I hear the question, did the gardener, Capability Brown, build race-courses?
While there’s not much in the way of written evidence and plans, they do crop up in his landscapes (Belvoir, Blenheim, Burghley, Clandon, Grimsthorpe, Wilton) and always in the same sort of places – that’s to say at the same sort of distance from the house as you might find the rough parks, at North Stoneham or Langley, Bucks.. So should one regard them, like rough parks, as primarily the gentleman’s territory?
Knowsley’s an odd one, because it seems unlikely that Edward, 12th Earl of Derby would not have maintained his own racecourse, since he founded the race that is named after him, but when Dr Pococke described the place in 1751 he particularly mentioned the disappearance of the track: ‘it is fine ground with two or three low hills in it, that to the left is called the riding hill, because they used to stand there to see horse races formerly kept here. There is a pretty building on it, consisting of four semicircles, in which there are some fragments of ancient statues repaired….’
One might go on to ask, was Brown himself a gambling man? When the going was good was he agog for the gee-gees – a goldmine for the bookies? On this topic, alas, history is silent.