Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey


Courses For Horses (Williamstown)

The Williamstown Racecourse was built in 1873-74, and grew in importance from two meetings per year in 1885, to eight by 1892.

Despite always being called Williamstown, the course was actually in today's Altona, in Racecourse Road on the eastern banks of the Kororoit Creek, the area now wetlands separating housing and a petro-chemical complex.  




Obviously the reports on the totalizator installations of 1931 introduce at least three racecourses long since faded from memory, strangely enough, two of them because of fire.

 Of these, the most important of these was the Williamstown course, not quite on a par with Caulfield, but probably more important at the time than Moonee Valley.

The course is commemorated with a plaque on a small surviving section of the grandstand.

Prior to 1885, patrons who went to the course by train had to walk from the Geelong line but a branch line of approximately 1.1 kilometers was built in two stages (1885 and 1886-87) with the Williamstown Racecourse Station serving the track. The line was extending a few years later to Altona and became part of the regular suburban network, although perhaps unfortunately the station was closed in 1950, three years after the course itself.

In 1890, it was noted that the course had been completely turfed, a section of sand track along the beach side replaced after riders had complained of the heavy going and the sudden change in conditions underfoot.  It was suggested that new rooms were under construction for a telegraph station, the Press and jockeys.

At the time of the 1931 totalizator installations, Williamstown ranked as the third most important club behind the V.R.C and V.A.T.C., but ahead of Moonee Valley.

Racing continued at the track until the Second World War when it was taken over by the Army.

Various parts of the course were being restored in readiness for a resumption of racing in June,1947, but in January a fire (believed to have been caused by a workman's blowtorch)  broke out and so badly damaged the member's and public grandstands and an administration block that  the course was closed to racing, although was still used for training purposes.

The Williamstown Racing Club ran a few meetings at Flemington and Moonee Valley as it had done during the war years, but with the abolition in 1948 of proprietary racecourses, it amalgamated with the privately owned Victorian Trotting and Racing Association to become the Melbourne Racing Club, then running its meetings at Sandown on the site later redeveloped by the V.A.T.C. (with whom the M.R.C merged) as today's Sandown Park.

The Williamstown course was leased to the Commonwealth Government and became the site of hostels accommodating up to 11,000 displaced persons and refugees from Europe, mostly the Baltic states.



Williamstown Racecourse, date unknown.  From the aspect, the image was probably taken from over the Racecourse Station looking south-east with Port Phillip Bay in the background.

City of Williamstown City Engineer's Map, 1945

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/141076

Showing the racecourse and adjacent Racecourse Station just to the north; Miller's Road far left, Newport Railway yards and Williamstown Cemetery top right,Williamstown Rifle Rangle bottom right.