Trainer Ivor Anthony and stable lad Alfie Garrett with Brown Jack, after whom the pub in Woughton was namedThe local history group is hoping that developers will bring Wroughton's glorious racing past to life when they redevelop a local pub. SHIRLEY MATHIAS reports

THE tapes are up and they're off. Removers' vans will soon be rolling into Linden Homes Western's new housing development in Wroughton High Street.

And as the new owners move into four luxury apartments in a converted pub at the front of the site tales will be told of Wroughton's glorious days as a racing village and of the long-dead licensee who as a young jockey in the 1840s and 50s won the Grand National three times.

Tom Olliver achieved as much success as a trainer as he had in the saddle. And the reason why he became licensee of the old Cooper's Arms while running his stables next door is a mystery.

Olliver's leading owner was William Sheward Cartwright from Glamorgan in South Wales. Cartwright had a stud farm near Wroughton and named several of his horses after hamlets around Llandaff, where his family were Lords of the Manor.

They included Ely, whose name was given to the Cooper's Arms when it was rebuilt in 1914, and Fairwater, after which Olliver named his adjacent house and stables.

Ely was a bay foaled in 1861 by Kingston out of The Bloomer. Carrying Cartwright's colours of scarlet and black he won the Champagne Stakes, the triennial Produce Stakes and a sweepstake at the Newmarket Houghton meeting as a two-year-old

Two seasons later he was first past the tape in the Doncaster Stakes and seven other races and the following year he won eight times out of nine starts, including the Ascot Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup and the Brighton Cup. The prize money total must have been a source of great satisfaction for the trainer, who in his younger days had served a spell in a debtors' prison.

Olliver ran Fairwater stables and the next door pub until shortly before his death in the 1870s. He is buried in Wroughton churchyard.

Tom Leader, who had been manager of William Cartwright's Wroughton stud, took over the stables and continued the success story. Among the horses he trained for Cartwright was George Frederick, which in 1874 won the Derby with a jockey named Custance in the saddle. The victory had been predicted by Tom Olliver.

Wroughton History Group tells in one of its volumes how half the village turned up at Swindon Station to welcome the horse and a stable companion back home.

George Frederick, Tom Oliver and his friends were led by Wroughton Brass Band playing See the Conquering Hero Comes.

A jubilant Mr Cartwright presented the band with a pair of inscribed silver cymbals to mark the occasion.

And free meals and ale for all were on offer at the village pubs.

"The whole village must have been drunk," said Danny Hicks of the History Group. Within six years Cartwright was dead and in 1887 Tom Leader left for Newmarket where he took over a stable that he renamed Wroughton House.

He was followed by William Walters, who since 1880 had trained alongside him at Fairwater House.

Ely also gave his name to a pub at Hartford Bridge in Hampshire.

Villagers probably rejoiced when the Wroughton Ely was built to replace the run-down single storey thatched Cooper's Arms, which had clearly been less than sanitary.

In 1851 the publican who was then running it was ordered by public health inspectors to move two offensive privies to the top of its large garden, down wind of local residents. It was a sobering thought. Like many local ale houses the Cooper's brewed its own beer, and probably used water taken from a well.

More than ten years ago the Ely was converted to a steak house-style restaurant and taken over by a company that clearly had little regard for its illustrious connections with the turf. They renamed it The Wroughton.

Now Wroughton History Group is hoping Linden Homes will revive memories of the site's racing past.

"If the name Ely could be incorporated in some way it would maintain the historic association with the site," said secretary Isabel Habgood.

Famous racehorse gave name to pub

ELY, Fairwater and George Frederick were not the only horses that gave Wroughton a right to call itself a racing village.

Aubrey Hastings, who was based in The Pitchens, and Ivor Anthony, who took over from him after his death in 1930, trained Brown Jack, one of the most famous horses to race on the flat in Britain before the second world war.

Owned by Lady Zia Wernher, who was a great friend of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, he won the Queen Alexandra Stakes six years in succession.

He also won the Salisbury Cup, the Nottingham Handicap, the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup.

His name still graces a pub at the bottom of Prior's Hill.

Copies of Wroughton History Group's series of books about the village are available from Danny Hicks, 01793 812620.