Racecourses in Esher
In 1870 the land at Lower Bagshot Sands, which had been used as a park
since the Black Death of 1338 wiped out the last inhabitants of the
Augustine Priory, was up for sale. The idea of an asylum received
considerable support, as did the proposal of a model village, but thanks to
Lt Col Owen Williams's close connections with the Royal Family - in
particular the Prince of Wales - the racecourse was given the go-ahead.
The first fixture, held on Thursday 22nd April 1875, featured a mixed card - it still exists today as the Whitbread Gold Cup meeting - and included the Military Steeplechase Cup, forerunner of the Grand Military Gold Cup. Unfortunately torrential rain meant only a handful of racegoers attended that inauguration. But the new Grandstand was obviously an advantage and, as champion jockey Fred Archer rode a winner, most of the crowd were suitable impressed.
A £3 million building programme - including a 7,600 capacity stand - began in 1972 and, after the following season's Eclipse was switched to Kempton, the Queen Mother opened the new development in September 1973. It is still being hailed as a triumph more than 25 years later.
The year 2002 saw the completion of the £23 million pound redevelopment, which has seen the building of the new Eclipse Pavilion, canopies over the grandstand, a walkway to link the new building to the grandstand and a complete refit of the Grandstand area.
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