Taunton Rugby Club, Priory Park, Taunton, Somerset.
LOCATED————————————About half a mile north west of Taunton town centre.
ORIGINAL SITE—————————–Farm grazing land the a sports ground.
DATE CONSTRUCTED——————–Mid 1940’s.
DATE VENUE OPENED——————-Developed as a rugby ground during 1945.
Meaning other sports may have taken place prior to the arrival of Greyhound Racing.
FIRST MEETING—————————-December 26th 1947.
Greyhound Racing only.
LICENSED OR INDEPENDENT———-Independent
All venues covered would have to be be licensed with the government, licensed suggested in this section would refere to tracks operating under NGRC Rules.
INSIDE OR OUTSIDE HARE TYPE——Not known.
Please note that the Electric Hare suggested is only a guidance and would have been in operation for a certain amount of time at this venue. Although it is not necessarily guaranteed that it was operational all the time, as other types of lure may have been used and updated as time progressed.
DISTANCES———————————–485 and 650 yards.
Please note that most racing venues distances had become varied throughout the years, the ones given above were at once point set and offers only a guidence to the track size.
Please note that alterations at most racing venues throughout its existence would see that the circumference of the track would vary, the one shown above offers only a guidance to the track size.
BIG RACE NAMES—————————None found.
STADIUM SHARED WITH——————Rugby union from 1945-2001.
LAST MEETING——————————-December 5th 1950 racing ceased due to promoter owing rent arrears.
Greyhound Racing only.
STADIUM CLOSURE DATE—————-2001
Meaning other sports may have taken place after Greyhound Racing had ceased.
BUILT ON SITE——————————–Housing on Priory Park Estate.
In some cases Buildings that were constructed over the venue after the stadium had been demolished may have been themselves demolished too, so the one described, is more likely to be the one which now presently covers the site.
EVIDENCE LEFT TODAY——————–Nothing known of.
FURTHER COMMENTS———————Some meetings were called off due to a flooded track.
The Somerset town of Taunton becomes another of the towns that would stage Greyhound Racing at two different venues. This section describes the first one, located half a mile north of Taunton town centre, on the south banks of the River Tone, at a sports ground known as Priory Park. It had been the home to the town’s rugby union club since September 1935, who incidentally had taken over the ground from the original Taunton Football Club who had folded earlier that year.
During the Second World War the ground became used only occasionally, mainly by the Forces, and due to the poor availability of building materials, lacked maintenance, with the pitch flooding regularly, due to its close proximity to the river. Although the present day rugby club was formed in 1946, the agreement with the council regarding the use of the ground, was that they had to carry the debt left behind by the earlier rugby club, which was still owed to the council due to the purchase of Priory Park.
In the summer of 1947, an approach was made by an independent greyhound racing company, to construct a greyhound track around the rugby pitch, but their offer was met with some disapproval. But after further negotiations the thought of extra income from greyhound racing, would contribute to pay off some of the rugby clubs debts. By December 1947 all facilities of the new track were in place, with the first meeting being advertised in the local press to be staged on Boxing Day. Between three and for thousand people turned out to witness an eight race evening meeting, with a dog called “Special” winning the first event.
Racing consisted of five greyhounds, who contested over distances of 485 and 650 yards, with the hounds chasing an inside McKee type hare system. Although earlier meetings had proved themselves a success, the flooding experienced by the rugby pitch also affected the greyhound track, with a number of meetings being lost during the winter months. More bad times lay around the corner, as extra taxation was being forced on the greyhound company after new betting laws had been introduced during the early months of 1948. The new taxation laws had witnessed a significant reduction in attendances at meetings, and within two years the rugby club began chasing money owed from rent arrears. With debts spiralling continuously, it was left to the courts to settle issues.
By December 1950 the Greyhound Company was ordered to be wound up, which in turn left Priory Park to stage its final meeting on the 5th of December 1950. Rugby Union continued to be played at Priory Park for the next fifty years or so, before eventually becoming the target for property developers. Demolition of Priory Park began in 2001, and soon the site was covered by a cluster of new houses known as, not surprisingly The Priory Park Estate. The rugby club moved on to a new purposely built venue on the outskirts of Taunton, close to the M5.
Greyhound racing did eventually return to Taunton during 1961, this time at the county cricket ground near the town centre, and became known as the Priory Stadium, but the new company had no links at all with greyhound track that once graced the old rugby ground.