Channel Islands - Guernsey Elizabeth College

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The Guernsey Bicycle and Tricycle Club* raced on the track at Castle Emplacement until 1887, when that track was no longer available and the club looked for a new home. Elizabeth College was a school which was established in 1563 to provide secondary education and in 1888, the school purchased land for a cricket field. In February 1888, the Elizabeth College Cricket Club granted permission for the Guernsey BTC ‘to lay down a racing track in their field at the back of King's Road.' The land was rented from the College by the Guernsey BTC for 10 years at £25/year.

Tenders for a cinder track were invited and the work was completed by May 1888. The new track was the same dimensions as Castle Emplacement, 360 yards in circumference and 18 feet wide. The first event at the new track was held on Whit Monday 21st May 1888. The club president, Mr de Havilland declared the track open and there were five bicycle and two tricycle events, with open and club races.

There were two thousand paying spectators at the Channel Islands Championship race meeting on July 23rd 1888 organised by the Guernsey BTC. The top event was the Championship 10 miles race for members of Guernsey BTC and Jersey CC, and the race was won by local fast man John Le Tocq. The twenty guinea cup was to be held by the winner's club and Le Tocq won a gold medal. There was a smoking concert in the evening at the Masonic Temple.

The club held a series of evening club handicap races in 1888 and their club championship meeting was on September 13th to decide the 5 miles Guernsey Bicycle Championship. John Le Tocq was again victorious and set up new Channel Island records at 3 and 5 miles. The Guernsey BTC went on to hold regular annual race meetings on Whit Monday and late July. The attendance at their events increased, in 1889 there were over 5,000 spectators at the Whit Monday meeting. The club made healthy profits on their events, the two 1890 meetings raised a total of £132.

It was reported in the Guernsey Star on August 29th 1889 that Guernsey BTC was not affiliated to the National Cyclists Union, which meant that English cyclists would be banned if they rode at the Guernsey BTC sports. This came to light in 1889 when a North Road Club member entered a Guernsey event and was withdrawn by his own club to avoid suspension. The Guernsey BTC affiliated to the NCU in 1890.

At a mid-week meeting in June 1890, the club's top rider John Le Tocq met with an accident on the track and injured his knee, afterwards he seemed to rally, but he contracted tetanus and died a few days later. John 'Jack' Le Tocq won every Channel Island cycling trophy between 1885 and 1890, he died aged 29, and was buried at St Matthew's Church, Cobo.

In 1891 the club changed its name to the Guernsey Cycling Club. The club sports were advertised as ‘under NCU rules.' HH Griffin started to organise a cyclists trip to Guernsey and gradually competitors from England started to compete at the Guernsey sports.

For the June 24th 1892 meeting, the type of tyres for competitors was reported, in the one mile handicap race with 16 entries, pneumatic safeties dominated but there were 3 solid tyre ordinaries and one cushion tyre safety. In the roadsters race, just over half the field had cushion tyres. The Guernsey CC held a meeting on September 15th 1892 and 70 people took the excursion from Jersey for the meeting. The events were ¼ and 1 mile handicap races and the 5 miles Guernsey Cup race, which was won by Mr Good from Alfred Duquemin with Stephen Duquemin third. The event raised £230, but the 5 miles race winner unfortunately lost his winners gold medal overboard on the steamer going home.

At the June 26th 1893 sports, Jersey CC members went over for the racing, but the main event, the five miles Guernsey Grand Challenge Race was won locally by Alfred Duquemin from T Pike who took the lap prize. The annual banquet, at the Masonic Temple, was held in the evening. The Guernsey Sports on June 25th 1894 was a well attended meeting with eight bicycle races and the highlight of the day was a five miles scratch race for the Guernsey Challenge Cup, won by local man T Pike of Guernsey CC.

At the September 16th 1895 meeting, a new cup, the Island of Guernsey People's Challenge Cup (value £50), was competed for with a 5 miles scratch race, which was won by Portsmouth RC rider G Froome. There was a twelve hour race on October 2nd, but it was a financial failure, resulting in a loss to the club of over £16.

The late summer sports were held on 17th September 1896. The People's Challenge Cup was won by the Polytechnic CC crack WH Bardsley, who had won the NCU 50 miles championship that year. At the presentation, Bardsley stepped forward and the band struck up ‘See the conquering hero comes' and the fastest rider ever seen in Guernsey received a great ovation. This was to be the last bicycle racing at the Elizabeth College track.

In early 1896, the club discussed building a new track because their existing track did not meet NCU rules as it was not banked and racing would not be allowed there after summer 1896. The estimated cost of banking the Elizabeth College track would have been £500. In addition, the rent for the track was due to increase to £50 when the lease expired in 1898 and they would then be subject to one year's notice to quit. Guernsey Cycling Club decided to build their own new track at Ivy Castle and when it was completed in 1897, they moved there.

Elizabeth College is still in use as a secondary school, with around 500 pupils.

* Guernsey Bicycle and Tricycle Club (Guernsey BTC) was sometimes referred to in the press as Guernsey Bicycle Club. In October 1891 to the club changed their name to the Guernsey Cycling Club (GCC).


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