Totnes and Bridgetown races book launch

PUBLISHED: 15:20 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:02 09 August 2010

A book about the history of the Totnes and Bridgetown Races company is being launched at Buckfastleigh racecourse on Sunday, February 7.

A book about the history of the Totnes and Bridgetown Races company is being launched at Buckfastleigh racecourse on Sunday, February 7..

One hundred years ago there were six licensed National Hunt racecourses operating in Devon: Plymouth, South Brent, Buckfastleigh, Totnes and Bridgetown, Torquay, Newton Abbot, and Devon and Exeter of which only the latter two remain in existence. Of these the course at Totnes, prior to the First World War, was unique in that the long distance steeplechases involved crossing the River Dart and the Totnes-Newton Abbot road.

Following the resumption of racing in 1919, the sport was confined to a sharp oval track on the town side of the river until its closure due to the outbreak of World War Two, just three days prior to the 1939 fixture. The course was requisitioned by the Admiralty for the war effort and by the end of hostilities had suffered such severe damage that the cost of reinstatement was greater than the value of the land. The site eventually became the focus for redevelopment and now houses the industrial estate.

The Race Company, however, remains in existence and is supportive of Point to Point racing and Hunter 'Chases at Newton Abbot and Exeter. It has now published a history of the racecourse from its early days in the eighteenth century and ongoing activities to the present time, in a book which includes over seventy photographs, some of which date back to 1900 and depict the river crossing.

It has been compiled by Peter Wakeham, Chairman of the Board, who was for twenty-five years a Steward at Newton Abbot races. A foreword has been contributed by the well-known author and former Champion National Hunt jockey, Dick Francis, C.B.E.

Mr Wakeham said: "It took a lot longer to write that I thought when I started it. I aimed to put in a couple of hours a day but ploughing through the old company minute books took ages. It was the research that took the time."

The book will be available at Buckfastleigh on Sunday at the South Pool point to point costing £10.

It is also available by post in a limited edition of 500 copies which may be obtained from Mrs L Farleigh, The Flete Estate Office, Haye Farm, Holbeton, Plymouth PL8 1JZ, email: estate@flete.co.uk, telephone 01752 830253. Price £12.50 (including postage and packing). Cheques to be made payable to Totnes & Bridgetown Races Co Ltd.

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