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Werribee Racecourse,
Bulban Road (corner Ballan and Racecourse Roads),
Werribee

Citation

Wyndham City Libraries, “Werribee Racecourse,
Bulban Road (corner Ballan and Racecourse Roads),
Werribee,” Wyndham History, accessed July 14, 2020, http://www.wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/1021.
Description

A racecourse located on this site since 1861 with large grandstand and other buildings possibly dating from 1950s onwards.

Source

City of Wyndham Heritage Study 1997

Description

A racecourse located on this site since 1861 with large grandstand and other buildings possibly dating from 1950s onwards.

Title

Werribee Racecourse,
Bulban Road (corner Ballan and Racecourse Roads),
Werribee

Subject

Racecourses - Werribee (Vic.), Chirnside, Andrew, Chirnside, Thomas, Wyndham Racecourse and Recreation Reserve, Werribee (Vic.), Wall, Michael, Wyndham Racing Club,

Creator

Wyndham City Libraries

Source

City of Wyndham Heritage Study 1997

Publisher

Context Pty Ltd

Date

1997

Contributor

Dr Carlotta Kellaway

Format

text

Language

eng

Type

Text

Werribee Racecourse has been located on this site since 1861.  Today the racecourse is a modern facility with large grandstand and other buildings probably dating from the 1950s onwards.  Some of the trees may be earlier.

On 22 April 1861, the same year that Wyndham township was proclaimed, a Wyndham Racecourse and Recreation Reserve (400-500 acres of Crown land) was gazetted.  This early date suggests the importance of horse racing within the Werribee district.

Thomas Chirnside reputedly was instrumental in having the land reserved and gazetted.  Thomas, with his brother Andrew, had an interest in horse racing which went back to their years in Geelong.  The Chirnsides trained many of the best horses in Victoria in the second half of the 1800s.  At their property Werribee Park imported bloodstock were bred, while there was a training track at the stables at the Point Cook homestead.  Andrew Chirnside’s Haricot won the 1874 Melbourne Cup.

However, at first, following the gazetting of the racecourse, there seems to have been “nothing in the way of formal horse racing…in the 1860s and early 1870s”.  Later, in March 1878, Michael Wall, publican, called a meeting at Armstrong’s Hotel, renamed the Racecourse Hotel by Wall.  It was decided to hold races in 4 May 1878.   A Wyndham Racing Club was formed with Wall as its secretary.  The formation of this club, according to William Ison, a club member, was to avert the cutting up of the racecourse reserve into five-acre blocks for closer settlement.  Chirnside gave £300 to fence in the reserve.  By January 1880 the course had been fenced and an entrance fee introduced.  The club borrowed further money to finance improvements, including the installation of a grandstand.

During the 1890s depression years the racecourse became neglected and regarded as “the town common and swagman’s home”.  It was claimed in April 1903 that although the racecourse “possesses one of the best racing tracks in the state” it was used only for a couple of mixed meetings with small prize money.  The debts were so large by this time that the reserve was temporarily leased for cultivation and grazing purposes.  An advertisement in the local press of 19 February 1904 called for tenders “to cultivate, graze or train horses on above reserve”.  Cultivation leases of three years and grazing and training leases of seven years were offered.  Wall signed the advertisement.

From 1907 the Agricultural Society sought to secure the course as a showground.  Later, in 1910 the Government declared that the reservation would be revoked unless racing commenced and a new Racing Club was formed.  If these terms were not complied with, part of the land would become a showground and the rest opened for settlement.

Finally, in 1912, after the formation of a new Wyndham Racing Club, the Wyndham Racecourse Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament.  This Bill, introduced by the local member, Robertson, licensed the racecourse for two meetings a year.  In his introduction to the Bill, Robertson described the Wyndham Racecourse as “one of the best and truest courses in Victoria”.  A later 1932 Act provided for four meetings a year.

K. N. James claims in his book “Werribee : the first one hundred years”, Werribee 1985, that the totalisator was first used at Werribee at the winter meeting on 10 July 1935, “and after its erection, no metropolitan course was without a tote.  The future of the Werribee Racecourse with the Victorian Racing Calendar was secure”.

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