Exeter - County Ground

Church Street : EX2 9AU Exeter - County Ground : Map credit Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps
Bicycle racing was held on the County Ground from 1892 on a grass track of 5 laps to the mile. The bicycle races usually included a 1 mile novice handicap race, ¼ mile scratch, 1 and 2 miles open handicap and the 5 miles Challenge Race.

A new cinder track, 4 laps to the mile, was opened on Whit Monday May 14th 1894 with an athletics meeting in front of a crowd of 7,000 people. The first prize for the 5 mile Challenge Race was a clock valued 10 guineas, second prize a pair of bronzes valued 3 guineas and third, a Gladstone bag. After the opening of the new track, the Exeter Cycling Club held an annual athletics meeting at the County Ground. Also in 1894 there was a 100 mile open race "under NCU rules with Herne Hill pacing*." The competitors included Tommy Linton and many other crack riders.

At the 14th September 1895 meet there was a large attendance and a special attraction was the ascent of a balloon to 2,000 feet and the descent, by parachute, of "Professor Baldwin". The bicycle racing "was of the highest order". The main events were the Exeter CC Challenge Shield for the 1 mile scratch and the Chamber of Commerce Challenge Plate for the 5 miles scratch race. In 1898, at the Whit Monday meet "the gate being estimated at 7,000 or 8,000".

The Exeter Police held their sports on the ground from 1904 and the events included bicycle racing. In 1920, bicycle races were still held at the ground at the Exeter Harriers meeting.

In 1929 the asphalt track was removed and a cinder track for speedway racing was constructed and speedway racing commenced, but speedway seemed to create a nuisance in the area.

The Devon and Exeter Gazette of June 5th 1936 reported that the asphalt cycle track had recently been restored. "The track, which is 440 yards in circumference, with banking at the corners, is claimed to be the only cycle track of its kind in the South-West." The Exeter Wheelers organised the opening meeting on the restored track on Whit Monday. There were seven cycling events including the NCU (Devon and Cornwall) championship and the blue ribband 5 mile scratch race. Interestingly, the film "Six-Day Bike Rider" had been shown at the Plaza Exeter the year before. There seem to be no reference to any further racing on the restored track after the late 1930s.

The County Ground has been the home of Exeter Rugby Club since 1905. Speedway was held on the County Ground from 1947 until 2005. In 2006 the County Ground was developed by Bellway Homes who built 150 houses on which is now Church Road and Old Vicarage Road.

*This possibly refers to the Dunlop pacing team that was based at Herne Hill.


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