Jarrow - Monkton Stadium

Dene Terrace : NE32 5NJ Jarrow - Monkton Stadium : Map credit National Library of Scotland Jarrow - Monkton Stadium : Image credit WikiTree
The Jarrow Amateur Bicycle Club had held their races at Jarrow Cricket Club on Park Road until 1890, but the two clubs fell out and Jarrow ABC then moved their sports in 1891 to the Blue House Field, Hendon, Sunderland at the invitation of Sunderland Cyclists Racing Club.

Jarrow ABC then set about creating their own track facility and they obtained a 10 year lease on a field in Jarrow and build a red ash bicycle track, 4 laps to the mile, 24 feet wide with bankings elevated to 3 foot 6 inches with a grandstand for 500 people.

The new track opened on August 22nd 1891, exactly as planned, after only six weeks of work. The very successful opening event on the track was held over two days, August 22nd and 24th 1891, with top riders such as Bert Harris, the champion Poly rider and Bobbie Vogt, the Scottish champion competing. The bicycle races were : ½ and 2 miles scratch and ½, 1, 2 and 5 miles handicap, there were 5,000 spectators.

The Jarrow Express of January 29th 1892 reported that Jarrow ABC were further improving their ground, re-laying the surface and banking the spectator areas. This was in an effort to attract Zimmerman, the American world champion, who would visit the UK later in the year. Jarrow ABC were a very strong club at this time, at the Tynemouth Bicycle Meet in July 1892, they won the Silver Bugle for the best club rider attendance, with 165 members, which was ten times more than the second placed club.

The Jarrow ABC events and the Monkton track quickly became very popular, attracting top riders, with meetings attracting up to 500 competitors and attendances of 5,000.

Bicycle racing activity at Monkton reduced in the late 1890's. The track was repaired in 1900 and an effort was made to renew interest in bicycle racing, with two successful open race meetings in 1901. The track had regained its popularity, a meeting in 1909 featured Vic Johnson, a British Empire champion and World one mile champion.

Jarrow ABC held a very successful meeting on June 7th 1913, with a large attendance and riders that included Bill Bailey, the World Champion and Ernie Payne, an Olympic gold medal winner. Bailey won the one mile scratch race for the Kirkley Challenge Cup.

After the First World War, around 1919, the sports ground was taken over by Palmer's* and was the home of Palmer's Apprentices' Athletic Club. The first annual sports of the club took place on September 26th 1919 and amongst the athletics events was a half mile bicycle handicap race. The sports were repeated on August 21st 1920 and the mile handicap race at the meeting was the last bicycle racing on the ground for sixteen years.

After the ground had fallen into disuse, a special Regional Grant was obtained in 1936 to bring the ground back into sporting use. The building work was carried out voluntarily by unemployed labour on Public Assistance benefit, who were given a free meal each day and a pair of working trousers and boots. The arrangement was criticised by Labour opposition and boycotted.

Work on the Stadium refurbishment cost several hundred pounds and the site needed draining. Sir John Javis planned the development, which included a football pitch, 10 tennis courts, a cycle track, a grass running track, a quoits pitch, bowling ground and a two storey pavilion. When the refurbished stadium was completed in 1937, it was handed over to a local committee to operate, with a 12 year lease.

In June 1937, a cycling club was formed, called Jarrow Cycling and Athletics and Club, whose headquarters were at the Stadium. The opening meeting of the Stadium was held on August 21st 1937 and was in aid of the Palmer's Memorial Hospital. The successful meeting included 1 mile scratch race for the Palmer's Hospital Cup and the event drew 4,000 spectators.

The Jarrow C&AC promoted two events at Monkton Stadium in 1938. The Jarvis Cup meeting saw J Welch, of Morpeth, win the newly donated Jarvis Cup (valued at £70) and the NCU (Newcastle Centre) five miles championship was won by TW Main. Attendance at the meetings was not high and the club probably lost money on the events.

The Newcastle Cycle Racing League held meetings at Monkton and these continued during the war years. This was probably the last bicycle racing to be held at Monkton. During the Second World War, the ground was known as the Jarvis Sports Ground and after the War, Jarvis Stadium.

Monkton continued to be used for running and athletics after the war and until the present day, but not for bicycle racing. Monkton Stadium is now a major athletics venue and is the home of Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club, whose president is local man Brendan Foster, Commonwealth Games Gold and Olympic Bronze medallist.

* Palmer's was a ship building and iron works company, which was established in 1852 and based in Jarrow. In 1902 it employed 10,000 men, but it went bankrupt in 1933 during the Great Depression.


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Maps    : National Library of Scotland