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Kempton's early history is interesting reading.

Byline: David ASHFORTH

A RELATIVE of mine works in Herefordshire's archive office. A few months ago, she told me that among some documents recently deposited by a local firm of solicitors were papers relating to Kempton racecourse. So, on my way to Hereford last week, I called in to have a look at them.

If anyone happens to be researching Kempton's history - particularly topical at the moment - the documents merit attention. They show that the Kempton Park estate, covering 370 acres, was due to be sold by auction in June 1875. There is a map of the estate.

The Kempton Park Race Course Company Ltd was incorporated in August 1877, with capital of pounds 30,000 and seven founding shareholders, including Samuel Henry Hyde, regarded as the racecourse's founder, who was then secretary of the Bristol Race Course Company Ltd.

In January 1878, the new company acquired a 63-year lease on 303 acres of the estate at an annual rent rising from pounds 3,500 to pounds 4,000. The first race meeting was held in July 1878, and in October 1879, the Kempton Estate Company Ltd issued a prospectus revealing plans to raise pounds 85,000, pounds 55,000 of which would be used to buy the estate. It noted: "The race meetings instituted by the company have been a great success, and the attention thereby drawn to the estate is a decided advantage." Part of the estate not occupied by the racecourse would be used to build "villas and residences of a superior character".

This company's directors, including Arthur Cheese of Howey Hall, had strong links with Radnorshire, bordering on Herefordshire, which may explain their use of the Hereford-based solicitors James & Bodenham, the source of the documents.

Presumably the company succeeded in buying the estate because, in 1881, it granted the racecourse company a licence permitting it to "underlease" land to the London and South Western Railway Company, noting that the racecourse company, "for the purpose of affording increased railway accommodation for the traffic to the Park during the race and other meetings are desirous of having sidings, platforms and other erections suitable for the purpose constructed". The class system was reflected in the plans, which showed two 'general' platforms, a 'club' platform, and a 'members' platform.

In 1883, there were plans to auction 70 acres of the estate and, the following year, the Kempton Park Race Course Estate Company issued a prospectus with a view to buying the land currently leased to the racecourse company, "to develop the value of that land in any way possible". The purchase price was pounds 75,000.

The outcome of that exercise is not revealed, but the small collection of documents contains important information about Kempton racecourse's early history. Perhaps there is a historian out there who would be interested.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 12, 2006
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