Horseracing has taken place since the early days of the 18th century, formerly in the Broomhay grounds, West Monkton, even though these concluded in 1812 as a result of the combination the Napoleonic revolutions and a general lack of enthusiasm. Racing carried on in Bridgwater, about 11 miles (18 km) north, but resumed in Taunton in mid-1825.
Taunton was originally located on what is now King's College and lauded highly in the yearly publication Sporting Magazine. Racing meetings continued for two consecutive days at the start of September. The venue was dogged by a catastrophic downpour in 1838, which meant nearly all the major races were abandoned, and about two years later racing was moved to Trull Moor, where it continued for a further 15 years. Shortly after this, fixtures were once again confined to Bridgwater but concluded with the onset of World War I.
In 1927, Taunton Racecourse Company was set up, and a new racecourse was built on land given by Viscount Portman. The sporting site had famously domiciled in Orchard Portman House, the headquarters of the notable Portmans, but the same house was demolished in 1840. A little church, which was an integral unit of the estate, is still noticeable on the grounds today.
The inaugural meeting took place on the 21st September 1927, and the very first racing event, the "Shoreditch Selling Hurdle" was famously won by Baalbek, owned by Mr. Rayson. Formally, crowds were simply housed in little more than a wooden stand, but now it incorporates the imposing Orchard Stand and the grand Paddock Stand (also the members enclosure) and the more recent AP McCoy stand, which offer catering amenities and utilized for racing meetings and high-profile conferences on normal days when racing is not taking place. The racecourse was the first course to be launched in the United Kingdom for over eight decades, followed by Great Leighs (Chelmsford City) which held its first race in 2008, followed the year after by Ffos Las.
Taunton Racecourse is a right-handed ovular track, with two fairly long straights and two sharp bends. The racecourse is 1 mile and 2 furlongs (2.01 km) in length, and has two fences as well as open ditches. The racecourse was upgraded with the building of the M5 motorway, as the removed earth was used to extend the back straight and bends.
Finally, Taunton is also globally famed for its auspicious hospitality and social services. That’s why it receives thousands for corporate and private clients from all over the country.*
Contact details: Taunton Racecourse Ltd, Orchard Portman, Taunton, Somerset, TA3 7BL
Tel: 01823 33 71 72
Visit Taunton website here.