Site of Monmouth racecourse, Vauxhall Fields
Walking here in the early 20th century, you would have a seen a grandstand rising above the flat meadow! The town’s racecourse followed the riverbank and looped back to the west and north. The grandstand and winning post were south west of Vauxhall farmhouse.
Horse racing in Monmouth began in the 18th century at Chippenham, the meadowland by the confluence of the Monnow and Wye. Racing under National Hunt rules ended there c.1886, but pony races continued until the end of the decade.
Races were held at Vauxhall on 14 and 15 March 1895, probably for the first time at this venue. Races included the Raglan Hurdle, the Vauxhall Steeplechase, the Drybridge Hurdle and the Licensed Victuallers’ Selling Hurdle. In the 20th century an extension of the course for steeplechases curved round close to Rockfield Road at Drybridge.
An annual athletics contest also took place here. The 1891 event included sprints and one-mile bicycle races. In 1894 there were also half-mile, two-mile and three-mile bicycle races. At the 1901 athletics meet, displays by the Imperial Yeomanry included soldiers wielding swords and lances, pegging tents, cutting lemons and demonstrating how wounded soldiers were removed from battlefields.
There were army barracks on the fields by the early 20th century. The bridge leading to the fields from Osbaston Road was built by the Royal Engineers for military vehicles but is now for walkers and cyclists only. The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) still have premises at the fields.
The military’s use of the fields didn’t block the racecourse, and horse racing here continued until 1933.
With thanks to William Morgan