SHANNON was a 50-1 outsider who, 150 years ago, won the Goodwood Cup in “a most sensational race” ahead of some “clinking good horses”. When she arrived home on the 8.30am train into Richmond, the Darlington & Stockton Times reported how she received a rapturous reception.

As we reported in Looking Back three weeks ago, the D&S Times of 1871 also said that Shannon was “trained by James Elliott at Sylvia House, Richmond”.

Where, we asked, was “Sylvia House”.

“My parents lived for more than 50 years in Hurgill Road, and as a teenager I would walk past Silvio House daily,” says Alison Porter in Darlington. “It is at the bottom of Hurgill Road, across from St Hilary’s Close.

“The house had stables with it before it modernised.

“My parents lived next to the stables of trainers Bill Watts and Walter Wharton, so would see strings of horses walk by or exercising in the field across from their home.”

Vince Dunne says: “I lived in Silvio House during the 1980s. It was built in the mid 18th Century as a racing stable and was named after a famous racehorse which won the Richmond Gold Cup in 1764.”

Silvio House in Hurgill Road was built by Silvios jockey, Charles Dawson, in the 1780s

Silvio House in Hurgill Road was built by Silvio's jockey, Charles Dawson, in the 1780s

Indeed, Silvio was the first local horse to win the Gold Cup, one of the biggest racing prizes in the country, and he did so having lost in the four previous years to Dainty Davy, the Duke of Cleveland’s all-conquering stallion.

This was the heyday of racing in Richmond, when the town had the most fashionable – and possibly the most drunken – race meeting in the country.

The first races had been held in the area in 1512, but by the mid 18th Century, Richmond realised how lucrative a meeting could be, with wealthy visitors staying for a week, gambling hugely by day and enjoying banquets, balls and theatre productions by night.

To attract the wealthiest horse owners, the town needed a big prize, and so the mayor, aldermen, MPs, landowners and publicans clubbed together to collect £70 to make a Gold Cup for the winner of the four-mile race which was the highlight of the meeting.

It was first run on September 10, 1759, with Dainty Davy the inaugural winner. His owner, William Fitzroy, the 3rd Duke of Cleveland, had few local connections, although the title later became associated with Raby Castle near Staindrop.

For the second running of the Gold Cup, Silvio stepped forward to challenge Dainty Davy. Silvio had been bred by John Hutton of Marske Hall, a few miles outside Richmond in a secluded fold of Swaledale. Hutton was one of Yorkshire’s leading racehorse breeders, having built his stables in 1741 – stables which, incidentally, have just been converted into ten staycation apartments which are as luxurious as they have been controversial with local people.

But in 1760, Silvio was beaten by Dainty Davy, as he was again in 1761, 1762 and 1763 – little wonder, as Dainty Davy was the greatest racehorse of the day, certainly in the north of England, where he won prize money of £2,920 (about half-a-million in today’s values). The people of Richmond honoured Dainty Davy by naming a pub after him in Rosemary Lane.

The 1802 Richmond Gold Cup which was auctioned in 2019 for £30,000. Silvio won the cup 40 years earlier

The 1802 Richmond Gold Cup which was auctioned in 2019 for £30,000. Silvio won the cup 40 years earlier

But by 1764, Davy was becoming a little doddery, and Silvio, ridden by Charles Dawson, flashed past him to win the Gold Cup and spark great local celebrations.

This was the last time that the Gold Cup was raced for at High Moor above the town, as for the 1765 meeting, the townspeople went to great expense to create a new racecourse, complete with historic grandstand, on the fringes of the town.

“Following Silvio’s final success, Dawson retired as a jockey, and worked as groom to Sir Lawrence Dundas, who had recently arrived on the Richmond and Aske scene,” says Richmond historian Jane Hatcher, to whom we are enormously indebted for this story. “After Sir Lawrence died in 1781, Dawson set himself up as a trainer, and built training stables at Silvio House, on Hurgill Road.

“Charles Dawson died in 1791, and the stables continued in use by other trainers for many years.”

And so 150 years ago, James Elliott was able to send out Shannon from Silvio House to win the Goodwood Cup, overcoming “clinking good” horses such as Mortemer, the Ascot Cup winner, and Favonius, the Derby winner. The race was so slow that Shannon’s success was regarded as a “fluke” and she seems not to have troubled the tape in further races.

By Shannon’s time, the heyday of Richmond’s Georgian racing era was fading. The Richmond Gold Cup was last contested in 1858, and by the 1890s, Silvio House – which had once stabled 40 racehorses and employed just as many stable lads – was in the hands of a cattle dealer.

Just as Silvio had the last laugh over Dainty Davy on the racecourse by emerging triumphant in their final meeting, so she has triumphed over the duke’s stallion in the battle of posterity: while Silvio’s name remains on the properties in Hurgill Road, there’s no sign of Davy’s, be he dainty or doddery, on the pub in Rosemary Lane – it is now occupied by Newtons solicitors.