Phil Bull

Phil Bull was born at Hemsworth, South Yorkshire [9th April 1910], the son of Lizzie Jessop Watson (teacher) & William Osborne Bull (political activist in the Labour Party).

He became well-known as the founder of the Timeform organisation.

He was educated at Hemsworth Grammar School and Leeds University, where he graduated in mathematics.

He taught mathematics, but his main interest was horse-racing.

From 1938, his publishing company in London, Portway Press, produced the weekly Temple Racetime Analysis under the pen-name William K. Temple. This was followed – in 1942 – by The Mathematics of Betting and the first of his renowned long-standing annual series Best Horses of 19xx.

Bombed out of his London home, he returned to Yorkshire where he continued to publish under his own name.

In 1946, he bought The Hollins.

In 1948, he introduced the weekly Timeform Ratings based on race times recorded by staff with stop watches positioned by the winning post of every racecourse. They were hugely successful.

The business outgrew the house and moved into three addresses in Halifax.

In 1962, new office premises were built on a vacant site at Northgate, with a printing works in an existing building on Winding Road, previously occupied by Fawcett Greenwood & Company.

Timeform race cards were produced and sold by mail order and on race courses.

The business continued to prosper after his death [1989], providing an authoritative analysis of the performance and capabilities of all racehorses in Great Britain and many overseas. He campaigned for many of the reforms that transformed racing into the entertainment it is today, including starting stalls and cameras. His weighty submission to the Royal Commission on Gambling [1977] led to improvements that were introduced in 1986.

In 1999, the Racing Post named Phil Bull as one of the top 10 people whose contributions to British horse-racing have been most decisive since 1900.

At the height of his career as an owner and breeder of many winners he had as many as 50 horses at stud and in training.

His first racehorse Iceland was foaled in 1940.

He was popularly referred to as the King of the Turf and is remembered as a person with a great sense of fun.

In [Q2] 1935, he married (1) Doris Ashley in Islington.

Child: David William Bernard [b 1935]

He married (2) Eleanor Mary Oxley.


  1. Anne Marjorie [1942-1985]
  2. Raymond William Oxley [1945-2012] who was an airline pilot

In [Q4] 1949, he married (3) Wendy Carter in Halifax.

In [Q3] 1963, he married (4) Patricia Scott Finlay in Halifax.

He died 10th June 1989

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 12:33 / 3rd April 2024 / 4657

Page Ref: X589

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