THE BARNET RACES
Did you know there used to be a race track in Barnet?
By the mid 18th century Barnet fair had become associated with horse racing and races were held on the last three days of the event. The course was where the present High Barnet station now is and newspaper advertisements exist from 1751 onwards.
In 1762 William Toldervy noted 'The annual horse racing is an exhibition of bad horses and worse riders...not to be seen at any other course in England, 'Tis notorious, that more misfortunes generally happen at Barnet Races than at any other horse race whatever'. A decade later Horace Walpole wrote "attended by no accident except an escape from being drowned in a torrent of whores and apprentices at Barnet races"
Because the fair was popular and with large amounts of money available crime became on the increase and there was a lot of illegal gambling, the 1756 guide to Barnet races routinely recorded cockfighting results.
This did not go down well with the Barnet association.
associations were a standard response to law and order problems, and one
was therefore formed in 1792 to cover Chipping and East Barnet. Its aim
was the capture and conviction of offenders and it was deemed so successful
that in December its area was extended to cover Hadley,South Mimms and
other adjacent parishes. The Association's role, though, was limited to
fund-raising and lobbying and enforcement continued as before.
Policing in London was overhauled in 1792, but
Barnet was way outside. Local associations were a standard response to
law and order problems, and one was therefore formed the same year to
cover Chipping and East Barnet. Its aim was the capture and conviction
of offenders and it was deemed so successful that in December its area
was extended to cover Hadley, South Mimms and other adjacent parishes.
And they must have been relieved that the course's heyday was short lived.
In 1793 The Times noted that the races had been 'miserably attended',
1867 the GNR laid on special trains on the mainline, but in 1871 the new
suburban line and station were being built across the track. The last
race held there was "The Barnet Stakes" on September 6th 1870
and it featured only three events of which two were walkovers while
in the third only three horses ran, of which one bolted.
"Ere older you grow, here's a song you should know,
I'd advise you to buy and to larn it,
T'other day 't happened so, with a friend I did go
To see the famed races of Barnet.
Sing fol-de-rol fol-de-rol-lay."