A walk around Cheltenham racecourse, with Eva and some history.

A walk around Cheltenham racecourse, with Eva and some history.

A walk around Cheltenham racecourse, with Eva of course, she wasn’t allowed onto the course, the fences would have been too high anyway.

Under starter’s orders.

We started at the car park, where the Motorhome had sojourned. Near the Dawn Run Stand. “Dawn Run (1978–1986) was an Irish Thoroughbred racehorse (Deep Run – Twilight Slave) who was the most successful racemare in the history of National Hunt racing. She won the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 1984 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup over fences at the festival in 1986. Dawn Run was the only racehorse ever to complete the Champion Hurdle – Gold Cup double. She was only the second mare to win the Champion Hurdle (and one of only four to win it in total), and one of only four who have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. She was the only horse ever to complete the English, Irish and French Champion Hurdle treble.” (Wikipedia 2021).

The racecourse itself lies in the parish of Prestbury, which is on the lower slopes of the Cotswold escarpment about a mile north-east of Cheltenham. Prestbury had a market and fair in the Middle Ages. The parish lies mainly on flat land at about 200 ft. On the west side the land rises slightly at Marle Hill and the east side rises steeply to 600 ft. A small stream, called Mill brook in 1732, runs across the middle of the parish. Most of Prestbury is on the Lower Lias, with alluvial soil near the streams. In the west, on the slopes of the Cotswolds, the Lower Lias is overlain by the successive strata of the Middle and Upper Lias and Inferior Oolite, and in this part of the parish quarries were in use from the 16th century or earlier until the early 20th. It was said that stone from Prestbury was used in the building of Tewkesbury Abbey. (‘Parishes: Prestbury’ n.d.)

Prestbury High Street. Prestbury High Street
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Terry Jacombs – geograph.org.uk/p/36731

There was a race-course at Prestbury Park in the 1830’s, and during the 19th century Prestbury had strong associations with horse-racing. Dr. Fothergill (‘Fogo’) Rowlands who, trained the Prince of Wales’s steeplechasers, had his headquarters at Prestbury. Tom Oliver, who rode three Grand National winners, trained at Prestbury. The ‘King’s Arms’ in High Street was a popular meeting-place for sportsmen in the mid-19th century, when William Archer, himself a jockey and the father of Frederick Archer the jockey, was landlord there. The Cheltenham Racecourse Company bought Prestbury Park in 1902. A grandstand and club-house were built in 1908 and a race-course station was opened in 1912 on the main railway line. The course has been described as the finest steeplechase course in the world and since 1924 the race for the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been held there. (‘Parishes: Prestbury’ n.d.)

Cheltenham Racecourse
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © David P Howard – geograph.org.uk/p/5035399

There are a few names to consider, but it would be remiss not to investigate someone called Fogo.  A Monmouthshire doctor, Fothergill Rowlands, established a steeplechase at Sandown in 1859. Fogo had sacrificed a career in medicine in favour of horse racing. He began The National Hunt Steeplechase. His new race was to be held at a different venue each year. (Davies 2006)

After some searching and lateral thinking, here he is in the 1871 census, at Pittplace in Epsom. John Fothergill Rowland aged 48, a Surgeon not practicing, born Nat y Glo, Monmouthshire, living with his wife Cecilia Ann 54 born Bristol, his son Cecil A. F.F. aged 15 born Nat y Glo, stepdaughters Maria and Madeline Riley in their 30’s born Bristol. Plenty of researching there if needed, his wife’s previous (married) name was Riley etc. (The National Archives. Kew, London. 1871).

We walked around the perimeter of the racecourse, we turned right away from the rail and skirted Shaw Green.

The Cheltenham Chronicle on 26th October 1858 reported that there had been a supposed incendiary fire there, at Shaw Green on the previous Sunday, Mrs. Sarah Green’s house was burning, PC George Brook had hastened there, and amongst the crowd that had gathered were a couple of suspicious characters, James Ardle and William Moss. They made off and the PC pursued, he found some matches about Ardle’s person, PC Brook took them in, and they went before the magistrate a few days later. The case was dismissed with flimsy evidence, the house was uninsured but minimal damage was caused, however it was noted if further facts came to light, then Ardle and Moss’ collars would be felt again. (Cheltenham Chronicle 1858)

Looking on near Shaw Green

We walked through some fields towards Southam De La Bere. The name Southam was in use by about 991, probably originated as an offshoot of Bishop’s Cleeve, its name indicating its position south of the main settlement. The village, built on gravel at the foot of the escarpment and between two streams that run into the Swilgate, was a small one though prosperous, as its comparatively high tax-assessment in 1327 suggests. The road running diagonally up Cleeve Hill formed the main village street. The smaller houses concentrated where lanes led off from each side of the road; further south was Southam House, and a lane leading west from the road passed the manor-house, the chapel of ease, and two farm-houses. This lay-out, with the main road passing west of Southam House, was recorded in the late 16th century. In the 1790’s the diversion of the main road along the south and east of Southam House changed the plan of the village; the old road became disused, the new road south of the village was straightened in the mid-19th century, and the kink in the new road where it passes the village was itself by-passed in the 1960’s. (‘Parishes: Bishop’s Cleeve’ n.d.)

Ellenborough House.

The main building we saw was Ellenborough Park hotel, which was known as Hotel de la Bere until 2008, and before that Oriel Girls School until 1972, the original name was Southam House (Wikipedia 2021). Southam House, was the seat of the Earl of Ellenborough in 1830’s, of that family here’s a random selection the 5th Baron was Edward Downes Law 1841-1915 his entry in Find a Grave has a biography, “Commander Edward Downes Law, 5th Baron Ellenborough. Son of Henry Spencer Law and Dorothea Anne Law. Baptised on 26 May 1841 in Marylebone, London. Educated at Charterhouse School, Surrey. Entered the Royal Navy in 1854 aged just 13. He was a naval cadet with HMS Colossus, serving in the Baltic during the Crimean War in 1855 and was awarded the Baltic Medal. He became a sub-lieutenant in 1860 and a lieutenant in 1861, and 1867 he passed as an interpreter in French. During the American Civil War, he was serving on the North America and West Indies Station. He transferred to the frigate HMS Highflyer and was with her in China during the Second Opium War (1859–1861) and was awarded the Second China War Medal. In 1873, he was lieutenant commanding HMS Coquette, and saw service during the Third Anglo-Ashanti War and was awarded the Ashanti Medal. He retired as commander in 1873. He succeeded to the peerage on the death of his cousin, Charles Towry-Law, 4th Baron Ellenborough, in June 1902. He took his seat in the House of Lords on 29 Jul 1902. He married Hermione Octavia Courtenay Schenley in 1906 and they lived at Windlesham Court in Surrey. He was succeeded by his brother Cecil Law, 6th Baron Ellenborough.” (Find a Grave 2021).

The little dog and I then walked along the road towards the Church of The Ascension. A grade II* listed building, a 12th century chapel, restored mid-late 19th century in neo-Norman style by Edward Earl of Ellenborough 1861 in memory of his first wife Octavia, died 1819. (Historic England. 1987).

Church of the Ascension with a holy dog.

Nearby was the Tithe Barn, and the Priory, and Pigeon House, this area is considered to have the manor house of the De Bohun’s.  This manor descended with the earldom of Hereford; the earls held it of the Bishop of Worcester and owed suit at Cleeve court. It was forfeited to the Crown some time before 1265, but in that year, it was restored to Humphrey de Bohun, and it passed to his grandson, another Humphrey, and then to his heirs. In 1346 Oliver de Bohun was said to hold the ½ knight’s fee in Southam which the Earl of Hereford once held, but Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford (d. 1361), held Southam manor at his death. Although Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford (d. 1373), made an unlicensed exchange of Southam, after his death his wife Joan held a knight’s fee there of the Bishop of Worcester. The manor later passed to the Crown through Humphrey’s daughter and coheir, Mary, wife of Henry IV. In 1422 Henry VI assigned the manor to his mother as part of her dower. Successive lessees had possession during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Crown granted the manor to Peter Vanlore and William Blake in 1604, but in 1607 granted it to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury. In 1609 the earl sold Southam manor to Richard de la Bere, who already owned Southam House and other property in Southam. Richard’s heir was his father’s nephew, Kynard de la Bere. Kynard’s son Kynard died in 1656, and the manor passed to his son John, and then to John’s son Kynard (d. 1734). Kynard was succeeded by William Baghot, the son of his sister Anne and her husband William (d. 1724). The younger William assumed the additional surname of de la Bere and died in 1764. His son Thomas Baghot-De la Bere was succeeded by his two sisters, Grace Webb and Sarah Baghot De la Bere, and they in 1829 by their cousin Thomas Edwards, who sold the estate in 1833 to Edward Law, Earl of Ellenborough (‘Parishes: Bishop’s Cleeve’ n.d.). See above for Ellenborough.

Ancient Manor, young dog.

We, back in the 21st century, the little dog and I, walked back towards the racecourse and followed the line of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway towards Cheltenham racecourse station and our finish, the crowds weren’t cheering us in though.




Cheltenham Chronicle. 1858. “Supposed Incendiary Fire.” Cheltenham Chronicle , October 26: 5b. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed October 08 2021.

Davies, Paul. 2006. Steeplechasing in Great Britain. Accessed Octoebr 08, 2021. http://www.tbheritage.com/TurfHallmarks/racecharts/Steeplechase/SteepleGB.html.

Find a Grave. 2021. Commander Edward Downes Law. February. Accessed October 08, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/223376400/edward-downes-law.

Historic England. 1987. CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION. December. Accessed October 08, 2021. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1303115.

Online, British HIstory. 1968. “Parishes: Bishop’s Cleeve.” In A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 8, by ed. C R Elrington, 2-25. London: Victoria County History.

‘Parishes: Bishop’s Cleeve’, in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 8, ed. C R Elrington (London, 1968), pp. 2-25. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol8/pp2-25 [accessed 10 October 2021]. n.d.

‘Parishes: Prestbury’, in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 8, ed. C R Elrington (London, 1968), pp. 67-81. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol8/pp67-81 [accessed 8 October 2021]. n.d.

The National Archives. Kew, London. 1871. “1871 England Census.” Ancestry. April 07. Accessed October 08, 2021. www.ancestry.co.uk.

Wikipedia. 2021. Dawn Run. October 08. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_Run.

—. 2021. Ellenborough Park Hotel. January. Accessed October 08, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellenborough_Park_Hotel.


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