Derby - Victoria Recreation Ground

Nottingham Road : DE21 6DA Derby - Victoria Recreation Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland
Sporting events started at the Victoria Recreation Ground around 1882. There were many professional running races organised with large fields and betting seemed to feature heavily. It is likely that bicycle races were held there from 1883 as the Sporting Life of October 5th 1883 reported on a match running race the previous Saturday and noted "The professional ‘quarter' and one mile bicycle races were postponed till next Saturday, in consequence of the heavy rain which fell all the day."

The exact location of the Victoria Recreation Ground is probably the ‘Athletic Ground' shown on the 1890's map, near the racecourse, on Nottingham Road,. The ground was described in 1887 as Edwards' Victoria Recreation Ground. As well as running races, the venue was used for football and pedestrianism. The attendance at events was usually in the low hundreds.

The first well documented bicycle races at the ground were the YMCA sports on August 15th 1885 at which the events included one and three miles bicycle races and a one mile tricycle handicap race. The YMCA event was held again the following year.

The Derby Cycling Club held a one mile handicap race for Derbyshire riders on June 23rd 1886. There were twenty entries and racing was keen, but the cinder track was described as ‘a rather rough one' and some spills took place. The Derby Cycling Club and the YMCA held a mid-week one mile tricycle handicap race on September 23rd 1886.

The ground came up for rent in 1887 and it was described as ‘near the racecourse'.

Derby Harriers held their championship race meeting on April 7th 1888 and included a one mile bicycle race. The Derby Cycling Club held their own meeting on September 22nd 1888 with races over 1 mile handicap (safeties barred), 1 mile safeties handicap and the 5 miles race for the Club Championship. Ben Hinchcliffe won the race in 15 min 40 sec, attendance at the event was low.

There was a professional race meeting at the Victoria Ground on May 17th 1890 which attracted a top class field including Robert Howell, the World cycling champion and Albert Robb of Birmingham. Robb won the one mile handicap race and Howell won the 5 miles open race from Robb. There was an extraordinary incident in the 5 miles race when a punter, who had backed Robb, rushed at Howell near the finish and attempted to grab him.

This was probably the last bicycle racing at the Victoria Recreation Ground.


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