The Horse’s Mouth


Oz Sports History



The so-called "Fitzroy" course was actually in Northcote and over a kilometre from the border with North Fitzroy.
In 1891, Messrs Byrne and Callahan, two private investors purchased 30 acres of land on the west side of St. Georges Road in Northcote (between today's Gadd and Wootton Streets) to establish a pony racing track five furlongs in circumference (later extended) and including a grandstand capable of seating 500 people.
The original name was the Croxton Racecourse (appropriate, as it was close to the Croxton Park Hotel where racing had been second only to Flemington some twenty years earlier). The initial venture floundered in the depression years of the early 1890s and the course closed in October of the same year.
It re-opened in February of 1892 under the control of the Fitzroy Pony, Galloway and Trotting Club and became known as the Fitzroy Racecourse, even although it was some distance from that suburb. At the time St. Georges Road was considered very much the back-blocks of Northcote and many patrons had a considerable walk from the North Fitzroy tram terminus at the Merri Creek.
("Galloway" is a term mainly use for a breed of cattle, but also refers to small, strong horses bred in Scotland - perhaps akin to what we today call a Shetland pony).
The racecourse was initially very successful and drew in crowds from near and far, but by the turn of the century, local residents of the rapidly filling area were raising objections that it was drawing in the lower elements of society and that dust raised from the sand and cinder track was proving a nuisance (especially as the club raced on Mondays, typically the housewife's washing day).
In 1919 the Victorian Trotting and Racing Association under the auspices of Ben Nathan and John Wren purchased the racecourse as its critics continued to plot its demise.
The course is known to have closed down the first half of 1925 when the track was re-cindered and re-graded at a cost of around £1000 with a sewerage system at £700 also in the make-over,  Fitzroy re-opened on Monday, 22 June of that year, The Sporting Globe in its next edition bemoaning the fact that only four favourites had been successful - from some 14 races!
In 1929, the Victorian Government introduced legislation to close the racecourse on the grounds that it was too small.
There was a lifeline available - the Act provided for Fitzroy, like Richmond, to continue for another year if works at Ascot were not complete, but after a dramatic reduction in the number of pony and trotting meetings was introduced, the Government decided Fitzroy was not required.
The grounds were closed to racing from 31 July, 1931, and although occasionally used for charity carnivals, athletics and junior football matches, the land remained largely vacant until 1941 when an investor outlaid around £30,000 and subdivided the area into around 178 housing lots with Bradley and Bird Streets added.  
The first section of 45 lots was released for sale at auction in February, 1942.

Courses For Horses - Fitzroy
Above : A contemporary map showing Northcote land marks.
Below The course location as shown in a 1920 street directory
Updated 13 July, 2013