High Beach - Epping - Kings Oak Pub

Epping New Road : IG10 4AF High Beach - Epping - Kings Oak Pub : Map credit Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps High Beach - Epping - Kings Oak Pub : Image credit www.defunctspeedway.co.uk
In 1882 Queen Victoria planted a tree in front of the King's Oak public house at High Beach and dedicated the forest as an open space.

The Sporting Life of Monday 4th May 1891 reported on the opening of the High Beach track. "On Friday last a number of prominent cyclists and athletes assembled by the invitation of Mr GL Gumprecht at King's Oak Hotel, High Beach, Epping Forest, to assist at the opening ceremony of the new cycling and athletics track in connection with that famous hostelry. The track is a cinder one, four laps to the mile, and is in excellent condition considering its recent formation. "The opening ceremony consisted of an inspection of the ground and a "sumptuous banquet"

Peter Underwood on the Classic Lightweights website describes the first race on the 8th July 1891 at High Beach cinder track. "The Essex Cycling Union held an open race meeting there...one of the events was a one-mile handicap for riders on the old high bicycles just then entering into obsolescence. First was Alf Rivett from scratch. He won by twelve yards in 3 mins 12 and 1/5th seconds. Second man was H. W.Shanty off 80 yards and third Alf's brother J. Rivett off 40 yards. All three were Shaftesbury CC members."

A few years later in May 1896 Alf won The Gumprecht cup at High Beach. Gumprecht was the proprietor of The King's Oak: a large pub set in a remote part of Epping Forest where there was very little habitation so very few customers. It was built in the belief that the Central Railway would end at High Beach but in fact it stopped at Loughton, leaving the King's Oak stranded. So in an endeavour to find custom he built the track and promoted events to bring the crowds. The track was also hired out to cycling and athletics clubs for training purposes. The track would later be augmented by a splendid ballroom containing a huge pipe organ to provide the dance music and a lido. He provided the Gumprecht cup for the winner of a ten mile scratch race on the track. The heats were held one Saturday and the final the following week so as to maximise the gate money! The magazine Cycling reported the final thus:-

"The heats had reduced the field to ten riders of whom G. Allen of the Paddington CC did not start. Gidney (the holder) soon went to the front with Rivett Shaftesbury CC close behind and Bishop in third position. At four laps from home a pacing tandem which had been saving itself, came out and took Rivett away with a rush, and he thereby gained a 50 yards lead. Gidney was unable to respond to any extent, and Rivett's superior sprinting powers placed him a winner by thirty yards. Time 26 minutes 58 seconds."

High quality race meeting continued to be held throughout the 1890's due to the efforts of Mr George Louis Gumprecht, the owner of the track and the landlord of the King's Oak pub.

Sporting Life reported that a meeting would take place on the 28th July 1900 at High Beach, organised by the Alert CC.

The Essex and Middlesex Cycling Union organised a race meet at High Beach on the 4th May 1901, which attracted a thousand spectators. The big race was the ten miles "King's Oak" Challenge Cup and the other cycling events was a one mile handicap. The program included a tent pegging competition, a slow bicycle race, apple bobbing, a ladies egg and spoon race and "Lemon cutting, Turk's head and Ring Tilting."

The Walthamstow CC organised a motor and cycling meeting in September 1905 which included one mile handicap and ten miles scratch races.

Gumprecht died in 1908 and perhaps this contributed to the decline of racing at High Beach at the end of the 1910's and in 1928, the track started to be used for speedway. The first speedway meeting in the UK was held at High Beach on 19th February 1928.

The King's Oak pub still exists and the cycle track area is now Epping Forest Visitors Centre. There is still a tea hut at High Beach which is a popular stopping off point for cyclists and motor cyclists.


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