Publicans do many great things, including getting people drunk, but a particular debt of gratitude should be extended to William Lynn the owner of the Waterloo Hotel in Liverpool.
Lynn had earlier started the Waterloo Cup greyhound coursing competition that was a nationally renowned event that attracted tens of thousands of spectators from its inception in 1836 until it was banned in 2005 due to anti-hunting legislation.
The Waterloo Cup used to get covered in the Greyhound section of the Racing Post.
Encouraged by his success with coursing events Lynn turned his attention towards horse racing and leased land from Lord Sefton (himself a racing aficionado).
On 7th February Lord Molyneux laid the foundation stone for the Grand Stand and racing began at Aintree.
Aintree proved popular as a racing venue and thirty to forty thousand race goers often made the trip from Liverpool to watch the spectacle.
In the early days racing was predominantly on the flat (indeed flat racing would continue at Aintree well into the 20th Century). There were three meetings a year, and following a suggestion with associate John Formby, Lynn decided to dedicate his October 1835 meeting exclusively to hurdling.
The meeting was a particular success and attracted the cross country star of the day, a certain Captain Martin Beecher. Beecher would later ride into the National history books (or should that be fall into), but on that day he rode hurdler Vivian in two victories on the same card.
Captain Beecher talked to Lynn about the success of the Great St Albans Chase, an event held annually by Tom Coleman and regarded as the then pinnacle of cross-country steeplechasing.
Coleman like Lynn was a publican and owned a hostelry that he named The Turf. This establishment was later renamed the Chequers, an establishment of the same name still survives to this day.
Deciding to imitate Coleman, Lynn created the Great Liverpool Chase, an event that would later go on to become the Grand National.
The first steeplechase at Aintree took place on the 29th February 1836, it was won by The Duke and ridden by Captain Beecher.
The following year in 1837 the race was renewed by Lynn (this time in partnership with Formby) and raced at nearby Maghull. The prize money was £100 and was donated by the Alderman of Liverpool.
1837’s running again fell to the same runner and rider combination. It should be noted that some fans consider these races the first Nationals, though they are widely held to be considered “un-official” due to lack of stature and the fact that they weren’t truly National.
1837’s race clashed with the earlier mentioned Great St Albans Chase, and many owners instead sent their horses to Hertfordshire.
In 1838 the race returned to Aintree and was won by Sir William, though some historical records have the winner down as Sir Henry.
It was decided that the 1839 Great Liverpool Chase, would truly be “Grand” and in the back end of 1838 a group formed around Lynn, mainly comprising of aristocrats like the Earls of Derby, Eglinton, Sefton and Wilton as well as several Lords.
Lynn worked hard to promote the event, and a great air of excitement was generated. Perplexingly only a few days before the race he resigned “due to indisposition”, the speculation was that the Aristocracy preferred not to have a publican in their midst.
Lynn would later describe his efforts in starting the Grand National as “a most unlucky speculation”, having left him significantly out of pocket. He died in 1870 and by that time was almost destitute.
1839 saw the first running of what is now regarded as the Grand National. On this site you’ll find a review and analysis of the Grand National races. This should hopefully provide some pointers on picking the winner of the next Grand National
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Though emerging from humble beginnings today the Grand National is the most famous steeplechasing event in the world. The most notable events in the races history are highlighted in the Grand National Timeline.