Basingstoke - May's Bounty

Bounty Road : RG21 3DH Basingstoke - May
The sports ground known as The Folly was purchased by John May, a local brewer and the Mayor of Basingstoke, in 1880, to save it from building development and keep it for sports use. The ground then became known as May's Bounty. The ground was donated to Basingstoke Cricket Club as a gift or ‘bounty'. A pavilion with a thatched roof was constructed in 1877.

Basingstoke Cycling Club was formed in 1883. The Hampshire Chronicle of April 12th 1884 reported "The Mayor Capt May, is making at his own expense, upon the Folly, now known as May's Bounty, a splendid cinder path bicycle and tricycle track, five laps to the mile, for use of the Basingstoke Cycling Club." The cinder track at May's Bounty was laid in 1885 and the first meeting on the track was held by the United Football, Cricket and Cycling Club of Basingstoke on Whit Monday 25th May 1885. The event drew a crowd of over a thousand and the ground was in "capital order, the track was well roped off, and stands were conveniently arranged for the spectators." The cycling events were: 1 mile open, 1 and 5 miles handicap and 3 miles safety bicycle handicap.

The United Football, Cricket and Cycling Club changed its name to Basingstoke Athletic Club and they held a further open meeting on September 12th 1885.

The Athletic Club Sports on Whit Monday became an annual meeting but suffered with bad weather over the years. In 1892, they had the best weather for years and this was rewarded with 2,000 spectators attending and the £70 gate money produced a useful profit for the club.

In 1892, the Basingstoke annual flower show at May's Bounty included bicycle races. This seemed to be the only time that there was bicycle racing at the flower show.

John May, held a garden party at his beautiful house Hawkfield on August 26th 1897, followed by an athletics meeting on May's Bounty and entertainment for some 2,000 members of the public.

The track at May's Bounty was in need of repair and the corner at the bottom of the slope had become dangerous in the late 1890's. The Hants and Berks Gazette of May 25th 1901 reported that John May had replaced the cinder track with a 440 yards grass track. The first event on the new track was the Whit Monday 1901 meeting with 1, 2 and 3 miles bicycle handicap races, a bicycle team race, a motor race and a 1 mile military bicycle obstacle race. Admission cost 6d.

This was also the last time that bicycle racing took place on May's Bounty. Some time around 1905, John May had a dispute with Basingstoke about building and he moved from his house Hawkfield, and went to live at the Beech Hotel, in Southsea, where he died in 1920.

John May handed over May's Bounty in trust to Basingstoke and North Hants Cricket Club, in 1905. The club went on to buy the ground for £450 in 1950.

May's Bounty is still used as a cricket pitch. The ground is owned by the Basingstoke Sports and Social Club and is used in club cricket by Basingstoke and North Hants Cricket Club. First class cricket has been played intermittently at May's Bounty, Hampshire last playing there in 2009.


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