Dover - Crabble Athletics Ground

Crabble Road : CT17 0QJ Dover - Crabble Athletics Ground : Image credit Wiki Commons Dover - Crabble Athletics Ground : Image credit Wiki Commons
Crabble Athletic Ground was constructed by the Dover Athletic Ground Company on a 12 acre site that they purchased for £10,000. Eight acres of the site was levelled and the anticipated cost was £10,000, including £5,500 for levelling, £1,000 for a pavilion, £1,000 for turf and £600 for the cycle track. A banked asphalt cycle track was built around the cricket pitch and was 640 yards around and 60 feet wide.

The new ground opened in June 22nd 1897 with a fete and sports meeting at which bicycle races were advertised. There is some doubt that bicycle races were held, as the Dover Cycling Club had a dispute with the Athletic ground, presumably about the cost of using the track.

Following this dispute, a new club, the Dover and District Cycling Club was set up specifically to race at the ground and they held their first annual sports on Whit Monday 1898. The meeting had three running and five bicycle races, the main event being the 5 miles scratch race for the Dover Athletic Ground Challenge Cup (value £10) which was won by EP George of London.

A further race meeting was held on September 14th 1898 with a full card of five bicycle races, each with several heats. R Chaput, a French rider, who went on to compete in the 1900 Olympics, won both the 1 and 2 miles events.

The Whit Monday and August Bank Holiday meetings turned into annual events, organised by the Dover and District CC and the Dover CC respectively.

In 1898, Robert Bennett, who rode for the Dunlop Tyre Company, hit a small dog whilst training on the track at Crabble and he crashed. Bennett sued the track owners and lost, but the Dover Athletic Ground Company had to pay their own costs. In an attempt to make money, the company tried to attract first class cricket to the round.

By 1902, the Dover Athletic Ground Company was in financial difficulties, so they sold the ground to Dover Corporation for £5,500. The Dover Cycling Club complained that the Corporation charged £7 7s for them to run a race meeting, plus 10% of the gate money, whilst a football team were only charged thirty shillings.

The Dover Cycling Club continued to hold Whit Monday events. The 1911 meeting was packed full of cycling events, but attracted a crowd of less than 2,000 spectators.

The Dover police took over the August Bank Holiday sports from around 1903 and included four bicycle races. The police sports continued to be run at Crabble until 1923. There were a few smaller events at Crabble in the 1920's and by 1930, bicycle racing there had stopped.

Football was played on the cricket pitch, so it deteriorated until a new football pitch was built next to the cricket pitch. Dover FC took over the football ground in 1931. The cricket pitch gradually deteriorated because of lack of maintenance. The last first class cricket played at Crabble was in 1976. Dover Cricket Club folded in the 1990s and Dover RFC play rugby on the former cricket ground.

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