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 A Day at the Races in Whitehaven

FOR the hardworking miners of Whitehaven in 1854 what could have been finer than a day at the races? Then as now racing was run for the very rich but also enjoyed by the working classes.
A press report in 1854 tells much about the fun enjoyed up on Harras Moor above the town.
"This meeting was celebrated on Tuesday and Wednesday last, under the stewardship of Captain Spencer and Thomas Salkeld, Esquire. Mr John Daly the well-know active C.C. from Carlisle threw his services into the scale, in a similar capacity, on the present occasion. Mr E.W Topham of Chester, was the handicapper. The weights were all raised by 8stn 7lbs. The 'fields' it will be seen, were small; but the sport was quite up to the average usually witnessed in this locality.
"The Whitehaven Castle Stakes of five sovereigns each for two and three year olds was won by two year old Cherry Brandy.
The Whitehaven Plate Race for 50 sovereigns added to the Handicap Sweep stakes of 10 sovereigns each.was run 'twice around and a distance' and won 'cleverly' won by Mr Robson's five year old Dalkeith, ridden by Howe."
This same horse was recorded as winning the Tally-Ho handicap stakes over two miles. Those who could enter were described in old fashioned terms as "bona fide hunters; gentlemen riders. But professional riders had to carry a 5lb extra weight."
The following day the Speculation Plate was only won by a head by Mr Hartley's Angelo (a four year old) after "a severe race between Angelo and Fairthorn."
Meanwhile at this time the newspapers record betting on the then bloody Crimean War. You would barely credit it but the racing section of the newspaper states: "More Betting upon the War; At the betting-rooms at Manchester on Tuesday, as little as 5 to 1 was taken that Sebastopol was taken before the month of September had closed."
We now know that it would have lost you money as the bloody battle to destroy Russia's fleet at Sebastopol dragged on for another year. It was not until August of 1855 that the allies of Britain, France and the Turks started their sixth and the most severe bombardment of the fortress. 307 cannons fired 150,000 rounds, with Russians suffering 2,000 to 3,000 casualties daily. By morning 28 August Russian forces abandoned the Southern Side of Sevastopol. Although defended heroically and at the cost of heavy Allied casualties, the fall of Sevastopol would lead to the Russian defeat in the Crimean War.
On our racing at Whitehaven theme, an 1848 report shows that it was not just horse racing that was popular. In a foretaste of today's hound trailing, they then had hare coursing where greyhounds chased and presumably tore to pieces the hares. The meeting at Harras Moor attracted it states; "a very large assemblage of the friends of the leash, by many of whom a superior breed of greyhound was brought to compete for the different prizes."
It states: "Many a brace (of hares) was doomed to yield to the greyhounds winged speed."
The fate of the hares didn't however put off the company from the follow-up as it records; "Dinner at the Black Lion was excellent, not only as regards its substantial qualities, but the abundance displayed in the catering; and under the influence of sparkling and well selected juices of the grape, harmony was the chosen 'watchword' " Maybe hare stew was also on the menu!

 Racecourse at Harras Moor