Gosport - Gosport Park

Park Road : PO12 2HE Gosport - Gosport Park : Map credit National Library of Scotland Gosport - Gosport Park : Image credit Historic Gosport
Gosport Park was laid out in 1887 following the purchase of Ewer Common for £100 by the local council. The conditions of the sale required that the park would be ‘perfectly free for the use of the public for ever', but the local council had the power to close the ground for 14 days each year for events. The Park was laid out, at a cost of £3,000, with cricket pitches, a running track and a cinder cycle path around the cricket pitch. The cycle path was ‘egg shaped and about three laps to the mile'. The Park officially opened on June 17th 1891 but it was not fully completed, because of the urgent need of a cricket pitch. The cycle path was completed in 1893.

There were two prominent bicycle clubs in the town, Gosport Cycling Club, which was formed in 1887 and the Forton Star Cycle, formed in 1891 with William Voller as the club captain. Before the Gosport track opened, Gosport CC raced on the grass track at Lee on Solent.

The first bicycle race meeting at Gosport Park was the Forton Star CC's first annual cycle and athletic sports on September 9th 1893. There were 1 and 3 miles club handicap races, a 1 mile club veteran's handicap (over 40), a boy's ½ mile handicap and 2 and 3 miles open handicap races. The Gosport Volunteer Fire Brigade held some competitions at the event including a race where firemen started minus helmet, tunics, belts and boots and had to dress whilst running the race. Profits from the event went to the Victoria Fund*.

On September 22nd 1894 there was a 100 mile bicycle race on the track, between William Voller, captain of Forton Star CC and private FW Hankin. The wet and windy weather made the track heavy and kept the attendance down. The race was paced, each rider having their friends pacing on single bicycles. Voller won the race in 6hr 13min.

The Forton hosted the first championship race at Gosport on July 3rd 1895 with the five miles championship of Gosport and Alverstoke, Voller of the Forton won the race. Later in the year Forton held a 25 handicap miles race, which was won by Voller off scratch in 1hr 12min 38s.

By 1899, the Forton Star CC was defunct and track races were organised by the Gosport Cycling and Athletic Club. Gosport C&AC held an evening sports meeting on August 22nd 1900, where there were three bicycle races but the event was poorly supported and the entries few in number.

To celebrate King Edward VII's Coronation, a sports meeting was held on June 27th 1902 at the track, with three bicycle races. Clarence Kingsbury, the famous Portsmouth track rider won the 5 miles scratch race, Kingsbury went on to compete in the 1908 Olympic Games, winning two gold medals.

Track meetings continued at Gosport in the 1900's, and Kingsbury again won the 5 miles scratch race for the Gosport Cup (value 20 guineas) at the 1904 Gosport Athletic Club meeting on June 24th. Attendance at these meetings was high, with 6,000 spectators reported in 1908, the year that 6,000 Kingsbury repeated his win in the 5 miles scratch race.

At some time in the 1910's, the running track and cycle path were removed and by 1921, the Athletic News reported that an asphalt track had been laid.

The Gosport and District Friendly Societies held their sports at the track on July 30th 1921 with one and five miles bicycle races.

From the mid-1930's, there was a Southampton Centre Track Racing League series, which had meetings at Gosport, Pirelli Eastleigh, Portsmouth and Southampton. The following eight clubs participated; Bitteness RC, Eastleigh Town CC, Gosport CC, Pirelli General CC, Portsmouth North End CC, Southampton Wheelers and Woolston CC. Racing at the track league was popular with a variety of events, including a 20 miles madison.

Track racing at Gosport stopped during WWII but resumed with the Portsmouth and Gosport Track League meetings in the 1940's and 50's. The track league was very popular and active at this time. In the 1950's Gosport CC held an annual open track meet which featured their popular 100 laps madison race, which brought the meeting to a close. The 1955 NCU Racing Handbook lists Gosport track as asphalt, 462 yards around, 15¾ feet wide, banked to 1ft 9in with no charge for training.

There seems to have been little cycling activity at Gosport Park after the 1950's, track racing at Portsmouth Alexandra Park dominated the local scene with track league meetings held there.

Gosport Park still exists and the park has six rugby pitches, a bowling green, play area and outdoor basketball court.

* HMS Victoria collided with HMS Camperdown whilst on manoeuvres in the Mediterranean on June 22nd 1893, and the Victoria sank with all 358 crew members perishing. The Victoria Fund was set up to provide relief to the widows and children of the sailors who lost their lives on the ship and £60,000 was donated.

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Photos : Historic Gosport, Wiki Commons
Maps    : National Library of Scotland