Nineteenth Century Leisure Activities

Horseracing, footracing, 'ratting', 'coursing' and pugilistic contests (boxing as we know it today) were all leisure pursuits that took place in Western Sydney last century that to residents today would sound quite bizarre and perhaps not quite as appealing.

Horse Racing is a nineteenth century sporting activity that still thrives today in Western Sydney.

The Australian Jockey Club was founded in 1828. They operated a racecourse at Homebush on the Wentworth Estate (now the main Olympic Site for the Sydney 2000 Games) from 1841-1859 before moving to Randwick in 1860. On 29 July 1829 the Hawkesbury Race Club was formed, being the second oldest racing club in Australia, the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) being formed the year previously. Races were held regularly at a racecourse at Killarney, close to McGraths Hill. The local favourite was Richard Rouse's racehorse Jorrocks. In 1846 the Sydney Morning Herald reported, '...the Windsor chaps stood by Jorrocks, who carried off the prize of the Hawkesbury Plate with the most triumphant heroism.'. The horse had 100 known starts, winning sixty and being placed in twenty four others. The champion was buried on land that became part of the Richmond RAAF Base, with an appropriate memorial being erected to the local champion in 1964.

In 1851 the Campbelltown Turf Club leased 60 acres for a racecourse. The race programme lasted several days and "each night the town echoed with music and frivolity" (Liston, 1988. Campbelltown: the bicentennial history Allen & Unwin p. 113)

Today the horse racing industry is still a predominant feature of leisure in the district with racecourses at Warwick Farm and Rosehill, the Parramatta Jockey Club being founded in 1879.

The Hawkesbury district was often the venue for some leisure activities that were a little out of the ordinary but nevertheless typical of the era. "Ratting" contests, where dogs chased rats and spectators bet on the catch outcomes, were quite an event in Windsor as reported in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette of 1888. A skating carnival was also reported in the newspaper the same year; 'Mr Hesford's Skating Carnival on Monday evening was a decided success'.

Coursing was a more popular and widespread pastime of a similar nature to ratting. Coursing with live hares was held in the paddocks adjacent to Campbelltown Courthouse, at Orielton Park and Harrington Park during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Cockfighting was another common pastime on which bets were wagered. It is noted in The Good Old Days, "..cock fighting was one of the most popular sports...and in those days unless you had a game rooster that could massacre twenty of your neighbours' cocks in as many minutes, you might as well be dead, for you were considered a 'man of no account'" (Fitzpatrick p.71). In the Hawkesbury district it was Jacky Carr who first introduced cock fighting to the district, holding meetings on the ti-tree swamp on Ham Common. Despite being an unlawful activity the 'sport' was carried on well into the twentieth century throughout greater Western Sydney with little if any policing of the activity.

Boxing contests were another focus for illegal gambling activities. Pugilism, as it was known last century thrived in Western Sydney. ?? is perhaps the most well known boxer this century who began his career with an appearance at Campbelltown Show.