Leeds - Roundhay Park

Mansion Lane : LS8 2JL Leeds - Roundhay Park : Image credit West Yorkshire Track League Leeds - Roundhay Park : Image credit West Yorkshire Track League
Roundhay Park banked grass bicycle racing track was built in 1894 as part of the athletic facilities in the park. Leeds Council took on 1,200 men "who would otherwise have been unemployed" to work on the park, improve it and provide a "splendid grass track for bicycle races".

The Yorkshire Evening Post of Friday 3rd August 1894 reports on the new track "The other day I had a look at the new athletic ground at Roundhay Park, which will be used for the first time on Monday. The undertaking is most creditable to the responsible parties. The ground has been well levelled, and the track (a yard over a quarter of a mile, I believe) will, when set, be one of the best grass tracks in England. Where the bank has been cut away terraces have been made, thus forming a natural grand stand."

The main event on the Roundhay track, over the next 20 years, seems to have been the Leeds Hospital Sports and Gala which was held on August Bank Holiday Monday. The 1898 meeting featured a bicycle race, running races, swimming plus balloon ascents and parachute descents.

The 1902 Hospital Sports attracted a crowd of 45,000 people on August Bank Holiday Monday with gate receipts of £1,500. As well as cycling, athletics and swimming there were numerous other activities and amusements which ensured that the Sports were the foremost attraction of the holiday. "The bicycle sports on the cricket ground were watched by probably 10,000 persons and evidently afforded keen enjoyment". At this meeting there was a full schedule of six bicycle races. Unfortunately there was a nasty spill in the ½ mile event resulting in a broken collar bone for one rider. There was a balloon ascent and parachute jump from 3,000 feet by "Mr Spencer"

The hospital sports continued with bicycle races into the 1930's but track racing and particularly grass track racing was much less popular. It wasn't until the 1940's and the formation of the West Riding Track League that Roundhay once more became a popular bicycle racing venue.

Roundhay Park has hosted grass track national championships and runs the West Riding Track League, which was formed in 1945. Grass track racing has become popular again and in 2017 over 200 riders were registered in the track league, with up to 80 riders competing at meetings. The track league encourages young people to take part in racing, by putting on events for under 8's, under 12's and under 14 year olds.

Leeds - Roundhay Park : Image credit Bicyclepdia on Facebook Leeds - Roundhay Park : Image credit From the authors own collection Leeds - Roundhay Park : Image credit Barry Lycett Leeds - Roundhay Park : Image credit Mandy Parker
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Photos : West Yorkshire Track League, Bicyclepdia on Facebook, From the authors own collection, Barry Lycett, Mandy Parker