A Historic Horse Race
First held in 1811, it all started as a 'point to point' on land where Blaydon Railway Station is now situated. The local Keelmen used to do their sword dance at local villages and the money raised was used for the race prizes. The Hoppings, a travelling village fun fair, visited Blaydon Haughs (The Spike) at the same time, so it was all quite a big social event. Sadly the building of the railway station brought these meetings to an end, the last being in 1835.
In 1859 plans to revive the Races at a new site came to fruition and after a successful trial period the first official meeting was held in 1861. It was now in the British Racing Calendar. The circular track, of about one mile circumference, was on Blaydon Island (also known as Dent's Meadow). This was a large island in the River Tyne, situated between Blaydon, on the south bank, and Newburn Haugh, on the north bank.
The 1861 meeting ended with an evening dance at the Mechanic's Hall in Blaydon. The great success of the event resulted in a repeat the following year, on 9th June 1862. Music Hall artist Geordie Ridley performed his new song, The Blaydon Races, at Blaydon Mechanic's Hall that same evening. The first performance had been at Balmbra's Music Hall in Newcastle just a few days earlier when it was used to exhort people to attend. The meetings then continued on annually until 1865 but by then Geordie Ridley had gone.
Blaydon Island, and several others in the vicinity, ceased to exist after dredging of the River Tyne.
Finally, the races were revived once more in 1887 and held on a track a little further west, on Stella Haughs. Initially they thrived but by the late 1890's they were in decline. Despite this, they continued up to 1916 when civil disorder, caused by a dubious race result, caused the authorities to close down the meeting. There were concerns about misbehaviour and security, it being war time. The song meanwhile had been fervently adopted as an anthem, sung by all at public gatherings and sporting events in the region. It was of such universal appeal that to this day it remains synonymous with Tyneside and the North East Region.
A big celebration of the races took place on the songs centenary, 9th June 1962, with a huge parade starting at Balmbra's and ending at Blaydon. It included decorated floats, vintage vehicles and a carnival.
The Legend Lives On - The Modern Road Race
Created in 1981 by Dr James Dewar of Blaydon Harrier and Athletics Club, The Blaydon Race is an athletics road race from Newcastle to Blaydon. Taking place annually on the 9th June, it follows the route, as best it can, of the horse racegoers took in the 1862 Geordie Ridley song.
The first race attracted 212 athletes, with its popularity growing year on year and it now sells out the 4900 available spots within record time each year!
After the death of Dr Dewar in 2004, Bob Houston took on the role of Race Organiser for a number of years, followed by longstanding Blaydon Harriers; Lynn Craig, Daniel Flint and Isaac Dunn – although it really is a team effort from all our fantastic volunteers at Blaydon Harrier and Athletics Club!
A celebration of the North East's running community, local culture and heritage, The Blaydon Race is presented to you by Blaydon Harrier and Athletics Club.
'The Blaydon Races - A Study From Life' by William Irving, 1903.
Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead
Blaydon Island depicted on a map, 1871.
Robinson Library, Newcastle University.
The Centenary parade passes along Scotswood Road, 1962.
A Balmbras float carrying the 'Can Can Girls', 1962.
The old 'Chain Bridge' opened in 1831, closed and replaced by Scotswood Bridge in 1967.
Dr. James Dewar of Blaydon Harrier and AC.