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Stroud’s Racecourse!

A story by Beryl Bowden;

There was a time when Stroud had a racecourse. I doubt if many people remember it or have even heard of its existence. How it came to be, is a story in itself.

During the Second World War, in the early 1940’s, it was decided that a Queen competition be held in Stroud as a means of raising funds for the war effort. Committees set about choosing their entrants and a time limit of three months was set in which to raise the money. The girl who raised the most money in that time was to be declared the Queen!

The Red Cross ladies chose Dora Gorton as their representative, Etty Lambourne was the girl favoured by the newly formed Women’s Comforts Fund, and myself, sixteen-year-old Beryl Bourke, received the nod from the Country Women’s Association.

We set about selling raffle tickets and badges with our faces printed on them. The other two committees threw themselves into a fund-raising frenzy by holding street stalls, concerts and other means of making money. My committee unfortunately, consisted of mostly elderly ladies with very little energy or enthusiasm for the project, so it soon became apparent that the war effort would not benefit greatly by the amount that my committee and I would be contributing at the end of the designated time.

Some of my friends thought I had ‘drawn the short straw’ so put their heads together hoping to come up with something to help my cause. I don’t know whose improbable suggestion it was to hold a race meeting. The fact that Stroud didn’t have a race- course didn’t faze them… they just went ahead and made one!!!

The Stroud showground was thought to be ideal. It is perfectly flat and there was enough room to have the track round the perimeter of the ground. A judge’s\starter’s stand was erected and gradually the running track and other necessary appendages took shape. I have no knowledge of how it was built, as I was not involved with the actual construction; I concerned myself with more female activities, such as arranging advertising and organising the prizes. I twisted the arm of a local businessman ‘til he donated a large silver cup to be known as the Inaugural Stroud Cup. There were minor trophies to be contested but the Stroud Cup was the feature race of the day.

I redoubled my efforts selling raffle tickets. It was the least I could do when the men of the town were working so hard on my behalf. It was a giant step in faith for them to even entertain the idea of building the course; they all had jobs so could only help after work on weekdays, and at weekends. Against all odds, the course was finally finished.

The day of the race meeting was fine. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.
Everyone turned up in his or her Sunday best. The women wore their ‘good’ frocks and hat, with matching gloves and handbags; the men were decked out in suits and ties. (Those who owned them.)

Bookmakers set up their stands and were soon calling the odds.
Horses and jockeys, both local and from away, made their appearance, keen to race.

The race card listed a full programme of events. Once the meeting was under way, the volunteers kept the races moving. Everything went like clockwork. I was kept busy congratulating the winners and presenting the prizes. I felt like royalty!

A Ball was held in the School of Arts to announce the winner of the competition. The queen was crowned during an impressive ceremony, which included a pageboy, Allan Chadban and two flower girls, Dawn Neville and Edna Gorton.
When the money was counted it was found that Dora came first, Etty second and I was third. The queen was crowned by Mr R L Fitzgerald M L A. (Member Legislative Assembly.)

Stroud Queen

Crowning of the Stroud Queen Competition 1941. Left to right Helen Linnich, Dora Stokes, Myself, seated Her Majesty Dora Gorton, Dawn Neville, Edna Gorton and Page Boy Alan Chadban. Missing from the photo shoot is 2nd place getter Etty Lambourne.


My supporters had held a very successful race meeting but the cost of building the course had eaten up most of the profits; and time did not allow us to hold another meeting. However, we had achieved what we set out to do, and that was to raise money for the war effort! The combined total raised was 638pounds.13 shillings and sixpence.

I thought this was the only time Stroud had a racecourse…but I was wrong! Recently, while speaking to Laurie (Oscar) Bowden, a former Stroud resident, he informed me that there had indeed been another racecourse in Stroud…and he could prove it!

He told me, that among his mother’s possessions when she died in1986 was a ledger –type book containing the hand- written minutes of the inaugural and subsequent meetings of the Stroud Pony Club formed on 19th September 1911.
These minutes are a record of its activities when the Pony Club functioned from Sept. 1911 to 19 Feb.1913. It is thought that the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914 was the reason the Stroud Pony Club was disbanded
Here I include a programme of one of their race meetings.

13.1 Ponies 3 Furlongs Prize £3.0.0
Second pony 10/- from prize

13.2 Ponies 4 Furlongs Prize £3.10.0
Second 10/- from prize

13.3 Ponies 4 Furlongs Prize £4.0.0
Second10/- from prize

14.0 Ponies 5 Furlongs Prize £4.0.0
Second10/- from prize

14.1 Ponies 6 Furlongs Prize £5.0.0
Second 10/- from prize

14.2 Ponies over a mile Prize £5.10.0
Second 10/- from prize

Footnote. To define the exact location of this first racecourse is open to conjecture. In those early days the area now known as Stroud Show Ground was an open park without the buildings that are there now. It is reasonable to assume that it would have been the site on which, like the 1941 effort, this earlier racetrack was built.

My thanks to Laurie for his help.

Isn’t history wonderful?


4 Comments on “Stroud’s Racecourse!”

  1. Beryl Bowden January 23, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    They were good days. I am pleased if any action of ours influenced you to stay in the area. You certainly are a happy acquisition.

    Do you remember the name of the song?

    I can’t recall the incident but I don’t doubt it happened…aided by a white or two. My singing voice is no more though Lloyd’s was still worth listening to up ‘
    til the day he left us.

    Keep practising!

    Beryl B

  2. Helen Gillard January 10, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

    History surely is wonderful Beryl, especially the first hand account so gracefully given.

    As a new chum (only been here 20 years) I feast on your stories .. keep ’em coming girl !!

    • Beryl Bowden January 19, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

      Thanks Helen. Is it really 20 years since you ‘came and dwelt among us’?

      • Helen Gillard January 22, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

        Yep, Beryl .. bit over 20 years, I camped here for last few months of 1994 then “moved in” to an unfinished house Jan 1995.

        One of my earliest experiences of a dinkum “local couple” was of you and Lloyd singing a love song to each other after dinner at Bob and Margaret Butterss.
        I was charmed by your talent & sincerity and noted the admirable contribution of good wine to the performance.

        I resolved to:

        1. live out my life here
        2. practise drinking good wine so I could sing like you two.

        Still practising.

        Helen G

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