On 6th March 1867, local jockey John Page (1844-1917) won the Grand National for the first time, riding the Duke of Hamilton’s horse, Cortolvin. He won the race at Aintree by five lengths. Five years later, he won the Grand National again on Casse Tete and, until his retirement in 1880, was one of the foremost jockeys in England and France.
John Page was born on 24th March 1844 at Bannister’s Farm, Tanworth Lane, Shirley (later known as Mount Dairy Farm, Cheswick Green, pictured below) to parents Joseph (1817-1881) and Sarah (née Wheildon) (1817-1912) who had married in Sarah’s home parish of Tanworth-in-Arden on 20th April 1841. John Page was baptised at Tanworth on 20th April 1844.
When John was very young, his family moved to Birmingham, where his father took over the Grand Turk in Bell Street, which had livery stables from which hunters were let out.
Joseph Page subsequently took over the Bull’s Head Hotel, Hall Green, where he died, aged 63, in 1881. His wife died there in 1912, aged 94. Joseph and Sarah Page had instituted the Hall Green Steeplechase Meeting, known originally as the “Brummagem Derby,” which took place under the Galloway Rules on land opposite the Bull’s Head.
The course was subsequently laid on the Hall Green Estate and National Hunt Rules were adopted. After Joseph Page’s death, Sarah took over her late husband’s National Hunt Committee licence to run the Hall Green races, with the final race taking place in May 1911, some 50 years after the first.
Sarah Page also continued to run the Bull’s Head for many years before her death there in February 1912, just a few days before her 95th birthday. Her funeral took place at Tanworth-in-Arden, where she and her husband had previously taken over a large farm from the late Mr G. F. Muntz.
Their son, John (known as Johnny), attended Meriden Street Elementary School, Birmingham which was part of the King Edward VI foundation. Elementary education until the age of ten did not become compulsory until 1870 and it seems that Johnny left school before his tenth birthday, “making himself useful in his father’s yard,” according to an article in the Sporting Chronicle, 21st December 1907.
He told the newspaper that his father said to him: “Jack, if I were you, I should get on my old hunter and ride over to Inkford Brook, where they’re sure to get up a scurry after the steeplechases.” As a result, and riding at 4st, he rode a hunter named Pat Manley to victory in the Warwickshire Hunt Committee’s first steeplechase held at Inkford Brook on 1st April 1856. John Page would have been 12 years and one week old at the time.
He told the Sporting Chronicle:
A week after his first steeplechase win, Johnny was apprenticed to Joseph Dawson in East Illsley, Berkshire and began his career riding on the flat under Jockey Club rules. He had three horses to look after and he had to exercise them twice daily. After six months, he began to ride on the flat, steering his first winner, Madame Moet, to victory at Liverpool on 11th November 1858. His most notable win was the Northumberland Plate in 1860, which he won riding 5st 8lb on First Lord.
As a result of increasing weight, he gave up flat racing in 1862, intending to become a farmer. However, after a year he turned his attention to steeplechasing, riding his first National Hunt winner in Sutton Coldfield in February 1864 . He was most well known for riding for the stable of Mr “Teddy” Brayley in the 1860s/70s.
He also frequently rode in France, taking over the Chantilly stables of Harry Lamplugh after the latter’s fatal riding accident in 1868. John Page then divided his time between England and France – riding at home during the winter months and spending time in France in the summer. He was described as “one of the foremost jockeys, not only in England, but in France” (Birmingham Mail, 16th June 1917).
Grand National record
John Page rode 11 times in the Grand National, winning twice – in 1867 on Cortolvin, and in 1872 on Casse Tete – and being placed 2nd in 1866 and 3rd in his final race in 1875.
|1865||Joe Maley||Mr Thomas Hidson||Not placed. Fell.|
|1867||Cortolvin||Duke of Hamilton||1st|
|1868||Garus||Duke of Hamilton||Not placed.|
|1869||Fortunatus||Mr Edward Brayley||Not placed.|
|1870||Pearl Diver||Mr Edward Brayley||Not placed.|
|1871||Pearl Diver||Mr Edward Brayley||4th|
|1872||Casse Tete||Mr Edward Brayley||1st|
|1873||Casse Tete||Mr Edward Brayley||Not placed.|
|1874||Fantome||Duke of Hamilton||Not placed.|
|1875||La Veine||Baron Jules Finot||3rd|
According to John Page’s obituary in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 23rd June 1917, he was given £500 by the Duke of Hamilton for his win in 1867. The Duke had bought Cortolvin for £800 from Lord Poulett on John Page’s recommendation.
His second win was achieved five years later on Casse Tete, a mare bought by Mr Brayley on John Page’s advice, after he had ridden the horse to victory in a steeplechase at Croydon. Although she was quite a slow runner, John Page extolled the animal’s cleverness in jumping, and it was decided to enter her for the Grand National. With starting odds of 20/1, John Page and Casse Tete won the race with ease. The owner, Teddy Brayley, had reportedly told the jockey before the race that if the horse wasn’t placed, he would be ruined. In the event, the owner apparently received £100,000 in winnings.
The photo at the top of this article is of a painting held in John Page’s family, showing the jockey on Casse Tete. We’re very grateful to his great-great-great granddaughter for sending us the photo to add to this page.
The jockey was given £600 plus a scarf pin by Mr Brayley for his victory, plus another £100 by a punter who had backed the winner. He said in 1891 that it was the most money he had received for riding a horse.
Between 1839-2021, only 13 mares including Casse Tete have won the Grand National – most recently Nickel Coin in 1951.
It seems that John Page’s horse racing career ended soon after a near-fatal accident on Sunday 28th October 1877 whilst riding Leona at Auteuil, France. He was taken to the Wallace Hospital in Paris and for several days his life hung in the balance. Although he recovered, The Field of 10th November 1877 noted that “his career as a jockey is at an end and he will only be able to devote himself to training.” The horse he was riding, Leona, died several days later from the effects of her fall.
As a result of these accidents, the Auteuil committee decided to lower the height of the most dangerous jumps.
Following his retirement in 1880, John Page returned to England and took over Grove Farm, Hall Green before becoming a publican. He took over the licence of the Wylde Green Hotel, Sutton Coldfield in 1889 and gave it up in 1898.
On 25th January 1870, John Page married Miss Mary Ashman at the British Embassy in Paris. The bride was born in Paris on 2nd June 1844 and was the daughter of Joseph Ashman and his second wife, Sarah (née Mizen), who were originally from Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire but had married in Paris in May 1843. At the time of his daughter’s marriage in 1870, Joseph Ashman was described as a restaurant proprietor in Chantilly.
John and Mary Page went on to have four sons, who were all born in France:
- John (1873-1890) who was apprenticed as a stable-boy to trainer Matthew Dawson at Newmarket for a period of five years. However, he died on 5th September 1890, aged 17, after falling from a horse during morning exercise on Newmarket Heath.
The horse, Marchella, started running sideways and caught her legs on the side of the path causing the jockey to land violently on his head and suffer extensive concussion and fracturing to the base of his skull. His father and stepmother arrived at the hospital on the evening of the accident but John died the following morning without having regained consciousness.
- Thomas (1875-1956), a dairy farmer who was apparently given one of his father’s farms – Bushwood Common, Lapworth Street, Henley-in-Arden – on his wedding day in 1904. He lived there with his wife, Eleanor (née Osborne) until at least 3rd January 1956, when Eleanor died. Thomas died at Breton Lodge Nursing Home, Leamington Spa, on 7th March 1956, just two months after the death of his wife.
- Edward (1877-1964), who became a solicitor’s clerk in Erdington and married Lizzie Haynes in 1899, with whom he went on to have four children.
- Richard (born 1878-1961), a clerk who served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment during the First World War. He married Dorothea Nora Badland in Sutton Coldfield in 1900 and they had a son and a daughter.
John Page remarried c.1881, presumably after Mary’s death, marrying his second wife, Sarah, who was from Dudley. By December 1907, John and Sarah Page were living at the Red House, Henley-in-Arden.
By the time of the 1911 census, they had moved to Carlton Cottage, Blackford Lane, Shirley, which was the address given by his son Richard, when he enlisted in the Army in 1915.
John Page died at Carlton Cottage on 7th June 1917, three years after the death there of his wife, Sarah, aged 70. John Page was buried with his wife and eldest son at Boldmere, Sutton Coldfield.
The Kenilworth Advertiser of 22nd September 1917, in a probate announcement of his £3,483 estate, described him as “John Page of Shirley, yeoman, an old steeplechaser.“
If you have any further information about John Page and his local connections to Shirley, please let us know.
Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies
© Solihull Council, 2022.
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