Chester Racecourse: The Oldest Racecourse in England

Chester Racecourse


The other name for Chester Racecourse is Roodee and is the oldest recorded racecourse in England dating back to the 16th century. On the other hand, it is probably the smallest racecourse in England with only a length of 1.8 kilometers. It is a flat course located in Chester, Cheshire owned by Chester Race Company Ltd.


Chester Racecourse is found on the banks of River Dee an area was used as a harbor by the Roman settlers during the Dark Ages. The harbor was however closed when siltation occurred on the river making it difficult to navigate on. Raised mounds called, “rood” add to the aesthetic value of the field. These mounds give the course its name “Roodee” which is a corruption of the “Rood Eye” which mean “The Island of the Cross”.

Chester Racecourse was used as a playing field for a very bloody football March known as Goteddsday, which was banned in 1533 and replaced with horse racing by the city. In 1939, the first racing game in the course held after Mayor Henry Gee gave it a nod. This lead to the use of the name “gee-gee” in reference to the horses. Races were initially only held on Goteddsday Day until 1609 when they were introduced on St. Georges Day too.

Those who won the races were rewarded with “Chester Bells” that they used to decorate the horse’s bridle. Starting the year 1744, a small tumble manufactured from gold was issued as a reward for winning. A festival in May 1766 was later introduced and in the year 1824 the Tradesmen’s Cup Race was introduced. All this time, the course was just an open field with no stand and no admittance fee was charged. A fire caused by arsonist gutted down the stand that was constructed in 1985, but it was rebuilt between 1988 and 1900.


The racecourse today boasts of its many fixtures that have made it very popular in Chester. It is a short distance from bars, hotels and restaurants so people coming here can get all they need within range. As stated earlier, the racecourse is short and runs anticlockwise. The straight is quite short and measures only 239 yards a factor that disadvantages long-stridden horses.

Main races host in this facility are broadcast on Channel 4 Racing and have attracted thousands of viewers.A restaurant named “1535” reflecting the year when the first race was held here was opened in Chester Racecourse. Another restaurant and pub was opened in 2013 and was named The White Horse. Andrew Morris doubles as the clerk of a sister course to Chester called Bangor-on –Dee and Chester Racecourse. He has however been doing a good job in managing it.


The long history of this racecourse and quality of its racing and facilities has earned it a big name in the UK. With many races held here over the years, the racecourse has continually grown in popularity and has always witnessed a huge turnout of racing fans. The quality of service at the restaurant and pubs has also contributed this fame. As more competitive races are held here, its fame is expected to keep increasing.