Harrogate - Cricket ground

St Georges Road : HG2 9BP Harrogate - Cricket ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland Harrogate - Cricket ground : Image credit Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
The Harrogate Bicycle Meet started on August Bank Holiday 1877 when 142 riders from 24 clubs met up for a weekend of activities. For the first year, cyclists found accommodation in Harrogate, but as the Meet got larger and the participants got rowdier, it was decided to form a camp just outside the town and the North of England Cyclists' Meet and Camp was formed. The Harrogate Cricket Club were involved with the event, their ground was used for the bicycle races and the camp site was on an adjacent field.

Accommodation for the meet on August 1st 1881 was provided in bell tents on Harrogate Cricket Club's field. The forty tent and two large marquees had been erected by an army contractor from Leeds and 100 bicyclists were housed in them. There was a total of 576 riders at that years meet, who rode in procession through Harrogate to the cricket field where the racing took place. The racing events were: a 1 mile open handicap, 2 miles local handicap, 2 miles ‘Yorkshire Championship' race and a 5 miles open handicap race which was won by Charles Crute, the first Captain of the Sutton Bicycle Club. There were 2,000 spectators. Interestingly, the handicapper for the races was HL Cortis, the first man to ride 20 miles in one hour in 1882 at Crystal Palace.

By 1885, the Meet was run from Friday July 31st to the following Wednesday. The extensive racing program was spread over two days, Saturday and Monday. The racing was somewhat marred, as Sanders Sellers, the 1 mile champion, who had travelled to the meeting specifically to race Percy Furnival* in the mile scratch race, was so disgusted by his treatment by the organisers that he refused to race. The races were: 1 mile tricycle scratch, 1 and 2 miles scratch for safeties and a three miles handicap race, won by local champion JW Slee.

The Harrogate Meet was moved to Scarborough in 1895 and, in an attempt to maintain the August Bank Holiday sports, the Cricket Club changed its name to the Harrogate Cricket and Athletic Club. The first Athletics Carnival organised by the club was held on August 3rd 1895 and the program included bicycle and running races. The bicycle events were reduced to a half mile and one mile open handicap races and a one mile novices race.

In 1898, the North of England Cyclist Meet went back to Harrogate as the move to Scarborough and Bridlington proved unpopular. Bicycle races were, once again, held on the cricket pitch. At the 1900 Meet, the weather was appalling and the roads were flooded, so no racing was possible on the cricket field. It was officially decided that the Harrogate Meet would not be held in 1901 because of the disastrous financial position of the organising committee. The 1901 Meet did however go ahead, organised by enthusiastic supporters of the sport. At the event there was a motorcycle race as well as the usual four bicycle races, including the two miles scratch event for the Gold White Rose Challenge Trophy. Support from the public was still good with 3,000 spectators attending in 1902. The number of cyclists attending the Meet was falling and the last Harrogate Meet seemed to be in 1903.

Bicycle racing on the cricket field continued with the North of England Annual Athletic Sports on August 1st 1904, promoted by the Harrogate Cricket and Athletic Club. The chief event was the West Riding Centre one mile Championship race. This was probably the last bicycle racing on the cricket pitch.

* Percy Furnivall FRCS was surgeon and champion cyclist in the 1880s and wrote an early book on athletic performance, Physical Training for High Speed Competitions.

Harrogate - Cricket ground : Image credit Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
Refs     : [10] [55] [103] [134] [517] [p]
Photos : Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
Maps    : National Library of Scotland