THEY'RE RACING AT CANTERBURY
Canterbury and District Historical Society
This book was prepared to. celebrate Heritage Week, 1985, and it tells the story of an integral part of the heritage of Canterbury. Material for the book was sought out by Brian Madden, Audrey Barnes, Catherine Hardie, Norma Edwards, Joyce Ormsby, Kath Twist and Joyce Golby, all members of the Canterbury and District Historical Society. Mary Tritton introduced me to Dick Andrews, who gave up a lot of his time to explain life in a trainer's family, he also generously lent many photographs and newscuttings from his own collection. Many thanks go to him and his wife for their hospitality. The staff of the Canterbury Municipal Library have searched their excellent local history files, and gave every assistance to me in finding material I didn't know existed. Many other people came forward with offers of information, too late, unfortunately, for the deadline for this edition. It is to be hoped that the booklet can be revised and enlarged later, and any further material, in the shape of stories, news cuttings, photographs, or any other information would be most welcome. As one who knew nothing about racing when I started this book, I can say that the research so far has been great fun to do, as the racing industry and its people is a fascinating subject.
Canterbury has been the home of fine horses since early in the Colony's history. In 1803, Robert Campbell began importing Arab horses from Calcutta for his own use and for sale, in order to improve the breeding stock in Sydney. Campbell,'s stables were in Bligh Street, but he also, no doubt, kept some of his stock on his new country estate, Canterbury Farm.
At t he Yard of Mr. R obert Campbell, No, 8, Bligh-street, at 12 precisely, THE following hor s e s , fil L i - es , _ &c. $c Hector, an entire Persian Horse. Diaper, a Mare heavy in Foal, half bred, 4 years old. Joe, a Coach or Gig Horse, rising 7 years. Peggy, an AchineMare, aged, with a Filley Foal. Young Peggy, a Mare bred from the above Mare, by Hector, rising 4 years, with a Filley Foal. Kitty, an Indian Mare, aged, with a Horse Foal. Young Kitty, a Mare bred from the above Mare, by Hector, rising 4 years, with a Horse Foal. Bob, a Colt bred from a full Blood Mare, by Hector, nearly 3 years old. Polly, a Mare, bred from an Achine Mare, by Hector, rising 4 vears, with a Horse Foal. Jemmy, a Coach or Gig Horse. Terms, Payment to be made in Sterling Money at Three Months, on approved Security.
Sydney;------Gazette 7 November 1812, p.2 ----At first, only the gentry could afford to own horses, and their importance as transport far outweighed any sporting value they may have possessed. There were no organised races in Sydney before 1810, although a racecourse had been set aside at the Hawkesbury near Riverstone by realists who believed that the day would soon come when â€˘ men could not resist testing the prowess of their animals by racing them one against the other. When Governor Macquarie arrived, he encouraged Lieutenant-Colonel O'Connell of the 73rd Regiment to set up a racecourse on the edge of Sydney, in an open field later named Hyde Park. Much preparation went into clearing and levelling the track, and it took until October to be completely ready for the first race meeting. In a typically understanding gesture, Macquarie announced that all government labourers (i.e. convicts) were excused work for the three days of the meeting, so that they might enjoy the occasion along with the rest of the town. Robert Campbell's horses regularly ran in the subsequent Sydney race meetings, and his "Blood Persian Horse Hector" founded a long line of equally famous progeny.
During the 1820s, further racecourses were formed in the Botany sandhills and at Bellevue Hill. In 1825, Governor Brisbane approved the formation of the first horseracing club in the Colony - the Sydney Turf Club, with Robert Wardell, owner of "Petersham", as one of its organisers. (Petersham extended from west of today's Garnet Street to the Princes Highway, Tempe). Members of this Club were eventually to fall foul of Governor Darling, and its meetings were enlivened by speeches in open criticism of his administration, especially from Wardell and his friend, William Charles Wentworth. Because there were so few public amusements in Sydney, organised race meetings became days of celebration where music played, bets were taken, pickpockets flourished, and drink flowed freely. Families of all classes looked forward to race days with happy anticipation, and the roads to the meetings were always crowded with carriages and pedestrians hurrying through the dust to the festivities. Eventually other wealthy citizens joined Robert Campbell in displaying their material success by breeding horses, and one such, a publican, Thomas May, had his horse stud "Adelaide Park" on the Brighton Estate. This property was shared with Thomas Hyndes, an emancipist timber merchant, who had been promised a land grant in Canterbury in 1809. "Adelaide Park", Hyndes's second property in the district, is now marked by the area around the church and churchyard of St Thomas's, Enfield.
While Sydney's racing activity expanded with the formation of further racetracks at Homebush, Petersham, and a steeple-chasing course at Five Dock, the related sport of hunting began to occupy the gentry of Sydney. Hunting remained the preserve of the rich, and, as early as 1820, the Sydney Hunt was seen in pursuit of imported deer, galloping from Ultimo House, their starting place, out across the fields as far as Canterbury, and back again to Cockle Bay. Hunting as a sport for gentlemen continued to grow in popularity during the next two decades, in part encouraged by the activities of Wardell, who stocked Petersham with deer brought especially to Sydney for the purpose. These animals roamed freely over his 1200 acre farm, undisturbed by the "lower classes" of Cooks River District, who were forbidden to use the roads through Petersham for fear of disturbing the stock. A great deal of resentment of Wardell and his deer existed south of Cooks River, as his ban closed two crossing places (the punts at Pickering's and at Thorp's farm), and the only way to get into Sydney was to go right up to the Punch Bowl (now the bridge at Punchbowl Road, Belfield), and ford the river there. From Thorp's Punt (Undercliffe), this was a ridiculously long way round. Some of Wardell's deer escaped over Cooks River into the bush to breed, and, by 1833, James Chandler advertised "Bexley" (now the suburbs of Clemton Park, Bexley and Kogarah) as "very eligible for
sporting ... deer, kangaroo and other animals of the chase are frequently seen". The gentlemen of the Sydney Subscription Hounds in 1836 met regularly at "Clareville" (near today's Elliott Street, Belfield) to draw in the direction of Turner's farm (immediately north-west of Belmore Station), Oatley's farm (Moorfields), or Bob the Gardener's farm (Narwee) where the deer were attracted by the "plots of green barley sown thickly about that district". The thoughts of the farmers as the Hunt thundered across their fields are not recorded.
In 1841, a disastrous financial depression hit Sydney, and most of the gentlemen who had, up to this time, dominated racing and hunting circles lost their money. Good breeding stock was sold, and the purchasers were of a different social class. Race meetings continued, especially at Homebush, but the horse owners changed from being "gentry" to being "trade", and publicans in particular began to play a more significant part in the organisation of racing in Sydney.
In June 1853, Cornelius Prout, the best-known resident of Canterbury, cleared a piece of his property near the village, and offered it for use as a racecourse. Although Prout owned land north of the river, it was not big enough for this purpose, and it is likely from evidence in early maps, that the course advertised was on his other land between today's Gould Street and Duke Street, Canterbury. Race meetings were organised regularly by the local publicans, and the contests were frequently between their own horses. In August 1853, a "pleasing little event" was held between "Mr Gregory’s b.g. Tommy Tickle, Mr West's b.m. Queen of Trumps, and Mr Flood's b.g. Australian ... for £.16". William Gregory was the publican of the "Canterbury Arms" Inn, Thomas West was the son of the licensee of Prout's public house, the "Sugar Loaf", while Edward Flood had a farm near "Adelaide Park", and was a friend of Thomas May, the city publican.
A RACE COURSE. To let, at Cook’s River, near Canterbury for three day’s racing. The whole or the rent will be paid out in improving the coursse previous to the race.
CORNELIUS PROUT. 495
Bell's Life in Sydney
15 April 1854
Meetings on Prout's course went on until at least 1855, "Queen of Trumps" being one of the runners customarily seen. The local shopkeeper, Barnabas Hartshorn, was particularly vulnerable to the temptations of gambling at these meetings, and, at his bankruptcy, declared in 1854, Frederick Lee, one of the local gentry, accused him of: "4th - That he has squandered his Estate in betting at Horse Races and upon Horses, also upon general bets at Public Houses and Gambling". Hartshorn admitted that he had been in the habit of betting all his life ... "the largest bet amounted to £5", and that he had bought, sold and swapped horses, and "treated" his customers in the Canterbury public houses, while his wife remained behind the counter, looking after the shop. He said: "I sometimes put £100 in my pocket when I go out". (Mrs Hartshorn's apparel was described in the evidence as "very plain"). The gravestones of this early Canterbury punter and his wife can be found in the cemetery beside St Paul's Church7 Canterbury.
Canterbury Race-Course. WHIT-MONDAY. A MATCH tor £20 a-side will be run on Prout's Course, on Whit-Monday, between Mr Timothy Fellow's m Queen of Trumps,' and Mr Thomas Gardiner’s blk to Skew Fall. Other races will take place; and every information can be obtained at Mrs West's publichouse, near the Sugar Works. 749
Bell's Life in Sydney 3 June 1854, p.3
Race meetings at Canterbury appear to have become less frequent after Cornelius Prout's death in February 1855, and they eventually petered out altogether for a time. The last mention of the sport for quite some years was an account of a "novel trial of speed at Canterbury between Mr Harry Baker and a horse belonging to a sporting friend", in which the terms of the race were "to start by report of a pistol, and to make the best of their way over 50 yards of level ground, the horse to carry catch weight". The wager was only a ten pound note, but "several outside bets were laid, Baker's party being confident of victory". The horse overtook Baker at 25 yards, and won easily.
Prout's Canterbury racecourse only ever became a venue for local contests between horses; its races did not possess the status that those at Homebush, or even Petersham, attained. The gentry continued to patronise the larger race meetings elsewhere, and, during the recession of the 1860s, little money was available among the ordinary people of Canterbury for stake money or for betting. The ownership of a horse still was not widespread, and, when Arthur Jeffreys asked
Conrad Martens to paint his new "Canterbury House" in 1860, the inclusion of three horses in the picture, grazing in the clearing in front of the gothic mansion conveyed something of the wealth and social position of its owner. When he painted those horses in as a decorative addition to his bare sketch of the house and its surrounding bush, Martens was not to know that, within ten years, the trees were to be cleared away by a group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs, with the aim of creating a larger and more successful racetrack on the flat north of Cooks River. After Arthur Jeffreys's death in 1861, the swampy flat to the south-east of the house was leased by the Trustees of his estate to Thomas Austen Davis, the butcher in Canterbury Village. He probably used the land as a paddock for stock, as his slaughterhouse was not far away; just behind his shop in the main street. In 1866, the man who was to play the decisive role in the creation of the Canterbury Race Course, Frederick Clissold, arrived in the district. He and his partner, George Hill, bought several acres of land at the junction of Cup and Saucer Creek and Cooks River on which they set up a woolscouring plant. George Hill was the son of Richard Hill, M.L.A. for Canterbury, a man who had a keen interest in horse racing. The woolwash opened in 1868, flourished, and, with their profits, Clissold and Hill began to buy up other property in Sophia Campbell's 1865 subdivision of the Canterbury Estate. Clissold moved his family to a new mansion, "Mountjoy", rented from the Rev. John Graham, and began to take an active interest in the social life of the district.
On 9th November 1871, one of Clissoldâ€™s most far-reaching local projects was launched. He and Thomas Austen Davis organised a race meeting on the Canterbury Estate land which Davis had leased a few years before. The Sydney Chronicle reported: (Reprint, Supplement to the Dajly Mirror 9 November 1971).
Historical day for horse racing FIRST MEETING AT THE VILLAGE OF CANTERBURY Exciting sport enjoyed by three hundred persons The first races came off at Canterbury this past week and your correspondent had the privilege of being present on so auspicious an occasion in the history of Australian horse racing. The day was eminently successful in every respect; and the spectators appeared thoroughly to enjoy the excitement of the sport. Some three hundred persons were present, having assembled early, there being propitiously fine weather; but few of the fair sex, no doubt deterred by the tiring journey.
The village of Canterbury is most charmingly situated on Cook’s River, six miles south of the city; and the racecourse is indeed an attractive enclosure on the northern bank, Cook's River running around one half of it. The population of the village of Canterbury is small, being seriously reduced by the unfortunate closure of the Australian Sugar Company mill six (i.e. sixteen) years since; whereon it removed to the old distillery on Blackfriar’s Estate, Georgestreet, West. But many farmers from the district were present at the races. The officials were most zealous in their efforts to bring the occasion off with proper dignity, and the exertions of Messrs Clissold and Davies (sic) are deserving of all praise. Upon the completion of the last race on the programme, a move was soon made toward home; but the Sydney visitors did not reach town until a very late hour, although content. Hereunder are the winners, and a brief recapitulation of the day’s sport. Judge: John Lucas, Esquire, MLA Treasurer: Mr T.A. Davies Stewards: Messrs Clissold, Hill, Drake, West and Mooney ’Starter: Mr George Davidson Secretary: Mr John Wilton Clerk of the Course: Mr George Davis First Race Maiden Plate circuit. 1. Mr of 2. Mr 3. Mr
of £10; l 1/2 mile, three times around the four furlong McNamara’s chestnut filly, by Kyogle out of Queen Hearts J. Driscoll's bay gelding, Nemo, by Lord of the Hills Steenson's chestnut horse, Alarm
Second Race The Pony Race of £3; for all ponies under 14 hands; heats 1. Mr Buckle's Fly Mr Hammerton's Camilla Mr Flannigan's grey gelding, Lanty Mr McBeath’s Jerry Mr H.H.A.'s Butterfly Third Race The Canterbury Handicap of £10; l 1/2 mile 1. Mr McCoy's Illawarra 2. Mr J. Driscoll's Index 3. Mr Black’s Saddler Mr Steenson's brown gelding, Alarm Captain Airey's Vagabond
Fourth Race 1. Mr Driscoll's Index 2. .Mr Black's Saddler 3. Mr Moss's Vanity Mr McNamara's Kyogle filly Mr McKenney's Charlie Mr Steenson's Alarm
Fifth Race A Hack Scurry Race: 1 1/2 mile 1. 2. 3.
Mr Hammerton's Camilla Mr Davis's Roaney Mr Smith's brown horse
Sixth Race For all beaten horses; prize ÂŁ5; l 1/2 mile. Nemo and Blue. Roan made a good running for the first mile; but they both fell away at the finish. Saddler made an easy winner, mainly through the bad riding of Nemo's jockey.
This race meeting, although it attracted three hundred people as spectators, was still largely a local affair. The stewards all lived near Canterbury, as did most of the horse owners. The saddlecloth of John McCoy's horse, "Illawarra" was, in 1982, presented to the Canterbury and District Historical Society by the Mayor, Alderman Kevin Moss, on the occasion of the opening of Beulah Vista, and is kept on permanent display. John McCoy was the publican in Canterbury Village, licensee of the "Woolpack" Inn, and Peter Moss lived in Minter Street. The Mayor of Canterbury is a descendant of both these families, whose horses ran in the 1871 race meeting, and so has a unique connection with the history of racing in Canterbury.
Frederick Clissold was not only the organiser of race meetings. In 1874 the Sydney Morning Herald reported the meetings of the Ashfield Hunt Club, as they scurried from Mr Clissold's house, over today's Ashbury, Croydon Park and Campsie in pursuit of a kangaroo. The "wearers of scarlet coats" were joined by a 'good number of outsiders" in the chase, but they all appear to have spent more time "casting about" for their quarry in thick bush than in actually riding across the forest country. The account concluded that "the hunt was not a very great success, as, owing to some strange dogs getting on the scent, the hounds did not get fair play".
Racing events continued to be held at the new course. Queen Victoria's Birthday, 24th May 1878, was celebrated by a meeting at which, it was claimed, 3000 people attended. The newspaper report pointed out the chief problem with the Canterbury races - there was no satisfactory public transport to the course. Most people caught the train as far as Ashfield, and then walked from there, although some lucky spectators managed to board special coaches running from Sydney. Several horse-bus services ran from the City to Canterbury at irregular intervals around this time, but roads were rough, and the passengers had a very uncomfortable ride to their days' outing.
In 1881, a new spirit of optimism began to grow in the Canterbury district. Several businessmen, including Frederick Clissold and his new partner, William Lovel Davis, bought up parcels of land to subdivide and sell as suburban allotments. The "Golden Park Estate" (Gould Street, Park Street and Duke Street), was the first Canterbury land sale venture of the racecourse partners, and was advertised for sale in January 1882. In August 1881, a local pressure group had been formed to agitate for the building of a railway or a tramway to the district; naturally, the subdividers were prominent members of this company. All this activity encouraged the gentlemen interested in the racecourse to make a move to put the meetings on a more formal basis John Nightingale, butcher (partner of T.A. Davis) and Charles Foord, blacksmith, made the first suggestion that a racing club should be formed, and plans were put into operation by Clissold and Davis to convert the land of Jeffreys's Estate into a recreation park, with gardens, race track, and grandstand. This work was to take over two years. The ground had been used up until this time by the Canterbury Cricket Club, who had a prior right to a 21 years' lease on the property; but, after negotiation with the Honorary Secretary, Alfred Borton Miller, it was agreed that his Club would surrender all claim to the lease if he were installed as a life member of the proposed Race Club.
The racecourse, for its first twenty years, was looked after by George Monk, a gardener of great talent, whose specialty was growing pansies. His two favourite topics of conversation, according to Robert Parry, who knew him well, were tracing the evolution of the pansy from the original heartsease, and "recounting some stirring episode from his past military career, told each time with a quaint addition". The Monk family continued its connection with the racecourse well into this century, Jim Monk carrying on the tradition in the 1920s. \
On 10 January 1884, the Sydney Morning Herald reported: CANTERBURY RECREATION GROUND During the rage for purchasing land in the vicinity of the metropolis, it was considered merely necessary to call a surveyor to peg off any paddock, and give it some euphonious name, when the fortune of the original purchaser was made by reselling. The somewhat neglected village of Canterbury even came in for a share of notice from land speculators and syndicates, and in the fulness of time its environs bristled with section pegs. Hitherto it has not profited much by the land mania, at least as far as an increase of its population is concerned; but a considerable proportion of the Jeffries (sic) Estate has been recently leased by a syndicate, with a view of providing increased accommodation for sporting people and holiday-makers. The plot of land, consisting of 36 acres, which has now been converted into a racecourse and recreation ground, is situated at the base of the hill, which formed the eastern boundary of the Village of Canterbury, and originally a portion of the "Jeffries Estate" under notice. The complaint has been so repeatedly made by holiday-makers that all avenues for social recreation are choked up, and that fresh ground required to be opened, that the promoters of Canterbury Park, as a recreation ground, may be credited with the best intentions in the way of supplying "a want long felt". They have closed the area referred to, fenced it in, ploughed up and turfed a running ground 7 furlongs in circumference, erected a grand stand capable of holding 700 people, and after completing the adjuncts indispensable to a racecourse may be congratulated on having placed at the disposal of the public one of the best recreation grounds out of the metropolis. The promoters, however, expect to go further than this, as they contemplate erecting a pavilion suitable for picnic parties, and adding thereto a bowling green and billiard room, so that in the event of a club being formed they can offer many inducements which are not so readily at hand in other establishments of a similar character. At present, the distance from the railway station, about a mile from Ashfield and a mile and a half from Summer Hill, is an impediment in the way of drawing large attendances on Public Holidays; but there are so many social organisations which desire to hold annual gatherings periodically, which have the greatest difficulty obtaining isolated localities owing to competition, that the Canterbury Park undoubtedly puts in a very strong claim for support. The cricket ground is not as yet finished, and the protracted drought has seriously interfered with the completion of the pedestrian track, which is at present not fit for use, but as the racecourse was commenced early in the year the turf is pretty sound, and as the soil is light it is not likely to be much affected, even
if heavy rain fall before the day of opening, fixed for next Saturday (sic). As will be seen from the advertisement, a very liberal program is offered to the sporting public and the entries comprise the names of excellent performers on the turf. A liberal supply of omnibuses, from Ashfield to the course has been secured, and a large attendance is anticipated on the opening day.
The Race Meeting was reported the following Monday:
SPORTING INTELLIGENCE CANTERBURY PARK RACE CLUB Saturday, January 19 As was anticipated, the first venture of the Canterbury Park Race Club was a most decided success in every particular. The weather, though somewhat warm, was fine and clear, and the visitors by road and rail brought the attendance up to about 3,500. Mr J. DeV. Lamb and the Hon James White drove to the course in well-filled four-in-hand, and the road, which was in fair order, was very liberally patronised. The ordinary and special trains were crowded, and, as omnibuses were in waiting at the Ashfield station, no inconvenience was experienced in reaching the course, which is about a mile and a quarter from the station. The course may be described as a miniature Randwick, for everything was in apple-pie order ... The grand-stand, an engraving of which appeared in last Saturdayâ€™s Sydney Mail, was fully occupied, and the saddling paddock was crowded, and it is to be regretted that it cannot be extended. The bar and luncheon rooms under the grandstand were well patronised, but the luncheon was not up to the usual standard of those provided by Mr Cripps, and some complaints were also heard concerning the quality of the liquids supplied. The Unity Fire Brigade Band played a variety of selections during the afternoon, and the scene was graced by the presence of a number of the fair sex. The energetic exponents of the art of "monte" and other games of "chance" were refused admission to the ground, and everything passed off pleasantly. The top-dressing of the course was somewhat loose in places, but when it has time to settle down the running will be better than that of most provincial courses.
The meeting was a well-deserved success in every particular, and the principal event, the Canterbury Park Handicap, was won easily by Polestar (an outsider), who was followed by Tait and Jack of Clubs; while the favourite, Prima Donna, could not get nearer than fourth ... The winner received 100 sovereigns, and paid 10 to 1.
During the 1080s, agitators for public transport kept up their pressure on the Government. By 1883, they had decided that a new railway would fill the needs of the district better than the slower trams, so it was to achieving this end that they directed their energies. The first Government survey route went-down the valley of Cup and Saucer Creek, crossing Cooks River some distance from the racecourse, but, in 1885, another route was surveyed, which went past Canterbury Village, crossed Cooks River near Canterbury Road, traversed the subdivisions belonging to Clissold and Davis, and continued to Liverpool through the farms of the Redman family, (now Campsie and Belmore). One of these properties, Campsie Farm, had just been bought by the Anglo-Australian Investment, Finance and Land Company Limited, in which the Minister for Public Works and some of the racing devotees had a. controlling interest, so the new railway survey route was no surprise to anybody.
The 1885 advertising brochure for the Campsie Park Estate (a subdivision of Campsie Farm) showed up the interests of the Company's Directors very clearly. The railway, although not yet part of the Government's official proposals, was described as though its opening was only a matter of months away, and Canterbury Racecourse was pictured as "that beautiful little spot, ... with its handsome Grand Stand, its great, white, circular enclosure, the whole forming an amphitheatre of unsurpassed beauty and attractiveness".
Its track, however, was not so attractive to the trainers and jockeys after rainy weather; the August 1885 Meeting was marred by the state of the course, which, although the weather was fine overhead, ... the course was very sloppy, dead, and slippery. A coating of sand had been deposited at the different turns, but, notwithstanding that precaution several of the horses had their chances extinguished by slipping. In more than one instance the light-weight lads were too nervous to make proper use of their horses, and, as a matter of fact, they could not be blamed, for although there were not any falls during the afternoon, there were several narrow escapes ... the contests resemble mud-larking more than racing. Since the last meeting the grand stand has been re-built and greatly improved, and when the turf on the newly formed lawn settles down it will be a very pleasant promenade. The new rooms devoted to the telegraphic officials, the press, and the jockeys, are roomy and comfortable in every respect, and the gallery set aside for reporters is one of the best in the colonies ...
Race meetings gradually became more frequent, but, because the Government was heavily in debt, no decision was made on the building of the railway line, or, indeed, which of the two existing survey routes would be selected. William Lovel Davis became an M.L.A. for Canterbury Electorate in 1887, but was unable to immediately influence the Government to speed its decision, although his work to achieve the building of the line was untiring. The need for public transport had become an urgent issue, as Davis had gone to England in 1886, and, while there, had visited Arthur Jeffreys's son, John, who lived at Salisbury. Negotiations were successful - Davis wrote later: "I saw Mr Jeffrey (sic) and arranged for the purchase of as much land as we required at ÂŁ200 per acre, and incidentally I may state that I did not charge the Club with one penny towards the expenses of my trip".
When Davis returned to Sydney in 1887, the gentlemen of the Canterbury Park Race Club formed a Company to administer the affairs of the Club. There were initially seven gentlemen financially interested in the Syndicate, each owning several shares of ÂŁ500 each. They were Clissold, Davis, Foord and Nightingale, with M. Seale, James Kellick, and John Spence: the four original members, plus three new ones. The number of shareholders was later increased to twelve gentlemen having seven shares each.
One of the Canterbury Park Racecourse Company's first decisions took effect at the June 1888 meeting. It appears that they restricted the activities of "outside" bookmakers to the Saddling Paddock and the .Leger, leaving the Flat without a service to punters. To make sure their decision was enforced, they stationed race officials at the appropriate gate to turn known bookmakers away. They reckoned without the
persistence of the public, however. The gentry crammed into the Saddling Paddock and the Grandstand, as usual, but the Leger had only a handful of people - the crowds headed for the Flat as was their custom. Faced with this problem, the bookmakers reacted in the only way open to them: ... a counter move was made by the "outsiders", many of whom disguised themselves with false beards and other devices, and thus eluded the vigilance of the gatekeepers, while others, who drove out, used vehicles as a means of scaling the boundary fence and were soon among the denizens of the flat, vigorously laying the odds. This argument over betting at the course, continued for several meetings, and neither side would give in. Bookmakers and public continued to boycott the Leger, "despite the accommodation provided by the management in this enclosure".
The success of the Club's meetings at this time can be gauged by the increase in entrants for the races, and the steep rise in stake money. As many as 20 horses were listed as starters for some races, and the prize money in 1888 was 75 sovereigns for the Hurdle Race, and 60 sovereigns for the Victoria Handicap. 100 sovereigns was a not uncommon prize, and a regular feature of meetings was a "Selling Race", in which the winner was to be sold for 100 sovereigns. Frederick Clissold was occasionally one of the patrons of this avenue for marketing his horses: in February 1886 he entered "Activity", a grey foal, and "Canterbury", a bay colt, in the Sapling Stakes, run over 6 furlongs. To the surprise of the bookmakers, "Activity" won at a starting price of 8 to 1, and Clissold got his 100 sovereigns.
After the formation of the Company, expenditure increased on the facilities. On 20 October 1888, an advertisement calling for tenders to erect and complete "a grand pavilion, tea and coffee rooms" appeared in the Builder's and Contractor's News. The architect was J.B. Spencer, of Sydney, and the contract was awarded to T. Collier.
By 1889, the pressure on the Government from parties interested in Canterbury's public transport service had become so insistent that it was resolved to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, so that an examination of all the evidence could be made, and a final recommendation could be put forward. Among the witnesses called before the Committee on 21 November was William Lovel, Davis, who advocated the case of the land speculators and the racing devotees very effectively. Two of the Committee were shareholders in the Campsie Park Estate (Trickett and Garran), and a third (Tonkin) was a well-known racing identity, so they made sure that Davis was asked all the right questions to give him scope to have all his favourable
evidence included in the report. He started with racecourse attendance figures: I have had a list compiled by our Secretary, giving an account of the last twenty meetings held there. The attendance amounted to 16,365 persons altogether, giving an average of 2,318 per meeting. I calculate that that number at 1s a head would give a revenue to the Railway Department of ÂŁ2,500 a year. That is according to the present attendance, but I am confident that if we had railway facilities we could rely on the number being increased by at least one-third, if not by 50 per cent. At our last races held on the Eight-hours Demonstration Day, some 2,000 people wanted to go to Canterbury Park, and could not get there, and they were left on the platform at Redfern.
There were, by this time, twenty-one meetings held per year at the Course: "The legitimate racing fixtures, that is for horse-races, number eleven. These are appointed by the Australian Jockey Club. Then there are ten supplementary meetings - trotting races, and races for ponies and galloways". When given the .opportunity, Davis proudly described his Company as "the most prosperous Racing Company in New South Wales".
As a confirmation of this spirit of optimism, the land transfer of 52 acres, 3 roods and 6 perches from John Jeffreys and Arthur Frederick Jeffreys to the Canterbury Park Racecourse Co Ltd was completed on 20 December 1889. There had been a difficulty over Miller's rightof-way across the land, but eventually the problem was solved by the Company's substituting a road from Miller's Bridge, 66 feet wide, meeting King Street slightly further north of the old junction. (See map) This satisfied all parties, and the deeds were signed. The land was then mortgaged to William Charles Cooper of Sydney.
After the Christmas break, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works re-convened to take final evidence and make its decision. Mr Charles Goodchap, the former Commissioner for Railways, now a Member of Parliament, was interviewed on 20 January. It was clear that he was very much in favour of building the railway line, and considered that the opposition's suggestion of substituting a tramway from Ashfield station to the course was completely inadequate. (Most of the opposition including John Lackey, the Vice-Chairman of the Committee, owned subdivided land along the Ashfield line, and wanted the available money to be put into quadrupling that railway, rather than being "wasted" on constructing a new line to Burwood Road). Goodchap ridiculed the tramway proposal: "You bring up a train with a thousand people in it and you could not take them away by tram ... one double decker tram (could only) carry about eighty or ninety if they sit down, but when they
are overcrowded they take, I believe, 150 sometimes ... There are about 2,000 to 2,500 at each meeting ... 2,000 would be twenty tram loads . . . (but) I do not think that more than one double-deck car could be taken at a time by one motor along such gradients as those to be met with between Ashfield Railway Station and the racecourse".
He also let slip that, while the first survey line of the route in question was a mile away from the racecourse, there had been a deviation planned which took the railway to within a quarter of a mile of the course, Goodchap, when pushed, gave his personal opinion: "I think it would be a very wise thing to take it as near the racecourse as you can get it". The railway survey now went right through the village of Canterbury, necessitating the demolition of a church, two public houses, and several homes â€” but the proposed line was certainly convenient for the racing public.
Eventually the Committee voted to build the line from Marrickville to Burwood Road (Belmore), via Canterbury, by the narrow7 margin of seven votes to six.
With all these moves favourable to the establishment of a permanent racing venue in Canterbury, horse trainers were induced to move to the area. The Echo, in October 1890, reported that "there are now about 150 boxes in Canterbury, in addition to the training stables in Ashfield, Petersham and other places". The earliest training stables appear to have been owned by Samuel and Charles Taylor, and Edwin Roseworn, all located in Minter Street, just south of Canterbury Road. By 1895, these families had been joined by Charles Banks (Church Street) Charles Bryce (corner of Broughton Street and John Street), James Gardiner (King Street), William Foulsham (King Street near Jeffrey Street) and John Phair (Northcote Street). Frank McGrath ran Rosewornâ€™s stables after the owner's death in 1893. These training stables formed little communities, with the jockeys often living with the trainers' families. The Foord family ran the local blacksmith's shop, on the northern corner of Canterbury Road and Broughton Street, while the shop of Edwin Crump, saddler and harnessmaker was also in Canterbury Road, on the northern side of Unwin Street. Canterbury had become a community whose economic life depended, in a significant way, on the racecourse.
The building of the railway line commenced in 1892, and, in May the same year, the Racecourse Company bought up more land northwest of their holding. W.L, Davis wrote later of this transaction: Finding after a while that we were encroaching on the street at the back of the course, I suggested that we should purchase another strip of land 66 feet wide, and thus enlarge our saddling
CANTERBURY RACECOURSE The area of diagonal hatching shows the original racecourse. The first race track, old grandstand, and outlines of former roads are indicated by broken lines. The track which wanders from a bridge over Cooks River, forming the northern boundary of the old racecourse, was Samuel Miller's sufferance road from his farm, "Bramshot" (now Poet's Corner, Campsie), to his Inn at Canterbury.
Natural creeks are shown; Lees Park was once the site of a dam on the largest of the creeks. The racetrack has been upgraded from the original seven furlong track by expansion into the area which was once part of the Village of Canterbury, and a new grandstand has been built on the site of the first one.
paddock; this land, however, was under lease to the Golf Club, but after many lengthy negotiations and a lot of worry and trouble, together with a bonus of f.200, they surrendered their right to it and the road was shifted back the 66 feet. The road in question was then known as "Palmer Street", but realignment brought it into a clear line as an extension of King Street, so the whole length to the Jeffrey Street corner was given that name. Dick Andrews, the son of an early Canterbury trainer, Irvine Henry Andrews, remembers the golf course on the Canterbury Estate north of the racecourse well. The houses of Ashbury now stand on the place where the greens and fairways were.
The Mitchell Library has in its collection a run of official racebooks of the Canterbury Park Races dating from the 1890s. Meetings were as frequent as Davis stated in his evidence for the railway divided almost equally between Horse Race meetings which were under AJC Rules, and Galloway and Pony meetings under the management of the Stewards of the Associated Clubs. Typical programmes were as follows; CANTERBURY PARK RACES Saturday May 14, 1892 Stewards T.M. Alcock Esq, J. Daly Esq, W.L. Davis Esq, P. Moore Esq,
W.M.N. Garling Esq, J.A. Scarr Esq, G.E. Russell Jones Esq, Dr Lamrock Judge A. Benson Esq, Surgeon
J.A. Scarr Esq,
W.L. Davis Esq.
T.M. Alcock Esq.
Clerk of Scales
Clerk of Course
Mr A.E. Bateman
Mr James Ashworth M. Seale, Secretary
The Hurdle Race, to start 1.30 p.m. Prize - 50 sovereigns Luncheon
The Flying Handicap, 2.10 p.m.
Prize - 60 sovereigns
Race Race Race Race
3 * 4 5 6
The The The The
Park Stakes, 2.50 p.m. Canterbury Handicap, 3.30 p.m. Selling Race, 4.05 p.m. Welter Handicap, 4.40 p.m.
Prize Prize Prize Prize
50 sovereigns 100 sovereigns 75 sovereigns 70 sovereigns
Meeting, Saturday 30 September 1893 GALLOWAY AND PONY MEETING Under the Management of the Stewards of the Associated Clubs P. Moore W.L. Davis
S. Ackerman E.E.A. Oatley
Judge - A. Benson Surgeon - Dr Allan Handicapper - E.A. Wilson
Starter ~ T. Watson Clerk of Scales - A.E. Bateman Clerk of Course - W. Burgess
Secretary and General Manager - W.L. Davis Race Race Race Race Race Race
1 2 . 3 4 5 6
Flying Handicap , 2 p.m. Lilliputian Handicap, 2.40 p.m. Pony Handicap, 3.15 p.m. Village Handicap, 3.50 p.m. Selling Race, 4.25 p.m. Galloway Handicap, 5 p.m.
Prize Prize Prize Prize Prize Prize
30 30 30 30 30 50
sovereigns sovereigns sovereigns sovereigns sovereigns sovereigns
The Club had a good reputation for safety, as they had a surgeon in attendance at all meetings. Their first appointee was Dr James Mann, a popular and highly respected resident of George Street (i.e. Canterbury Road), Canterbury. He was succeeded in the position by other distinguished medical men from the district.
The starter for the early race meetings was Mr William Gannon, the official Starter to the Australian Jockey Club. He was a well-known publican from Sydney, proprietor of the Oxford Hotel, King Street, and later licensee of Petty's Hotel on Church Hill. The family had large interests in good racehorses, and Gannon's father, Michael Gannon, was a landowner, a politician, and a sporting identity of the 1840s and 1850s.
The Canterbury Club racebooks listed the times of trains from Redfern to Ashfield on race days. Fares were, 1st class return ninepence; and 2nd class return - sevenpence. Occasionally one of the race meetings of the club would be held at the Moorefield Course (just south of today's President Avenue, Kogarah), as both courses shared some of the same directors. Peter Moore, a member of one of the original Kogarah families, was a friend of W.L.Davis and a steward of both courses.
At long last, on 2 February 1895, the railway line past Canterbury Race Course was opened. The stewards arranged a gala meeting for the occasion to celebrate their ultimate success after their protracted lobbying for public transport. The weather, however, was not on their side - the Sydney Morning Herald reported the next day:
Despite the discouraging state of the weather on Saturday forenoon the Canterbury Park authorities decided to go on with their February reunion, but the intermittent showers of the forenoon developed into an almost continuous downpour, which, assisted by a boisterous southerly wind, brought about a most disagreeable state of things. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, racegoers mustered in full force at the trysting place, the attendances being much better than could have been expected under the circumstances. The opening of the Belmore line for passenger traffic gives greater facilities of traffic to visitors to Canterbury Park, for the station of that name is within half a mile of the racecourse gates, and cabs and 窶話uses ply between. The newly-formed road, in the vicinity of the railway station, was not improved by heavy rain, and mud and slush were plentifully in evidence. The track was very sloppy, and the riders who had not foremost positions in the different events were plentifully bespattered with mud. In the Hurdle Race Sonny came down near the half-mile post in the first circuit, broke one of his legs, and was subsequently shot, while Golddust came to grief at the same place in the final round, and treated his rider, P. Nolan, to a shaking. Ricketty Dick fell as they rounded the bend in the Park Stakes; and in the Canterbury Handicap First Shot and Baldwin toppled over when passing the five furlongs post. Cox, who had the mount on Baldwin, was severely shaken, and received some abrasions on his face; while E. Cleal who piloted Mr Hordern's colt, was picked up in an unconscious condition, but afterwards recovered his senses, though suffering severely from the shock. Otherwise the card was run through without the slightest friction ...
Unfortunately for everybody, the building of the railway coincided with an economic depression in which most land developers lost all their money. The first sign of its effect on the shareholders of the Racecourse Company was an advertisement by Richardson and Wrench: FOR SALE
7 shares each ﾂ｣500 paid up to ﾂ｣375 in the Canterbury Park Racecourse being position as now held by vendor. Canterbury Park Racecourse For Positive Sale. One-twelfth share or interest in this enterprising venture. Well worthy the attention of sportsmen and others. Vendors: T.& I. Spencer Richardson & Wrench
By 1893, the Club was showing a deficiency of ÂŁ719/11/9, and, as well, the Secretary owed them ÂŁ422/7/6, which he had borrowed on his shares. W.L. Davis was obliged to take over the secretaryship of the Club, in order to manage its shaky business affairs. In 1898, the Company's mortgage was transferred to the Sydney solicitors, Jacques and Stephen (Septimus Alfred Stephen was a Steward of the Club), and the business slowly began to recover. By 1909, the deficiency had been made up, and, because of the improved train transport to the Course, meetings began to show a healthy profit. The last land purchase of the Company was made in February 1910, when it added the three suburban blocks north west of John Street, extending from Cooks River to King Street, to the racecourse holdings.
After the turn of the century, more horse trainers made their homes in the streets of Canterbury. In 1904, Mary Salmon in the Evening News said, in her description of the suburb: The racing element, cannot be overlooked; and during the last 20 years has drawn a different set of residents into the district, also causing many to take to the hazardous game of living by the turf. One of the new people settling in the area was a young man, Irvine Henry Andrews, who brought his wife to a house called "Parkview", and commenced to fulfil a lifelong ambition to become a horse trainer. On 19 November 1904, he bought lots 61 and 62 of the Canterbury Park Estate, and built a house and extensive stables on the land, facing Church Street, Canterbury, where Canterbury Girls' High School now stands. One of his sons, Dick Andrews, remembers life at home very well.
The day began at 4 a.m., when the men would have tea and biscuits to tide them over till breakfast, then they would spend the next hour getting the horses ready for their track work. At daybreak, a procession of horses and riders would be seen leaving the stables, walking up Church Street, down Princess Street, and into the racecourse. Each man would ride one horse and lead two others, and there were so many that when the first one had reached the course, the last would be just leaving the stables gate. The track work was completed in batches - four or five horses would be worked at a time, each horse at his own pace. There were "slow mornings", (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), where the horses would first trot, then canter, round the sand track; and there were "fast mornings" (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), when the grass track would be used, the pace gradually increased until it was 3/4 pace at the mile. The amount of track work depended on what distance a horse was being trained for - and a good eater would always stand up to more work than a finicky horse.
A N D R E W S ' S STABLES
After his track work, the horse would go back to the stables at the course where his saddle would be taken off, then one of the men would dry him off, hose him down, and take him to. the sand roll. The horses loved rolling in the sand - some were better at it than others, and could turn right over. While this was going on, the riders would take another horse out on the track, and would each ride four or five horses in a morning.
The Andrews boys would all do their shark of track work before they went to school in the morning, and, as well, there were fifteen men working at the stables. Both Peter Moss and Jack Moss worked for Mr Andrews at one time. There were several trainers based at Canterbury around the beginning of the twenties. Gordon Ray, the nephew of Jim Monk, caretaker of the racecourse, had stables in James Street, just off King Street - he trained the Sydney Cup winner, "Cordaile" at Canterbury. Bob Baillie trained "David"at his stables in Park Street: a horse that was bought for 40 guineas,and went on to become a superlative race winner. Sid Gore had a good string of horses, and his daughter married Sammy Gardiner, another trainer, from King Street. Peter Keith's stables were in Minter Street towards Princess Street. The Taylor family continued its association with horses. Jacky Taylor was a jockey at Canterbury, while Sammy Taylor was a produce merchant, who had his store in Princess Street towards Canterbury Road, and ran the kiosk at Canterbury Station, where he took bets as well. Alf Hilder's stables were in Fore Street - he trained for the pony races, which were not registered with the A.J.C. Canterbury course continued to run pony races, as did those of the Associated Racing Clubs: Kensington, Victoria Park, Rosebery and Ascot.
Within the trainers' stables, each horse had its own stall. The store for saddles was called the lumber room, while the feed house stored the feed for the horses. They ate chaff, oats, corn, lucerne hay and meadow hay, and bran; each type of feed was bought by the ton from produce merchants.
The pride and joy of the Andrews stables was "Rivoli", a dark bay horse leased from J.H.S. Barnes of Canning Downs, Queensland. He was with the Andrews family from a yearling, and worked with another horse, "Posadoon", a top-class track galloper. In 1922, on A.J.C. Derby Day, Rivoli walked the two hours from Canterbury to Randwick to run in the big race. He was led by his attendant, Frank Barden, who rode a pony; there was not much road traffic in those days, and no motorised horse floats, so walking was the only way to get the horses from Canterbury to Randwick. (They were carried by train to Rosehill and Warwick Farm in horse boxes). Mr Andrews and his eldest son went to watch Bunty Brown ride Rivoli in the big race, but the others stayed at
home, waiting by the telephone. When it rang, Mrs Andrews couldnâ€™t believe the news - their horse had become the only Canterbury horse ever to win the A.J.C. Derby. He was given the Derby Sash, trimmed with heavy gold spun tassels,- and his photograph in this sash has pride of place in the family home, now at Warwick Farm. The teachers from the school next door to the stables at Canterbury, when they heard the news, said: "We have been looking at the Derby winner every day and didnâ€™t have the sense to back it". Rivoli went on to run second in the Melbourne Cup the following year, 1923. Soon after, the family moved to a bigger property at Warwick Farm, and the Government resumed the stables for extensions to the school in 1927.
Dick Andrews with "Rivoli", Canterbury, ca. 1922
After the first World War, the suburbs of Sydney grew very quickly, and land for houses was in great demand. The suburbs along the railway line developed, with new brick houses being built in every street, and the influx of young families into the area increased the need for schools. The movement of the Andrews family's training stables was an inevitable part of suburban expansion: they needed more space to allow for growth of the business, and the demand for housing and schools in the building boom of the 1920s meant that no more land was available in Canterbury. Sydney's suburban sprawl had caught up with the racecourse and had passed it.
The increased population and better public transport facilities were good for the racecourse's attendance figures, even though some of the trainers had to move to the open spaces further out. In 1921, the tramline from Darling Street to Hurlstone Park was extended to Broughton Street Canterbury, and for the first races after the opening (Saturday 16 July 1921), there were nine special trams run on the route, each consisting of nine or ten cars. On 17 January 1927 the service from Fort Macquarie to Dulwich Hill was also extended to Canterbury, further increasing the capacity of the public transport system to convey spectators to and from the racecourse.
The developments of the modern world brought more excitement in 1920, when the aviators, Parer and Mackintosh, landed their plane at Canterbury Racecourse. They had come from England, competing in the great England to Australia air race, won by Ross and Keith Smith. The course must have been a haven to a few small planes at that time, as Mascot had not yet been opened. On 6 July 1920, Mr Frank Briggs landed his plane at Canterbury after a flight from Mildura. The landing was made after dark, it was raining, and he saw the reflection of lights in the swampy area in the middle of the course proper. He assumed that this was a dam on some farming property, and consequently decided to set his plane down on what was supposed to be open paddocks. The event must have startled the herd of kangaroos there, kept by Jim Monk, the caretaker, for the entertainment of the racing spectators. Mr Briggs must have been rather startled as well, when he saw where he had landed.
In the early days of radio, race broadcasts had to be done from outside the course. The broadcasters had to climb up into a box in a tree in the back yard of a house opposite the course in King Street, and train their binoculars over the fence. They would rig up a line from the tree to the house, and from there to the studio. There was always trouble at Canterbury for the ABC announcers, because there were fowls in the backyard of the house they broadcast from, and they kept cackling through the race descriptions. Someone had to be given the job on race days of feeding the fowls to keep them quiet. Race broadcasting has occasionally been subject to other types of interference as well: in the early 1970s, conspirators positioned themselves outside Beaudesert racecourse in Queensland and interrupted Ken Howard"s broadcast from Canterbury by cutting into the phone lines. While a phantom announcement was relayed into Beaudesert that there was a ,!delay at the barrier at Canterbury", they plugged Ken's live call into a tape recorder. They then contacted their accomplices at the track, who backed the winner Windsor Park from 7-1 in to 7-2. About five minutes alter, they plugged the tape recording into the phone line, and Ken's race call was broadcast to the course as if live.
The 1920s was also the time of the development of special racing journalists, whose names became household words. Fred Coghlan wrote up the races for the morning papers, and his protegee was Lachy Melville. The track work reporter for Canterbury was Tommy Clune, who was a trainer himself, and owned a racehorse.
When Turf Life began to publish Canterbury's race fields, however, the Canterbury Park Racing Company decided to call a halt. It claimed that publication of the fields would damage their profit by cutting into the sales of their racebooks, and sought to take out an injunction against the newspaper. In Court on 26 November 1931, the paper was defended by its proprietor, James Henry Hopkins, but Mr Justice Long Innes found in favour of the Race Club, and publication of the fields ceased for a time.
bookmakers at Canterbury appear to have had variable luck. On 7 May 1929, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that one bookmaker had had his winnings decreased by £150 through "victimisation": A well-known owner's dealings with the bookmaker on Saturday were profitable to the extent of £150, but a surprise was in store for the backer when he attended the settling yesterday. He was informed that his money had been collected and the bookmaker produced a voucher authorising him to pay the amount to the bearer on behalf of the winning owner. The successful backer, however, had not given anyone authority to collect the £150. The bookmaker, realising that he had been victimised, paid over a second £150. The newspaper was moved to remark that "this is not the first occasion that bookmakers have been victimised in such a manner".
Soon after this, Australia was to be plunged into an economic Depression, in which jobs were lost, and people were in danger of losing their homes. While some people gave up betting on horses, others saw this as the only way they had a chance of making money to keep their families, and illegal betting flourished. Police were constantly on the lookout to stamp out this practice, and reports of local shopkeepers being fined were frequent. In 1930, the Herald reported that one 23 year old Ashbury lady was fined £5, or ten days' imprisonment, for having used a house in King Street Ashbury for the purpose of betting. Thirty shillings betting money was forfeited. Her story was one common in the Depression: she was married, had a baby to keep, her husband was out of work, and she was trying to make a few shillings.
Racing still had its flamboyant personalities despite, or perhaps because of, the economic situation. Rufe Naylor was a well-known racing identity of the 1930s, who gambled on a large scale, and had a number of jockeys in his employ. Some people saw his presence on racecourses as undesirable, and a sure sign that trouble was brewing:
Escorted From Racecourse.
Sydney Morning Herald, 14 January 1935
Rufe Naylor, a familiar figure. on the. metropolitan racecourses, was escorted from Canterbury Park racecourse on Saturday by mem bers of the racecourse detective staff, after a conversation with the chairman of directors, Mr. F. G. Underwood. Mr. Naylor, referring last night to the incident, said very emphatically that. he. would consult his counsel to-day with a view to instituting an action at. law, and that he would afterwards make a statement for publication. Mr Naylor recently succeeded in an appeal to the Full Court of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, which ruled that the Australian Jockey Club was not entitled to exclude him from Randwick Racecourse. Subsequently Mr. Naylor attended Randwick races, and other metropolitan meetings, including those held on proprietary courses.
In 1938, the Government decided to require that all members of the Metropolitan Racing Clubs Association change from Proprietary to nonproprietary control. The members of the Association, Canterbury Park, Rosehill, Moorefield, Ascot, Rosebery, Kensington and Victoria Park, conducted lengthy negotiations about the matter, and, when the Canterbury Park Racing Club announced its intention, on 12 November 1938, of changing to non-proprietary control, controversy flared. A member of the Moorefield Club claimed that there had been an agreement that all the Clubs would change over at once, and that Canterbury had acted prematurely. It was implied that Canterbury had made the announcement as a means of "bargaining" to secure the allocation of the Meeting preceding the A.J.C. Spring Meeting (one normally allocated to Hawkesbury) and that their promise of providing a £5,000 programme, including a Cup of £2,000 (the Canterbury Guineas) and a weight-for-age race of £1,000 (the Canterbury Stakes) was an offer which would be unfair to other Clubs. There was a great deal of fear among members of the Association that some of their racecourses would be closed down by the Government and the events involving Canterbury would not assist their case for survival.
The Canterbury Club, however, went ahead with its intention. Its property was valued by a "leading city firm" at £125,000. It was proposed to call for 1,000 members at a fee of £3/3/- each, which, inclusive of all admission charges, would cover the Club's eight meetings a year. There were also women's tickets available at £1/11/6 for each season. I
On 2 February 1939, a Company was registered to take over the activities of the Canterbury Park Racing Club. The new name was the Canterbury Park Turf Club, Limited, and two of the Clissold family were among the signatories to the Memorandum of Association. The change meant that no dividend could be paid to shareholders or members, and that all profits had to be applied to the promotion of the objects of the Club. It did not mean, however, that members or committeemen were prevented from entering their horses in races, or so competing for any prize offered at any race meeting of the Club.
The changeover coincided with a major reshaping of the course, when Cooks River was widened and deepened, and turned into a canal. There were extensive alterations to the racing track and the enclosures, and 70,000 tons of earth were used to level the course proper. It was no question that the changes were needed: the track had been previously known as "upsand Downs", a reference to its undulating terrain. At the reopening of the improved course, April 1940, the jockeys were warned to use care in riding around the new track - it was unexpectedly level, certainly not what they were used to - but the caution was not needed, as the meeting went off in a "blaze of success". The Frederick Clissold Handicap, commemorating one of the first directors, was run for the first time, and was won by the favourite, "Gold Rod", one of a long line of successful New Zealand horses. A record attendance of 17,000 guaranteed that another record was established - the brand new win and place totalisator registered investments amounting to £14,647. Not only were the 5/- windows crowded, but. even the £5 window was kept busy.
By this time, War had been declared, and the Government began to use suburban racecourses as sites for army training camps. The soldiers stationed at Canterbury enlivened the social life of the neighbourhood for the time that they were there, and many stories are told of recruits sneaking out at night. The Prime Minister, John Curtin, attempted to close down racing meetings for the duration of the war, but outrage was so great among the Australian public that he was forced to reverse his decision. Apart from the radical change that it would make to the Australian way of life, the meetings provided necessary entertainment to the troops on leave, and Mr Curtin was defeated on the appeal of this argument.
In 1942, a new form of excitement appeared in Canterbury. Brian Madden remembers:
I was 12 in 1942, and we lived in Redman Street Canterbury. During a Saturday afternoon race meeting, 16 U.S. fighter planes buzzed Canterbury Racecourse, apparently to let the Australians know that their allies had arrived to defend them. As I remember it, the plan backfired when a horse took fright and had to be destroyed, and the meeting was disrupted, much to the annoyance (war or no war) of the sports loving Aussies. Recent research indicates that the date was 18 April 1942, and during the first race, the horse Jack Mac was killed after falling early in the race. It was only four months after Pearl Harbour, two months after the first bombing of Darwin, and six weeks before the Japanese submarines entered Sydney Harbour. The Herald called it a "brilliant aerial display", and the Sunday Telegraph said that Club officials protested to Air Force headquarters. It was not the only instance of low flying aircraft over Sydney. On Sunday 3 May planes flew under the Harbour Bridge seven or eight times, as well as flying over the city, the Domain and around the Harbour. On Sunday, 31 May during military exercises at Beverly Hills, a formation of fighter planes swooped low over the operation in an unplanned intervention. The racecourse incident is probably one of the best-remembered events in Canterbury!s recent past - life was exciting when the Yanks were "over here".
Despite the War, arguments still continued about the fate of the suburban racecourses. In 1943, the Sydney Turf Club was constituted, and empowered by its Act to take over Canterbury and five other suburban racecourses. Of these six, only Rosehill and Canterbury courses
survive today. The first race meeting of the S.T.C. Canterbury Course was held on 6 January 1945, and the land was formally transferred from the Canterbury Park Racecourse Company Limited (in liquidation) on 19 December 1945. '
From that date, there have been a long succession of "firsts" for Canterbury racecourse. 16 March 1946 saw the introduction of the first photo finish camera, and the box start and mirror reflector were also used. The earlier starting barrier device in use, a five strand barrier, was invented by Rube Grey of Watkin Street Canterbury. The starter would say "go", and at the same time would press a lever to release the springs so the five-strand wire would spring up into the air, releasing the horses. The new box start was not popular, and was replaced by mobile barrier stalls - another first for Canterbury - on July 11 1948. I In April 1948 the Sydney Turf Club purchased the land (an old creek bed) north of the course, and began to construct a drainage system so that the Hand could be used at a future time. This land now forms the parking lot in the Crieff Street area, and Lees Park.
The 1950s and 1960s saw further "firsts" for Canterbury - on 11 July 1957 the horse "Valeda" won at the course for Mrs K.J. Hartley: the only woman trainer then licensed by the A.J.C. It was the first metropolitan racing success for a woman trainer.
In January 1959, the Club tried an experiment, and held the first all-tote fixture, with bookmakers banned from mid-week meetings for a trial period. Sydney's first TAB meeting was held at Canterbury on 9 December 1964 - a betting method which has gone from strength to strength since that day.
A plan to commence large-scale improvements to Canterbury Course was announced in 1973. By February 1974, the old public stand was demolished, and a contract was let for "a new stand, which will include an air-conditioned area with full services at the top level behind the main viewing deck; tote facilities initially at two levels, catering facilities, covered sections in the bookmaker's ring and two escalators. It is also proposed to add two colour-television receivers in the doubles tote bar to three already in existence".
The new stand was opened officially by Neville Wran in August 1976, and named the Sir Clyde Kennedy stand in honour of the S.T.C. Chairman. The function rooms opened the following year, and the course acquired the enviable reputation of being, in Bert Lillye's words, "the first Sydney racecourse to provide the general public with facilities superior to those enjoyed by members". As a consequence, racegoers flocked to the course, and, on Canterbury Cup Day, February 4 1978, the on-course totalisator recorded the first million dollar turnover for a single day.
Since then, Canterbury Park has continued to flourish. Further improvements have been made in the shape of a road and pedestrian tunnel under the track, so that patrons can enter and park in the course while races are proceeding.
More than 200 horses are now stabled in the area, both trotters and racehorses, and it can be safely predicted that horses will continue to thunder across Canterbury turf, continuing the tradition which began in the early days of the Colony.
Newspapers (issues usually identified in text) Sydney Gazette Australian Bellâ€™s Life in Sydney Echo Evening News Town and Country Journal Sydney Mail Sydney Morning Herald Sun-Herald Daily Te1egraph Daily Mirror Campsie News and Lakemba Advance Torch Books, manuscripts and articles Archives Office of N.S.W. Bankruptcy records: Barnabas Hartshorn . , Australian Men of Mark, Vol.2, Series 1 Canterbury Municipal Library. Local History file Cumes, J.W.C. Their chastity was not too rigid. Sydney, Reed, 1979 Currey, I.E. The Centenary of Canterbury Racecourse, 1871-1971 Frederick Clissold, business man and sporting man Canterbury and District Historical Society Journal, Series 2, ho. 3 Electoral Rolls, Canterbury Electorate Jervis, James. The History of the Municipality of Canterbury. 1951 Larcombe, F.C. Change and challenge. 1979 Muir, Lesley. A wild and godless place. M.A. Thesis, University of Sydney, 1984 N.S.W. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. Minutes of Evidence, Railway from Marrickville to Burwood Road. 1890 N.S.W. Registrar General. Land title records Racebooks, Canterbury Park Racing Club Sands Directories Oral History Dick Andrews Joyce Golby Brian Madden Kath Twist
This book was prepared to celebrate Heritage Week 1985, and it tells the story of an integral part of the heritage of Canterbury: Canterbury...
Published on Jan 1, 1985
This book was prepared to celebrate Heritage Week 1985, and it tells the story of an integral part of the heritage of Canterbury: Canterbury...