A Brief History Of Cheltenham Racecourse

We now have only a week to wait, until the start of this year’s Cheltenham Festival. If this will be your first taste of the world’s biggest and most important jumps-racing meeting, here’s a short history of this unique and incredible venue.

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Early Days

That first time a flat race meeting was held at Cheltenham was way back in 1815. For three years, the Nottingham Hill track was used. Racing then moved to Cleeve Hill. Within a few years, tens-of-thousands of spectators were visiting and the story of Cheltenham had truly begun.

That is not to say that there weren’t some early setbacks. The local clergy was vehemently opposed to horse racing taking place and this led to a move to Prestbury Park. There was also a terrible fire, which left the main grandstand in ashes.

Cheltenham Tattersalls

For many years, Cheltenham suffered through lack of investment. The fortunes of the course changed when, in the early 1960s, money was provided to build the Tattersalls Grandstand.

A much bigger grandstand (known as the Main Grandstand) was completed in the late 1970s. In the 1980s this was extended on two occasions. The upper levels were adapted for hospitality purposes and this helped generate a lot more revenue for the course.

At the beginning of the 1990s, a new complex of stables was built. A pre-parade ring was also added, as well as the Hall of Fame Entrance.

Cheltenham Cross Country Races

A few years later, the famous Cheltenham Cross Country Course was finally opened. This beautiful course twists and turns through the inner part of Cheltenham Racecourse.

By now, the Tattersalls Grandstand was beginning to look a little long in the tooth. It was taken down and a replaced with tiered-viewing. A new restaurant (The Panoramic) was also introduced.

Best Mate

In the early-2000s, Cheltenham legend Best Mate was honoured. An enclosure was named after this most-memorable Cheltenham competitor. The Best Mate Enclosure offers the best views of the course, nowadays.

Cheltenham was becoming ‘big-business’ and an impressive conference-centre was introduced. Big enough to hold 4000 visitors, the Centaur Centre is one of the top venues in Western-England. The Cheltenham Festival had now outgrown it’s three-day slot and was extended to four days.


It is estimated that Cheltenham Racecourse will soon be welcoming over one million visitors, in a single calendar year. But despite all of the modernisation, Cheltenham still retains it’s original charm. To most people in racing, Cheltenham will always be the home of National Hunt racing.

While this year’s Cheltenham Festival will be a packed media-circus, with celebrities and oligarchs arriving by helicopter, the operation is driven by the same principles that were held hundreds of years ago. The organisers of Cheltenham just want to attract the very best horses and let them race!

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