Did a stone wall used to be an obstacle in the Grand National?
Although still known, at the time, as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, the first ‘official’ running of the race that would become the Grand National is generally accepted to have taken place at Aintree Racecourse in Merseyside, North West England on February 26, 1839. In the earliest, pioneering days of the race, runners really did go ‘out into the country’, where they encountered an assortment of natural obstacles, including banks, ditches and watercourses. On their return to the ‘racecourse proper’, they did, indeed, face a 16′ wide stone wall, which is immortalised in a painting by contemporary British artist Charles Hunt.
The stone wall fell in, and out, of favour over the next few years before it was finally replaced, permanently, by the Water Jump – which remains the final fence on the first circuit and is jumped only once during the Grand National – in 1847. In 1840, Lottery, who had won the inaugural Grand National the previous year, took a terrible fall at the stone wall, bringing down the favourite, The Nun, and two other horses. The stone wall was replaced, temporarily, by an artificial brook, in 1841, but was reintroduced in 1843, at the behest of Irish participants. It was replaced by an artificial brush hurdle in 1844, before being reinstated in 1845 and being replaced, once again, by the same obstacle in 1846.