The beer race is a popular spectator sport in Wanborough, where locals gather at each of the village pubs to cheer on the racers as they quaff half a pint of beer and run on.
The race started in 1955 when one evening 8 friends; Gerald Saddler, Lacey Saddler, Mike Jenner, Bob Wallace, Davey Caswell, Roland Kent, Alan Weller and one other had an argument. No one now recalls what the argument was about however, the group of friends resolved it with a race around the village that night. The winner of that original race was Mike Jenner but no beer was drunk as the pubs were all closed. The following year the friends raced again, when the pubs were open, and Mike won again.
The race took them around all the village pubs, 6 at the time. They started in the High Street and ran past the Brewers Arms to the Horpit Crossroads. Turning left along Burycroft, they ran past The Cross Keys to Green Lane. They then ran along Green Lane, which was an overgrown track at the time, and up Kite Hill. Taking a left turn at the top they ran past The New Calley Arms and on as far as The Black Horse. Turning left down Callas Hill they ran past The Plough to finish at The Harrow.
The friendly rivalry became a village event in 1957 thanks to the landlord of The Harrow, Charlie Sutcliffe. For the following 20 years the race was held on the Monday after Whitsun, the start and finish of race was hosted by the Harrow. In 1977 the practice of lining up the half pints on a table outside each pub commenced and it was agreed to move the start on one pub each year. In the 1980s ladies were allowed to join in but there were no concessions, they have to drink a half pint at each pub too.
The Beer Race Today
Today the race takes place on the Sunday of the second Spring bank holiday weekend each year. The aim, to be the first person to complete the circuit of the village pubs having drunk ½ a pint of beer at each one. There are currently 5 public houses on the circuit, they are;
The Brewers Arms
The Cross Keys
The New Calley Arms
Anyone over 18 can apply to run as a representative of one of the pubs, however the number of entries per pub is now restricted. The circuit, which is approximately 2 miles long, is the same as the original route. The start point moves each year in an anticlockwise direction around the course. This means that each publican gets to host the race start and post-race celebrations over 5 years.
Prizes are given for;
- The fastest male
- The fastest female
- The fastest veteran
- The best fancy dress
Historical information about the beer race has been provided by Brian Clarke and Barbara Parnell of the Liddington and Wanborough local history group.