Distant Hoofbeats remembered

Harness racing at Chasewater in the good days. Image kindly supplied by Sue MacMillan.

In relation to the history of Chasewater and it’s ill-fated trotting track, I was contacted recently by a lovely lady – Sue McMillan – who spent time in the area with her family when she was younger, and whose father Brian Wibberley was behind the trotting track as a venue for a time. Brian also owned the service station on the A5 at Newtown that latterly became Hoofbeats, then The Terrace, and is now once again Hoofbeats.

Sue wrote:

Hi Bob

I attach a few images I have of the harness racing at Chasewater. Dad (Brian Wibberley) hadn’t moved to Brownhills when these were taken. It was the late 70’s. He loved harness racing and had a passion to renovate the race track and get it back as a harness racing track (which he achieved).

Dad sold cars in Burton on Trent, and he got Opel to sponsor a night at the track – we filled the stand… I have pictures of me as a 10 year old girl presenting flowers to “distinguished” guests (who they are I have no idea) but I was told they were important and to behave!

One for the classic motor buffs: I remember Opel as mainly selling Vauxhalls in the UK under their brand – or was it the other way around? – Look how full the stadium was. Image kindly supplied by Sue MacMillan.

So Dad put on the race night which was a great success… It was shortly after that, that he bought the transport café and opened the pumps – I sold petrol there throughout my teens along with a growing amount of weekly veg!

Everyone stopped for petrol and a bag of spuds.  The café was then renovated and Hoofbeats opened.

Dad always had his love of Harness Racing and I have pictures of American cars on the forecourt along side sulky’s all of which he had imported from America. It was called Hoofbeats after the American magazine Hoofbeats.

Hoofbeats at its opening in 1985. That carriage is remarkable! Image kindly supplied by Sue MacMillan.

Dad died on the last day of his first financial year.  Geoff purchased the restaurant and traded as The Terrace – the rest you probably know.

The new Hoofbeats want my pictures to mount a collage  of Dad and Anslow Super Star (Dad’s best horse and favourite horse) to remember Dad for what he did for Mr Chance (new owners dad and Granddad) in raising money for his bypass operation in the very early 80’s.

Sue McMillan

We’ve covered the trotting track a lot here over the years, and again, many folk have fond memories of working or visiting the trotting Stadium I had thought was a sole project of  Oscar Johnson.

Anslow Super Star – clearly a remarkable and much loved horse. Image kindly supplied by Sue MacMillan.

Thanks to Sue for some wonderful, evocative and remarkable images of something I once thought we’d never get much history of – the trotting track. That it’s history was intertwined with that of Hoofbeats is an interesting and engaging twist. Thank you for your generosity.

The BBC archive have previously published a short Nationwide TV clip from 1971 about the opening of the Chasewater Trotting Track which makes an odd claim about stadiium capacity but is actually local history gold. I feature it below..

If you have any comments, post them here, catch me on social media or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail do com. Cheers.

Chasewater trotting track – the stadium many will remember derelict – never achieved the elusive success hoped for. Image from ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

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8 Responses to Distant Hoofbeats remembered

  1. Gavin Watson says:

    Not sure if anyone recalls but there used to be a disco held at the trotting track. I think it used to be on a Friday evening. I remember this because as a kid, my father John Watson a plasterer at the time had a budding young DJ as a labourer to him called, or at least know as Johnny Plumb, he lived somewhere near Wayne House but all vague as I was only around 10. Anyway My dad used his van to drop Johnny off with all of his kit and records as Johnny didn’t drive. Just wondering if anyone remembers these discos, as by the time I was old enough to attend the building was derelict or almost.
    As a little back ground my name is Gavin Watson and originally lived at 11 Fourth Avenue now belongs to David ‘Nank’ Heath unless he’s has since moved.

    Memories, aren’t they great.

  2. Jacqueline Downs says:

    My husband worked at the petrol pumps as a teenager Ian James from Middleton Road.

  3. Les Bullock says:

    My brother-in-law, Andy (Panda)White was the course photographer at the trotting track for a number of years!

  4. Yvonne Thomas says:

    I owned a horse bred by the late Brian Wibberley, called Anslow Starsky (b. 1982). I believe he was a foal when Mr Wibberley died and was sold on through various homes until I got him aged 7. At one point he was road raced (and reputedly held the record over 5 miles), sadly which left lasting damage to his legs. However he lived to the great age of 34, retiring to Spain with me, where he is now buried.

    • Sue says:

      Hi Yvonne; we stoke some years ago about Starsky: I’m sad he passed but he made a good agen. Thank you for taking good care of him

      • Yvonne Thomas says:

        Hi Sue, yes I remember that, I copied all the information you gave me on him. He was as tough as old boots, surviving 2 major colic surgeries, firstly aged 24 and then again at 33. He was the oldest horse in the UK Colic surgery to survive at the time. Sadly it was another colic that took his life. He was the horse of a lifetime and I miss him terribly.

  5. Dennis Smith Former MD of Bewick Transport Group based in Milnthorpe, Cumbria. says:

    I came across this site by chance as I was involved in harness racing for about 20 years up until the early 90’s. Brian Wibberly was a family friend and I used to purchase much of my racing equipment from him and it was a tragedy when he passed away. my Wife, Anne , and I attended his funeral at Anslow. I ran a large fleet of artics back in the day and they all bore the names of Pacers ( not trotters) and one them a new Scania 111 TEC 641R bore the fleet name “Anslow Superstar”. The shot of the Victoria Park Phaeton standing on the front of The Hoofbeats Restaurant was bought by me after Brians death and it featured in a couple of weddings of two of the Drivers of my Pacers and it was pulled by one of my Pacers a smart Chestnut Gelding named “My Birthday”.
    I’m not sure if I can post photos on this site but if I could I put on a shot of the “Anslow Superstar” Scania and also a shot of the Phaeton and “My Birthday”
    However, during my time in harness racing my three best horses, Flair, Dalestar & Dalechief won many prestigious races throughtout the UK including two national Pacing Derby’s ’87 & ’90 as well many Free for All’s at the likes of Musselburgh, Appleby, York & Tir Prince.
    Happy days.
    Dennis Smith, Kendal, Cumbria.

    • Sue Wibberley says:

      Hi Dennis; josh I remember seeing that truck with Anslow Superstar on it ; I remember you visiting Hoofbeats

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