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Old 6th May 2019, 17.00:19   #624-0 (permalink)
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Default Re: The sad case of a founding members and player of Wrexham Football Club (Massive history thread!)

Originally Posted by eastsussexred View Post
Having re-evaluated old maps of the area, I am now finally beginning to home in on the complete history of The Turf Hotel.

We know from a map that the older Turf Tavern section of the premises was already in existence in 1819, and a newspaper article from the same year stated that Joseph and Margaret Foulkes were the landlords, but another map from 1793-95 (previously attached) also shows either a building or a very small plot of land, in the tavern’s location, which was separated from the large field behind it (the course) by a boundary line or hedge.
As the Williams-Wynne Estate owned all of the land mentioned, it would therefore seem logical to presume that either the tavern was already in existence in 1793-95 or a plot of land had been sectioned off from The Racecourse, specifically for the construction of The Turf Tavern, when the area was surveyed, prior to the compilation of the 1793-95 map.

We also now know that the taller section of the premises, where the bar is today, was originally known as The Grandstand, and from other newspaper articles we know that meals were being served in this section, by the landlord and lady of The Turf Tavern, during sports events from at least 1841 to at least 1858.
I had originally thought that this taller section, called The Grandstand, was built as an extension directly onto the town end of the lower Turf Tavern, but I now think that is not quite true. The section called The Grandstand was separated from the tavern by a courtyard around 3mtrs wide, although it was in-effect, a part of the same establishment, owned by the Williams-Wynn Estate.
The Turf Tavern shown on the 1819 map is indicated by a dot, with the words ‘Turf Tavern’ written next to it, but the map gives no indication as to the size or shape of the premises, whereas maps from 1872, 1874, 1898, 1909, 1912 and 1938 all show the size and footprint of the two buildings, conjoined, pretty much as they are today as The Turf Hotel. However, there is another map, dating from 1833 (attached) which shows The Grandstand as an independent building, separated from the tavern, and which I had originally thought as being a stable-block, belonging to the tavern. But having recently found out that the taller section was called The Grandstand, I now believe that the separate block on the map is in fact The Grandstand. Later photographs and newspaper articles would provide an indication as to why The Grandstand was built, and when the two buildings were physically linked together.

Letters to The Wrexham Advertiser tell us that in the earlier days of racing, the course was frequented by the gentry of the land, but as the population of the town grew during the industrial revolution, the so-called working classes moved in and the meetings began to suffer from rowdiness, violence, theft and drink related issues.
The Grandstand would therefore appear to have been built as a kind of, what we might refer to today, as function rooms or corporate rooms, with direct views out to the finish post, where the more well-healed clientele could dine and drink in style, while watching the races, without the need to mingle with the chavs in the tavern or in the numerous food and beer tents on the course. They could also watch the races from the balcony, which incidently, may have originally been installed around the entire building (not just the racecourse side) as can be seen from the string course, at the same height of the base of the rear balcony, on both the Mold Road and kop gates elevations (attached).
The Grandstand was not just operational during race meetings though, as we know that it also served as the posh section of the tavern for events and meetings, as well as a restaurant that was used by The Wrexham Cricket Club and their visiting opponents after cricket matches: but it was the events associated with the Wrexham Races that would ultimately decide this buildings future. In 1854, the older Turf Tavern section of the building was renovated internally, to provide offices and a weighing room for race-officials, while a new permanent stone built grandstand was also built for the masses, at the opposite end of the tavern. Unfortunately, within four years, the races had been stopped, although pony racing would be gradually re-introduced, a few years later, but the gentry of the land ceased to attend theses meetings, and so the roof of the tavern was extended to join the two buildings together, with a covered alleyway (as can be seen in the photo from 1906 attached). At the same time, a growing rail network, and the taverns close proximity to Wrexham General Station, is likely to have provided an opportunity for the tavern to provide additional accommodation for travellers, and so The Grandstand was converted accordingly and renamed ‘The Turf Hotel’ sometime after 1858.
The name ‘Grandstand’ was eventually forgotten.

Since the end of 19th Century, The Racecourse had been competing against other grounds in Wales, to host Welsh football international matches, and in December of 1912 Wrexham FC officials made a pledge to The Football Association of Wales that the club would upgrade the pitch and facilities, in order to host the international match against Scotland on 3rd March 1913. Improvements were made to the existing stands on the course and new terraced banks were constructed behind the goals, while renovation of The Turf Hotel was also started as part of the improvements at this time. New windows and doors were installed and the false-half- timber- panels at the rear of the property were ripped out and replaced with the rendered panels that can still be seen today. The original door to the balcony was blocked off with rendered panels and the covered alley between the two buildings was finally bricked up, forming the lounge that connected The Grandstand and the tavern sections, as it is today.
The extent of building works during this period also forced the guarantors of The Wrexham Races to announce that they would no longer fund the October race meetings, and so the races were abandoned; though, the building works were most likely just the final nail in the coffin for race meetings on the course as the number of guarantors had dwindled from 24 in 1890, to just 6 in 1912, and public interest in the races had all but dried up.

The Turf Hotel has been renovated many times over the years, but there are still plenty of internal and external features, which provide a great deal of indication about its past. By combining this information with historic newspaper reports and the details recorded on old maps, it is has been possible compile the following Chronology.

The first building on this land appears to have been The Turf Tavern, which was either, already in existence in 1793-95, or had been allocated a plot of land, ready for its construction, around this time.
The Grandstand was added later, sometime prior to 1833.
The tavern section was renovated to include office space for race officials in 1854 and the two sections of the property were brought together and renamed The Turf Hotel at the end of the 1850’s. Initially, the two sections were linked only on the first floor, with an alley dividing the properties at ground level, but both ends of the alley were bricked off to form a lounge area, sometime after 1906, and most likely during the 1913/14 renovations.
The hotel has since been renovated periodically, including the 1990’s, when the original cast iron columns that held up the balcony were removed and a new wall was added at the back of the hotel in order to extend the bar area. At the same time, much of the dividing wall between the original two sections of the property was removed at ground floor level, to give the open plan floor space of the lounge area that can be seen today.

Turf Hotel- date of construction- circa 1793.

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