Racing at Sherwood Park

MELBURNIANS will be well aware of our famous Caulfield, Flemington and Moonee Valley racecourses. However, back in the late 1800s numerous racecourses sprang up all over Melbourne. In The Australasian of 17 May 1884 ‘Skiddaw’ reported on ‘The Sherwood-Park Plumpton’ (Plumpton – Australian term for an enclosed greyhound track).

“I had an opportunity of inspecting the place on Tuesday last, which, I may mention, is about five miles from Prahran, along the Malvern-road, and two and a half miles from the Camberwell station. The drive either way is the prettiest in the suburbs, and the view from the ground – named Sherwoodpark by the owner – is simply magnificent. On an elevated position, the panoramic surroundings have no equal, I should think, within a score miles of Melbourne. Sherwood-park is situated between Burwood and Glen Iris, and its close proximity to town ought to popularise the coursing meetings that are here after to be held there. “Mr. Scott’s enterprise is worthy of note. When he hit on the spot for a coursing enclosure it was a part of the bush. The first thing, therefore, was to clear a sufficient space for a running ground, and this he has had done without loss of time, leaving a stretch about 900 yards from end to end by 400 yards wide, the whole forming an irregular oval. The soil being sandy is a most important desideratum, and in this respect the designer has again exhibited his foresight. The running may always be depended upon for safety, even after a long drought, and postponements need never be thought of for a moment, as unfortunately is the case elsewhere season after season. The patches where until recently stood tall gum-trees and the multitude of shrubs indigenous to the virgin bush, have been levelled, and before long will be replaced by a plentiful crop of couch grass.”

There appear to have been both horse and greyhound racing at Sherwood-Park. The Glen Iris Stakes included a ‘handsome trophy, the Boroondara Plate’. By Saturday, 30 May 1886, Leader ran an article by ‘Asmodeus’ titled ‘Abuses of the Turf – Is Racing Overdone?’.

“… Unfortunately, the boom period brought into existence a number of racecourses which were never needed; they were formed regardless of expense, and the false cry having been raised that the racecourses of the future would be south of the Yarra, Epsom, Sandown Park and Mentone vied with each other in the endeavour to gain the ascendancy, and on the three courses named a sum of over £100,000 was expended. That such a large amount of money should have been wasted on such ill-advised enterprises is much to be regretted, but this was not all, for at Maribyrnong and Aspendale Park other courses sprang into existence, and what with the addition of the unregistered concerns which cropped up with mushroom growth at Oakleigh, Richmond, Sherwood Park, Fitzroy and Ascot, racing generally became woefully overdone.

Fortunately, there has been a wholesome decrease in the unregistered meetings, and the only ones which continue in evidence are Ascot and Richmond. Were a similar diminution to occur in the registered courses it would be to the benefit of racing generally, but the large amount of invested capital at stake has to be considered, and this is where the trouble rests. It is obvious that six proprietary courses, in addition to Flemington, Caulfield and Williamstown, are more than necessary for the requirements of metropolitan racing men. … According to the custom in vogue each course claims a dozen meetings or so a year, and were the days apportioned to each reduced to, say eight a much healthier state of affairs would prevail. This would give on an average more than two days’ racing a week within the metropolitan radius, including, of course, Flemington and Caulfield.

Perhaps some people would consider a meeting every Saturday ample, in addition to the recognised holiday fixtures and the big gatherings promoted by the V.R.C. and V.A.T.C.; but in all reforms it is better to proceed in moderation, and as the associated clubs are now about formulating their list of dates for next season the subject is one which calls for timely consideration at their hands. Then again it may not be considered outside the province of the V.R.C. executive to take action in this important matter before making their allotment of fixtures for season 1896-97.”

The Argus of 7 November 1896 ran the following auction advertisement:

About Raine Biancalt 31 Articles
Raine Biancalt has a Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing & Editing) and a background in both government and corporate worlds. She enjoys art, history, writing and old movies.