Racing has been taking place at Sedgefield from around 1732, with the first recorded meetings in 1846. The course itself was part of the Sands Hall Estate, home of the Ord family and known as the Melton of the North.
In 1804 Ralph Lambton formed a club based at the Hardwicke Arms and Sedgefield became the headquarters of the Ralph Lambton Hunt, whose meetings had originally taken place at Lambton Park.
Ralph Lambton was an ancestor of the Earls of Durham, and among original members of the club were Ralph Brandling, then owner of Gosforth Park , and Robert Surtees, father of RS Surtees, the creator of Jorrocks.
By the turn of the century FJ Bayles described Sedgefield as, `one of the very finest of good, sound thickly herbaged turf, never known to become deep or heavy in the worst of weather. The surface of the gallop is smooth and as regular as a garden lawn. The fences are beautifully built of birch and not difficult to negotiate'.
In Edwardian times Sedgefield promoted a two day fixture in March. Although it remained a meeting for hunting men, it was now a much more professional event.
The First World War saw the abandonment of racing in 1915 until its resumption in 1920. The post-war resumption was marred by the death of Richard Ord, the Squire of Sands Hall, who was owner of the Estate as well as a shrewd Jockey Club Handicapper.
By the mid twenties Sedgefield had three meetings, including a lucrative Boxing Day fixture. The current Racecourse Company was founded in 1927, and has seen the fixtures gradually increase to the current twenty days.
The Modern Era
As you can plainly see, Sedgefield has improved greatly since Clement Freud's article. Under the reins of Frank Scotto, who was appointed Chairman in 1977 following the death of Harry Lane, Sedgefield began the steady process of re-vamping the whole site.
Down came the `tin huts' and in their place new bars and eating areas. Stable facilities were improved, not only for the horses, but for the stable staff, jockeys, owners and trainers.
With racing becoming a popular sport, Frank Scotto's aim was to make Sedgefield a friendly, welcoming place, with top class facilities available to all Sedgefield's racegoers alike, at an affordable cost. Corporate entertaining became an important ingredient to most businesses, and as a successful businessman himself, Frank could see an area where Sedgefield could improve its facilities as well as its popularity.
1991 saw the opening of the Sedgefield Pavilion, which houses a public bar, Tote facilities, a restaurant and seven private entertaining suites. With the demand for corporate facilities growing, the Theakston Suite opened in 1995, which incorporates a public bar, Tote facilities and three entertaining suites.
Since Frank's untimely death in February 1996, Sedgefield racecourse has seen changes in all areas, a re-furbished Parade Ring/Winners Enclosure, a new Betting Ring, and in 1998 a state-of-the art Weighing Room Complex was constructed, with better facilities for Jockeys, Officials and Medical Staff. Also within the Complex is the modern Foster's Stand Public Bar with an eating area and two private suites.
Northern Racing seek to continuously improve the Racecourse and continue the fundamentals established by Frank Scotto. Frank did not see all his dreams for Sedgefield come true, but despite his sad death, Sedgefield has carried on his promise to make racing a sport for everyone to enjoy and to continuously improve facilities.
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