Wigan - Mesnes Park

Mesnes Park Terrace : WN1 1TU
Mesnes Park was created in 1871 when Wigan Corporation bought 16 acres of land for a public park and a school. Next door to Mesnes Park was Bull Hey (WN1 1RU), the cricket pitch that was the home of Wigan Cricket Club. In press articles on bicycle races the track venues are sometimes reported as ‘Mesnes Park' and other times as ‘the cricket pitch', so both venues may have been used.

The first reported bicycle races in Wigan were at the Annual Wigan Athletic Festival on the cricket ground in 1881. The event was promoted by Wigan Cricket Club and was an annual event which started in 1876. The July 23rd 1881 event was held in the rain and it seemed that the previous five years events were also wet. A track of six laps to the mile was marked out and the bicycle races were; 2 miles handicap confined to members of bicycle clubs in the Wigan Union and 1 and 2 miles handicap races.

The website earlywiganrugby.co.uk describes a rugby fixture on the cricket pitch in 1881 when a bicycle race meet was combined with a rugby match. On October 1st a 'Grand Football Match' was arranged between Wigan and Aspull. By that time, Aspull had left behind their cricketing roots and were a well-established rugby club. The rugby match coincided with an annual bicycle race held at the cricket ground on Prescott Street, so a combined rugby match and bicycle races was seen as a novel way to raise money. The rugby match was 30 minutes each way and played in intervals between the bicycle races. The event became and annual festival.

The Wigan Observer of 26th July 1884 reported on the 9th Annual Festival which was watched by a crowd of 4,000 people. The following Monday, the festival continued with the 5 miles championship of Wigan Bicycle Club scratch race.

Wigan Grammar School held their sports at Mesnes in 1889 and included a one mile bicycle race. The Wigan Grand Gala was held on Whit Monday 1893 at Mesnes with one and two miles bicycle handicap race included.

The Friends of Wigan Infirmary Gala also seems to have been an annual event at Mesnes. The meeting on Whit Monday 1899 suffered from very wet conditions and the cyclists "had all their time taken up in trying to prevent their machine from skidding." The bicycle races were the usual one and two miles events.

Bicycle racing at Mesnes seems to have stopped after 1900, no doubt due to the opening of the concrete track at Springfield Park.


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