Leicester - Aylestone Road

Grace Road : LE2 8AD Leicester - Aylestone Road : Map credit Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps Leicester - Aylestone Road : Image credit Tony Pickering
Leicester County Cricket Club bought the land for Aylestone Road in 1877 from the Duke of Rutland and spent £40,000 on developing a cricket club, cycling and athletic track and a hotel. The Leicester Chronicle of March 2nd 1878 carried an announcement "The Leicester Cricket Ground Company are prepared to issue tickets...for bicycling on their new ground on the Aylestone Road. About eight acres have been carefully levelled and prepared for cricket etc. and a Bicycle Path half a mile in circumference has been made under experienced supervision which will be the finest in the kingdom." The track was cinder, 671 yards around with a slight incline at each side.

The first bicycle race meeting at Aylestone Road was the first Cricket Club annual sports on Whit Monday and Tuesday 1878, which attracted between 14,000 and 15,000 spectators. The bicycle races were 5 miles handicap, 150 yards slow bicycle handicap and 10 miles handicap. The opening year of the track saw open meetings every month organised by Leicester Athletics Society, Leicester Bicycle Club and Leicester Cricket Club. At the close of 1878, the ground installed six floodlights, enabling an evening 1 mile bicycle handicap race to be held on December 2nd. This very busy opening year helped to establish Aylestone Road as one of the leading bicycle race tracks.

The reputation of the Aylestone Road track continued to grow and the track attracted many championship races and the top professional riders. The May 12th 1883 meeting was billed as the ‘Great 25 miles bicycling contest (For the championship of the world)' and in October they held the ‘Great 100 miles International championship' with George Waller world champion), Fred Lees (National 100 miles track champion) and Fred Wood (multi-National track record holder) taking part.

A crowd of 8,000 people saw the 10 miles professional championship race on 18th April 1885. The top professional riders Dick Howell, Fred Wood and Fred Lees were there, but it was Howell, the world 20 miles professional champion, who won by two yards in 33 min 44 sec and having won the event three times in succession, secured a large gold medal and £20 prize money.

By the 1890's bicycle race meets were much less frequent. At an event on March 30th 1891 meeting, the program states "Competitors riding bicycles with pneumatic tyres will be penalised sixty yards". The fall in popularity of the track was noted by The Field of 25th August 1894, "the enthusiasm for bicycling which prevailed at Leicester seems to have departed, and the presence of ‘all the champions' could only allure 1,500 people to the Aylestone Road grounds."

The Leicester Infirmary and Blind Institute sports were held in July 1900 at Aylestone Road and the Leicester Athletics and Cycling Club held their annual sports in May 1901. There seems to have been no more bicycle racing there after the early 1900's.

There is a report of a grass track at Aylestone Road from 1917 to 1920 by I can find no record of this.

Leicestershire County Cricket Club moved out of the ground in 1901 and returned there in 1946 and the club purchased the ground from the corporation in 1966. The club still play on the ground, now known as Grace Road.


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Photos : Tony Pickering
Maps    : Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps