A New Racecourse

It took several years to find a suitable site, and an unforeseen set of circumstances would lead to the acquisition of an ideal piece of land.

Sir Alexander Staveley Hill had lived at Dunstall Hall all his life, having been born there in 1825. He vigorously opposed the building of the Shrewsbury & Birmingham railway which approached Wolverhampton just beyond the northern edge of his estate. He also greatly objected to the building of railway workshops, offices, and locomotive sheds on Dunstall Hill. The railway opened in November 1849 and became part of the Great Western Railway in September 1854. He must also have been extremely annoyed when the railway company extended the facilities on Dunstall Hill to include a locomotive works.

Dunstall Hall by John Fullwood.

His father Henry Hill inherited Oxley Manor in 1870. When Henry died in 1872 Alexander Staveley Hill decided to move to Oxley and put the Dunstall Estate on the market.

Dunstall Park was seen as an ideal location for a new racecourse. It covered 130 acres of flat land in an excellent locality, on the northern side of the town, with good access.

Two prominent horse racing enthusiasts, Robert Hermon Hodge, M.P. for Accrington, and Mr. John Lees, J.P. decided to set up a public company to purchase Dunstall Park and build a new racecourse there. The new company, Wolverhampton Racecourse and Dunstall Park Limited held its first meeting on 16th June, 1887 in London. Within a few weeks the estate had been purchased for £36,000. The money was raised as follows: £15,000 came from the sale of 3,000 shares at £5 each, a further £15,000 from a debenture, and £6,000 cash. When the transaction had been completed Alexander Staveley Hill joined the board and became the company’s first permanent chairman in October 1887.

The site would prove to be just right for the new course. Even before the land had been acquired, a small two-day race meeting had taken place in October 1886 under National Hunt Rules. The facilities at the time were extremely poor, the main attraction being the Wolverhampton Hurdle with prize money of only £70. Even so a number of famous riders took part and the scene was set for future events.

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Years At Dunstall