Derby - Arboretum
Rose Hill Street : DR23 8FR
Derby - Arboretum : Map credit National Library of Scotland The Arboretum open in 1840 on land donated by Joseph Strutt and is described as Britain's first public park. The Arboretum was well used for fetes, concerts and meetings, and was extended in 1847 when a further six acres of ground were purchased from a market garden and a new sports ground was added.

The first velocipede race at the Arboretum field was the Derby Gymnasium and Athletic Club first annual sports on September 25th 1869. There were two races over one and two miles, both attracted around ten riders. The Derbyshire Advertiser reported "Two miles velocipede race (open to Derbyshire only), size of wheels not to exceed 36 inches. The bicycle races were usually run on a course 312 yards around. Entrance to the Arboretum was free, but there was a charge to enter the enclosed recreation ground, one shilling for first class, sixpence for second.

Bicycle racing continued in 1870 with the Derby Athletic Club sports which were held on Whit Wednesday 1870 and included a one mile bicycle race. The Derby AC annual sports were the main meetings in the 1870s and the bicycle races created the most interest at the meetings.

The Arboretum became more popular and on 28th September 1878, John Keen (champion of the world), Samual Rawson (champion of the Midlands) and David Stanton competed in a five mile professional handicap race. The final was won by Keen, off scratch, and nearly half a mile in front of Rawson (350 yards) and Stanton (350 yards). The course was reported to be 312 yards around and press estimates of the crowd varied from 1,200 to 4,000.

Derby Bicycle Club was formed in 1877 as a club "strictly confined to gentlemen amateurs". Their racing uniform was white flannel breeches and a chocolate and light blue jersey. The club held a race meeting on October 26th 1878 with an open one mile race and club races over one and five miles, the latter for the club championship. Conditions were very wet and the ground was described as "a complete slough of despondency".

John Keen won again on August 15th 1878 at the Arboretum Great All-England three miles professional handicap in a top class field of riders including O Jameson, S Rawson, Lockely, Cann, Stanton and Higham. There was a large crowd of 3,000.

1879 was another busy year at the Arboretum, the Great Annual Bicycle Contest contest was held again, Derby BC held their annual sports in late August and there was a match race between S Rawson of Derby and E Shelton of Wolverhampton over ten miles (50 laps) for £50.

A new cinder bicycle racing track at Derby Racecourse open on July 17th 1880 and this reduced the racing activity at the Arboretum. Derby BC moved their meetings from the Aboretum to the new track in 1880.

Bicycle racing at the ground continued through the 1880s. The Arboretum Festival in 1882 included a one mile amateur handicap race and the large attendance of 3,000 was attributed to the presence of John Keen and the American J Pearce, who rode a three miles match race, Pearce receiving one and a half laps start. At the end of the meeting there was a balloon ascent by Mr Jackson, "the well known Derby aeronaut", who filled his balloon with gas and managed to float up to 1,200 feet and float for fifty minutes.

The two local athletic clubs Derby AC and Derby Harriers included several bicycle races in their athletics meetings in the 1880s and attendances of 2,000 we're not uncommon.

By the 1890s bicycle racing at the Arboretum had declined and the last bicycle racing at the ground was probably at the Midland Railway sports on August 11th 1894. By the turn of the century, cycle racing had moved to the more popular tracks such as the Baseball Ground and Ilkeston Recreation Ground.

The Arboretum was refurbished in the early 2000s with Lottery funding and is now listed Grade II* on Historic England Register of Parks.

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