Salisbury - Larmer Tree Grounds

Tollard Royal : SP5 5PT Salisbury - Larmer Tree Grounds : Map credit National Library of Scotland
In 1880, Augustus Lane Fox inherited the Rushmore Estate and considerable wealth, on condition that he changed his surname to Pitt-Rivers. He created the 11 acre Larmer Tree* Pleasure Grounds, which had a racecourse, golf course, bowling green, tennis courts and a bicycle racing track. The grounds opened in 1885 and all the events that took place there were free to the public, General Pitt-Rivers paid all the expenses.

The first bicycle racing at Larmer Tree was the sports meeting on September 17th 1892 at which there were pony races, athletics and bicycle racing. The Salisbury and Winchester Journal reported that the races were held "in a field, opposite the popular Larmer Tree pleasure grounds." The bicycle events were a one mile handicap, open to members of the Larmer Tree RC and a three miles open handicap race.

The Larmer Tree Road Club existed in 1892, club riders appear in results of some local races, but there is no further information about the club.

The Larmer Tree meeting seems to have been held each year. On September 4th 1895, there were 10,000 visitors to the Larmer Tree grounds and the fete had refreshment booths, swings, coconut shies and shooting galleries. At the sports there was a 1½ miles handicap race for Pitt-Rivers' employees and cyclist living within five miles of the ground and a 2 miles open handicap, confined to riders living within 15 miles. The grounds were lit by hundreds of lanterns and there was dancing into the night with General Pitt-Rivers' private band.

By 1899 the gardens were attracting over 44,000 people a year and were a popular day outing for holiday makers in nearby Bournemouth. On Sept 6th 1899 the fete had horse and pony racing, athletics and three bicycle races. This was the last bicycle racing at the Larmer Tree grounds as General Pitt-Rivers died in 1900 and after his death, the grounds were closed.

After ninety years of neglect, the gardens were restored and opened to the public in 1995. In 1999 a new Larmer Tree was planted to mark the millennium. The grounds are listed Grade II* and are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

* The Larmer tree was a tree on the ancient county boundary, it was possible a Wych elm tree, with links to King John, who hunted there in the 12th century. The original Larmer tree on the estate survived until 1894.


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