Assault at Goodwood Races

Doncaster, winner of the 1874 Goodwood Cup; Wikipedia-Doncaster (Horse)



During his career as a Scotland Yard Detective, George Clarke was regularly required to attend racecourse meetings to help maintain order and to discourage illegal betting (see 'The Chieftain' pp. 28-29 and 119-126).

After attending the Goodwood Races between 30 July and 2 August 1872, Clarke was obliged to return to a magistrates court in Chichester in mid-August to provide evidence in a case of assault at the racecourse. The complainant, Albert Dixon, had captured a thief who had attempted to steal a watch, and had detained him until the police arrived, despite facing a substantial mob who had tried to rescue the man he was holding.  Once the police had arrived, Dixon claimed that he had been hit a severe blow by Inspector William Harris of the Metropolitan Police, who had subsequently failed to apologise.  Two witnesses supported Dixon’s version of events.  A West Sussex P.C. indicated that Harris had simply sought to push back the mob around them as they were taking the man into custody.  Clarke, who had been present at the racecourse, endorsed the police-constable’s version of events. The magistrates threatened to send the case to a jury unless a sensible arrangement could be reached between the two parties and, after a retirement, Dixon withdrew his complaint.1

Perhaps prompted by events at the 1872 Races, Clarke and the racecourse manager, Captain Valentine subsequently implemented some improvements in crowd control and were specifically praised by the press at the 1874 Goodwood meeting for:

“the removal of all nuisances in the shape of stools, spiked umbrellas, boxes and other impedimenta in the enclosure….[and for] removing another nuisance that has so long prevailed at Goodwood.  We allude to the prevention of betting men assembling under the portico of the Grand Stand, whereby that thoroughfare was kept comparatively free from the crowd of roughs, and others that heretofore congregated there for ready-money betting”.2

In 1874, Clarke would have seen the horse, Doncaster, win the Goodwood Cup that year; he would have already have seen the horse win the Epsom Derby in 1873, and was probably present at Ascot in 1875 when the horse was first past the post in the Gold Cup.3

Notes: 1. Hampshire Telegraph & Sussex Chronicle 21 August 1872; 2. Morning Post 29 and 31 July 1874; 3. Wikipedia- Doncaster (Horse).

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