Cheltenham Close, UB5

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The first organised Flat race meeting in Cheltenham took place in 1815 on Nottingham Hill. As racing’s popularity soared over the next decade crowds of up to 30,000 visited the racecourse for its annual two day July meeting featuring the Gold Cup. In 1829, Cheltenham’s Parish Priest, Reverend Francis Close, preached the evils of horseracing and aroused such strong feeling amongst his congregation that the race meeting in 1830 was disrupted. Before the following year’s meeting, the grandstand was burnt to the ground. To overcome this opposition the racecourse was moved to Prestbury Park, its current venue, in 1831. Steeplechasing became established in nearby Andoversford from 1834 and moved to the present course in 1898. Between 1929 and the Second World War the land on which this street was laid out was home to Northolt Park Racecourse, although it does appear on maps from the time as Wood End Racecourse. It was the venture of racehorse owner Sir William (or Billy Bass), of the brewing family fortune, and Viscount Lascelles, both stewards of the Jockey Club and the Pony Turf Club. The one-and-a-half-mile (2.4 km) racecourse for pony racing was opened by the Earl of Harewood and his wife the Princess Royal. Bass was first chairman of Provincial Cinematograph Theatres, which was founded in 1909 with the ambition of opening a cinema in every town but it was horses which were his first love. The outbreak of war meant racing was suspended and the land was taken over as an army depot and prisoner of war camp. Despite numerous attempts to revive pony racing after the war the land was given over to housing construction. The Racecourse Estate, in which all the streets were named after famous racecourses, was constructed between 1951 and 1955 in order to solve a severe housing shortage within the borough. The gates of the original racecourse remain in Petts Hill, and a section of the track can be seen as a long, flat stretch of land alongside Mandeville Road.

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