Dunton Races

By Ken Porter

Following up my article on the 'Laindon & Dunton at the Races' dated 15 October 2012, I have just picked up from Ebay an article from the 'Tatler' publication dated 18 March 1936 entitled 'The Stock Exchange and Lloyd's 'Chases'.

'A good many of the winners and their jockeys are included in this little collection made at the recent Stock Exchange and Lloyds' point-to-point, run over a bit of the Essex country at Dunton, near Billericay. Mr and Mrs L.B. Stoddart, for instance, stepped off with the right foot with Bedale 11., who won Lloyd's Race, the owner piloting: a picture at that comfortable moment, the last fence, is also in this page. Mr and Mrs Chaplin also had a winner, Successful Penalty, who collected the Nomination Open Race by 20 lengths, the third distanced. This is the second year in succession that this horse has won this particular race – a good performance for all hands concerned; and the other winner in the page is Silver Lizzie, belonging to the Hon. Gilbert Johnstone, an uncle of Lord Derwent, the winner of the Jack Russell Challenge Cup, ridden by Mr.E.C.Paget.'

Well it would appear that our Dunton races were a little more important than we thought, obviously attracting many from the city. I do not expect anybody to remember the races back in the 1930s but we know that Point to Point races were still being held in the Dunton area during the early 1950s, so if anybody still remembers them please let us know.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dunton Races' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dunton Races' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dunton Races' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dunton Races' page

This page was added by Ken Porter on 11/06/2015.
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I went to the Dunton Races with my cousins, John and Toni when I was about 4 or 5 years old, approx 1950/1951.  My Uncle Richard Devine (my mum’s brother), took us on the trip. He lived in Noak Hill Road and was a teacher at Markhams Chase School.

I don’t remember how we got there, whether we walked across the fields, or whether we had transport of some kind.  However, I do remember my cousin Toni, who is six years older than us, giving John (same age as me) and myself a stern warning.  “When the horses are being paraded – don’t stand behind them as they will kick out”.  When a horse was led past us fairly closely, John said “Keep back as this one kicks out anyway”.  I duly kept my distance.

Those conversations are about all I can remember of that day.  I can’t even remember if my own mother was there, although I strongly suspect she was.

On searching through the old newspapers online, I found many reports on the Dunton Races which make interesting reading (mostly in the Essex Chronicle).

Many of these yearly races were held in conjunction with the Essex Union Hunt and were held at Dunton Hall.  The course was 3½ miles long and could be watched from Dunton Church Hill, where the stands were fixed.

In 1934 it was reported “An alteration of the 3½ mile course was a distinct improvement on previous years.  Instead of pursuing a continuing course which took the horses out of sight of the main crowd of onlookers, the riders this year covered 2 laps and finished on a 400 yards straight.  Thus the racing was visible the whole of the time from the high ground at the winning post and this greatly added to the excitement”.

Also reported over the years were a number of horses that had to be destroyed after falling and breaking a leg.  Riders who fell, sustaining broken arms, collar bones etc., although had the distinct advantage of not having to be destroyed.  Also a road accident which occurred in 1939 “On the way to The Dunton Races”.  A cyclist was killed while travelling along Southend Road when he was in collision with a motorcyclist and was knocked off his bike at the Dunton turnoff.

Also in 1939 a lady was summonsed for dangerous driving when leaving the Dunton Races.  In Lower Dunton Road, while driving her large Morris, she overtook other cars, causing them to swerve.  The case of dangerous driving was dismissed but she was fined £4 with £1 costs for ‘Driving Without Due Care and Attention’.   

I’m pretty certain that my Grandma Amy Burton went to those races in the twenties.  She was a keen race goer and had a weekend plotland bungalow from 1915 which was at the far end of the unmade King Edward Road, Laindon almost on the border with Dunton.  As I’ve mentioned before, her wooden bungalow was called Honeysuckle Hall but she changed its name to Spion Kop after the winner of the 1920 Derby.

Grandma Amy had a pair of field glasses which she used for watching horse races.  My dad inherited them when Grandma died in 1938 and they were in constant use at Spion Kop for many years.  These days they are in the safe hands of one of my nephews.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 11/06/2015