By Cathy Jones
Further information: State Library of NSW holds illustrations and rare racing guide from Homebush Racecourse.
The first Sydney Racecourse was located at Homebush. Homebush Racecourse operated from 1841 to 1859, when it then moved to Randwick.
The Homebush Racecourse was located on part of William Wentworth’s estate, which he inherited from his father, the original grantee D’Arcy Wentworth. D’Arcy Wentworth [1762? – 1827] arrived with the Second Fleet in 1790 as ship’s surgeon on the Neptune. After Macquarie became governor, Wentworth was made principal surgeon and chief magistrate in the colony. He also received a grant of 920 acres at the head of the present Homebush Bay, located between Powell’s and Haslam’s Creek.
Wentworth called his grant ‘Home Bush’, his home in the bush. This name was later adopted in the 1878 subdivision of the Underwood Estate called the ‘Village of Homebush’, which is actually located south of the railway line and was not part of the original Wentworth grant. Wentworth developed an interest in horsebreeding, importing horses from India and South Africa. Wentworth’s son, William Charles Wentworth [of one of the three Blue Mountains explorers] shared his father’s interest in turf racing that continued after D’Arcy Wentworth’s death in 1827. Therefore, in 1841 William Wentworth agreed to lay down a course, fence enclosures and build a stand for a new racecourse on the cleared land of the Homebush Estate.
The establishment of the Homebush railway station in 1855 provided access to the racecourse. A special ferry was established for racedays along the Sydney to Parramatta route. The services were advertised as: ‘THE STEAM PACK RAPID….will start from the Commercial Wharf at Ten O’Clock precisely on each day of the Races – land Passengers at the Course and return with them to Sydney each night. FARES – four shillings each.’ The river transport depended on the tides for Homebush Bay, which were fringed with mangroves along the shore and mud flats around the Powell Creek entrance prevented a wharf or jetty being built. At low tide ferry boats had to stop at a distance from the shore and racegoers had to wade through a stretch of mud to get to the racecourse. The racecourse operated until 1859 and in 1860 moved to Randwick. The old course continued as a training ground and later became a market garden. Some old maps of Homebush include reference to the Chinese Market Gardens at this site.
Written by Cathy Jones 2005