Kettering - Wicksteed Park
Waverley Road : NN15 6NJ
Kettering - Wicksteed Park : Image credit Mark Bulley Kettering - Wicksteed Park : Map credit National Library of Scotland Charles Wicksteed purchased a piece of land in 1913 with the intention of building a model village. After the First World War, he decided to build a park and playground instead, which people could freely use for their leisure and he set up a trust to maintain the park. The park officially opened in 1921 and was continually developed by Wicksteed until his death in 1931.

In 1927 it was reported that Charles Wicksteed proposed to build a cycle track at the park. Athletic News reported on February 25th 1929 that a new cycle and running track was being built at Wicksteed Park by a generous donor. The track was ready for the 1930 cycle racing season and the 440 yards asphalt track was 24 feet wide and banked to 7 feet, it was surrounded a cinder running track.

The new cycling and running track was officially opened on Empire Day** May 24th 1930, with a meeting organised by the NCU (Northampton). The top class meeting included Sid Cozens and Albert Theaker who won gold and silver the following month in the National Sprint Championships. The two miles team pursuit race was a popular event and the five miles scratch race was won by EH Chambers (five times National tandem sprint champion) who beat the Wyld brothers.

There was a further meeting at the new track on June 12th 1930 which featured amateur cycling, athletics and water sports. The Wicksteed Park Amateur Sports became an annual event which was held in early July and included cycle racing, the main event being the five miles scratch race for the Wicksteed Park trophy. Evening cycle races were also held at the track from 1932. The track was used throughout the 1930s until the outbreak of the Second World War.

After the war, racing resumed at Wicksteed and there was an NCU meeting on September 14th 1947, which included a half mile sprint and a three miles point to point race. Kettering Amateur CC were organising events in 1948 including Whit Sunday and August Bank holiday meetings. In the late 1940s and 1950s, it was popular for local clubs such as Fenland Clarion, Warwick CC and Bedfordshire CC to have a run out the Wicksteed and use the track as they pleased. More organised inter-club fixtures and open meetings also took place and Bennie Foster was organising meetings there in the 1950s. Bennie Foster went on to manage the World track cycling championships at Leicester in 1970.

By 1956, the track surface had deteriorated and racing was stopped. The Wicksteed Park Trust then allocated £500 to restore the surface and improve drainage. This was a generous move as the cycle track was free to use by anyone and generated no income and racing on the track resumed in June 1958. The Kettering and District Track League started on May 3rd 1959 with a Sunday meeting at Wicksteed.

The track was used fairly regularly in the 1960s with organised and impromptu race meetings by East Midlands CC, Kettering Friendly CC, Spalding CC and Rockingham Forest Wheelers. There was a track meeting on May 20th 1962, which included a junior omnium competition won by Geoff Cooke.^^ The last cycle race at Wicksteed was probably a meeting which was held on May 23rd 1965 and included a 100 lap madison and a 5 miles scratch race. The banked track was still there in 1971, when it was used for Charity bike rides and possibly model car racing

The 147 acre Wicksteed Park is now Grade II listed and has an amusement park with a ferris wheel, water chute and a heritage narrow gauge railway.

** Empire Day was a public celebration of the British Empire, which took place on 24 May, Queen Victoria's birthday. The first Empire Day was in 1902 after Queen Victoria died and the day was a public holiday.

^^ Geoff Cooke went on to ride at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, he was a National tandem sprint champion many times, he has won 46 World and 64 National masters championships and he was a British national cycling coach for 10 years.

Kettering - Wicksteed Park : Image credit
Refs     : [6] [10] [105] [273] [p]
Photos : Mark Bulley,
Maps    : National Library of Scotland