Ilkeston - The Old Manor Ground

Mannors Road : DE7 8AT Ilkeston - The Old Manor Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland Ilkeston - The Old Manor Ground : Image credit Old Ilkeston - Dave Johnson
The Manor Ground, between the Rutland Hotel and the old Manor House, was built in 1893 with a pitch for football. The land was originally a pleasure garden called Vauxhall Gardens, named after the original Gardens in London. The ground was built by local councillor Edwin Hall, landlord of the Rutland Hotel, who was a supporter of sports in the town and Vice President of Ilkeston Bicycle Club. The ground had the advantage that it was only a minutes walk from the railway station.

The site of the Manor Ground was not level and opposite corners were raised and lowered by 12 feet, which involved moving 10,000 tons of soil. The first football match was played there in 1893, but it was a further year before a bicycle track was built around the football pitch.

The cinder bicycle track was 367 yards, 2 feet around, approximately five laps to the mile. The rectangular track was built around the football pitch and had sharp corners. Ilkeston Bicycle Club was formed in 1884 and had their headquarters at the Rutland Hotel, next to the track.

The first bicycle race at the Manor Ground was an Ilkeston BC club meeting on May 9th 1894 at which the only event was a 2 miles handicap race, with eight riders. A silver cup, donated by Councillor Hull, was awarded to the winner. When the new track opened, the Ilkeston Bicycle Club moved their annual sports from the Rutland Recreation Ground to the Manor Ground.

The opening year 1894, of the cinder track was very busy. Ilkeston FC held their annual sports on May 12th and included a one mile bicycle race. The Ilkeston BC 7th annual athletics festival was held there on July 7th 1894 with open ½, 1 and 2 miles bicycle handicap races and three running races. There were several severe accidents at the meeting. The Ilkeston Manners Cricket Club held their annual athletic festival on August 18th with ½, 1 and 2 miles bicycle races. The Ilkeston BC promoted a 12 hour race on September 19th paced by singles and tandems. Champion rider H Synyer was a pacer. There were twelve starters and the race was won by S Fretwell who covered 202 miles. The meetings were well attended, the Manners sports attracted 2,000 spectators.

The cinder track was fairly dangerous because of the sharp corners and Ilkeston BC improved the track in 1895 by "enlarging it, rounding the corners more, and banking the track up higher". It was inspected and approved by the NCU, which enabled the Ilkeston BC annual sports meeting to hold the NCU local 10 miles championship, which was paced. Unfortunately, as the pacers were called off from the track before the last lap and one of the two race leaders was brought down by a tandem pacer. The other rider, H Lander of Nottingham, won in 25 min 1.6 sec. The annual festival was then attracting 4,000 spectators .

1895 was again a successful year for the Ilkeston BC, who ran 6 hour and 12 hour track races and their annual sports. Councillor Hall handed the track over to Ilkeston BC in 1895, rent free for five years. Bicycle racing continued at the Manor Ground through the 1890's and there was a 6 hour race in 1896 and the NCU local 10 miles championship in 1897. Edwin Hall, the owner of the Manor Ground, died in 1898, but his wife Hannah, continued to run the Rutland Hotel and the Manor Ground.

Shortly after 1898, Ilkeston Bicycle Club folded, having got into financial difficulties, possibly because of the cost of maintaining the track or because the professional people of the town, the backbone of the club, had moved on from bicycling to cars and motorcycles.

Bicycle racing continued at the Manor Ground and Ilkeston Hospital held a bicycle gymkhana at the ground in 1898 to raise funds for the hospital. This turned into the Hospital Charity annual sports and the first meeting was held on August 19th 1899, which included one and five miles bicycle races and attracted 5,000 spectators. The track was described as ¼ mile around and ‘very narrow'. There were two serious crashes at the meeting, blamed by the press on the narrowness of the track.

The Hospital Sports quickly established itself as the main annual bicycle and athletics meeting in the town. In 1902, the 5 mile NCU local championship was held at the sports. The track was altered in 1906 after suggestions from the NCU, following several accidents the previous year.

The annual Hospital Sports saw large crowds, in 1912 there were 5,000 spectators and £143 was raised for the hospital. The Hospital Sports were held at the Manor Grounds for twenty four years, with a break for the First World War. The 25th Hospital Sports meeting was held on July 1924 with the following cycle races; ¼ and 1 mile handicap races, ½ mile scratch race and the ½ mile NCU (Derby and District) championship race. This was probably the last cycle racing at the Manor Ground, as the 1926 sports were not held because of the General Strike. The following year, the Hospital Sports transferred to the new Recreation Ground.

Gambling raised its head at the track and the Derby Daily Telegraph of July 17th 1913 reported that "Herbert Bowskill pleaded guilty to gaming at bumble and buck (crown and anchor dice game) on the Manor Ground at Ilkeston Hospital Sports on Saturday last, a fine of 10 shilling and 9 shillings costs was inflicted."

In 1920, the Rutland Arms and the Manor Ground were sold. The Old Manor House was demolished in 1961. The Manor Ground was still in use by Ilkeston Town FC in the 1980's. The Rutland Arms hotel was demolished in 2001. The Manor Ground was sold in 1992 William Lowe supermarkets and is now used for commercial outlets where Aldi and Dunelm currently have stores.

Ilkeston tracks and grounds.

Ilkeston - The Old Manor Ground : Image credit picturethepast.org.uk
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Photos : Old Ilkeston - Dave Johnson, picturethepast.org.uk
Maps    : National Library of Scotland