.
1908 The ‘Five Shilling Stand’ was built – later known as the Silver Ring Stand at a cost of £30,000.
1912 Racegoers began to arrive by car and for the first time, motor cars were allowed to park on the Heath.
1913 The Ascot Authority was established by an Act of Parliament. His Majesty’s Representative became Chairman of the Authority with the Clerk of the Course acting as Secretary.
1926 The Royal Enclosure buildings were extended and a new Iron Stand was erected. Ascot begins to install a new watering system, with the facility to dispense around two million gallons of water onto the turf.
1929 The Tote building was constructed (still standing today, beside the Pre-Parade Ring). The designs had been agreed by the Racecourse Betting Control Board (RBCB), the authority overseeing wagering at this time.
1936 George V dies and is succeeded by his eldest son, who became Edward VIII. The new King was a keen follower of horseracing but he never attended the Royal Meeting as reigning monarch. By the end of the year Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson.
1937 George VI & Queen Elizabeth attend their first Ascot race meeting.
1940 Racing at Ascot cancelled. The racecourse was commandeered by the army, the Grandstand providing accommodation for gunners of the Royal Artillery.
15 May 1943 Racing at Ascot resumed, with an eight race card.
21 May 1945 Ascot staged its first post war fixture and the 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth attended for the first time.
1946 Major Crocker Bulteel was appointed as the Clerk of the Course, regarded as ‘the outstanding racing administrator of his day.’ The Duke of Norfolk was appointed as the King’s representative, it was his ambition to ‘make Ascot second to none among European racecourses.’
1946 The Ascot fixture list extended to include racing in July, September and October.
1953 Queen Elizabeth II crowned on 2nd June (ascended the throne on 6th February 1952).
1955 The rules of divorce were relaxed and divorcees were able to enter the Royal Enclosure. However, a redevelopment of the Enclosure shortly before this had added the new Queen’s Lawn. Entrance was by invitation only and the Court rules governing divorce still applied.
13 June 1961 The Grandstand was demolished and the Queen Elizabeth II Stand was built. It took eleven months to build, with 550 workers at a cost of £1million. The stand represented a state-of-the-art facility at the time, accommodated 13,000 people and had 280 private boxes.
1975 The BBC outside-broadcast staff picketed and there was no television coverage at Royal Ascot.
April 1998 Lord Hartington, Her Majesty’s Representative, revealed that changes to the racecourse were being contemplated.
2001 In order to facilitate the redevelopment, Ascot incorporated as Ascot Authority (Holdings) Limited, the most significant milestone in its structure since the 1913 Act of Parliament.
2002 Plans were announced to redevelop Ascot Racecourse. The existing Queen Elizabeth II stand was to be replaced and the course realigned.
September 2004 Ascot holds its last meeting with the old facilities. Demolition of the stand begins and the redevelopment programme commences.
June 2005 Royal Ascot is staged at York Racecourse.
June 2006 The new Ascot stand is opened on time and on budget.
June 2007 Ascot celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Gold Cup.
June 2009 Yeats wins his fourth Gold Cup, beating Sagaro’s record, set in the 1970s.

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