Danebury has a long history in racing, dating back to 1839 when the Stockbridge Racecourse first opened here. It was widely respected as one of the finest racecourses in the country and was particularly favoured by King Edward VII.
The trainer based at Danebury in those days was John Day who, along with stable jockey Tom Cannon, won multiple classics and held the record for the most wins in a season.
In 1898 the racecourse was sadly forced to close and Danebury returned to a private estate. Fortunately the gallops remained largely untouched, being used as grazing pastures to the estate owners sheep, and even serving as runways for Spitfire testing site during the Second World War.
In 1981 the estate was bought by Trainer Ken Cunningham-Brown and a thriving horse racing establishment returned to Danebury for the first time in almost 100 years. Whilst the original Bibury Club Grandstand (which opened in 1867) remains as a monument to the past, it is once again surrounded by gallops and racing facilities of the highest modern standards.
Stockbridge Racecourse History
The first racing at Stockbridge took place on Houghton Down from, at the latest, 1775, and possibly earlier. By 1839 a new course had been developed on Danebury Hill near Nether Wallop.
The course is associated with leading Victorian trainer John Day (pictured left with Mr Sadler's DECISIVE) who, together with stable jockey Tom Cannon (pictured right), sent out multiple Classic winners. He trained from stables at Danebury House, built in 1832 by Lord George Bentinck, adjacent to the track and now the headquarters of a winery. Another important, but short-lived figure in the history of the course was Harry, Marquis of Hastings who had horses trained at Stockbridge in the 1860s.
A notable visitor to the track was King Edward VII, who whilst still Prince of Wales watched his horse, Counterpane, come last in the Stockbridge Cup and then fall down dead. It is reported that souvenir hunters pulled out every hair of its tail.
Horses were often entered and shown at the Swan Inn in Stockbridge. Race week was usually in June or July. The track had a straight mile and a severe 'elbow'.
In 1898, the land on which the eastern end of the course stood was inherited by Marianne Vaudrey who strongly disapproved of gambling, and therefore refused to extend the lease. At the time, Jockey Club rules stated that all racecourses should have a straight mile and since Stockbridge's straight mile extended into this area of land, the course was forced to close. After closure, the gallops served as a testing site for Spitfires during World War II. Meanwhile, the Bibury Club final meeting took place on 7 July 1898. The Grandstand, which opened in 1867, survived until 1973, when it was destroyed by fire. The ivy-covered ruins of the Grandstand remain, but are in a precarious condition.Today, the land on which the course stood is part of the Danebury Racing Stables estate owned by trainer Ken Cunningham-Brown and shared with Trainer Jeremy Gask.
I managed to find a very good page 'Diary Of A Vintage Girl' which can be visited HERE and is well worth a read.
Another wonderful article can be read HERE.
John Barnham Day Wikipedia, the first trainer at Danebury HERE.
John Day Jnr, trainer of twelve Classics HERE
Tom Cannon, champion jockey and later owner of Danebury HERE