Why is the fifteenth fence on the Grand National Course called ‘The Chair’?
Along with Becher’s Brook, Valentine’s Brook, The Canal Turn and, more recently, Foinavon, The Chair is one of the fences on the Grand National Course that has become famous in its own right. At 5’3” high and 9’ wide, including a 6’ wide ditch on the take-off side, The Chair is one of the tallest and broadest fences on the National Course but, unlike the other ‘named’ fences, is jumped only once. That said, by contrast to say, Becher’s Brook, the ground on the landing side of The Chair is 6” higher than that on the take-off side, so the fence presents a unique test for horse and rider.
Originally known as the Monument Jump, The Chair took its name, quite literally, from the chair that originally stood on a concrete plinth alongside the fence and, in the early days of the Grand National, housed the distance judge. The distance judge was a course official who assisted the racecourse judge by declaring any horse that had not passed him when the previous finisher crossed the winning line to have been beaten a ‘distance’ and therefore, officially, have failed to finish. The distance judge became a thing of the past in the mid-eighteenth century, but the original chair remained – at least, until 1994, when it was replaced, for safety reasons, by a plastic replica – and the fence known as ‘The Chair’ has become part of the heritage of the Grand National.