Which is the oldest racecourse in Britain?

The oldest racecourse in Britain is Chester Racecourse, a.k.a. the ‘Roodee’, or ‘Roodeye’, which stands on the banks of the River Dee in Cheshire, North West England. Chester Racecourse was founded in 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, by the so-called ‘Reforming Mayor of Chester’, Henry Gee, and staged its first recorded meeting in February that year. Gee subsequently decreed that horse racing should be staged annually on Shrove Tuesday and, 480 years later, Chester was officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the ‘oldest racecourse still in operation’, not just in Britain, but anywhere in the world.

‘Roodeye’ is derived from the Saxon word ‘rood’ meaning ‘cross’ and the Norse word ‘eye’, hence ‘Island of the Cross’. Chester was established as a harbour by the Romans but, by Saxon times, silt built up in the River Dee to create a small island, which once bore a stone cross. The remnants of the cross can still be seen in the middle of the modern racecourse. Racing at Chester has been interrupted by major events, including the English Civil War, World War I and World War II, but otherwise has been staged almost continuously since the first half of the sixteenth century.

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