Leicester - Belgrave Road

Belgrave Road : LE4 5AT Leicester - Belgrave Road : Image credit revista supporter
The Belgrave Road Cricket and Bicycle Ground Company was formed in 1879 with a share capital of £10,000. In November 1879, 8 acres of ground was secured on a 21 year lease at £80/annum, to build the new ground. The cycle track was to be 3 laps to the mile and a gymnasium and trotting track were planned. The ground was completed very quickly at a cost of £1,400 and opened at Whitsuntide 1880. The cinder track was 440 yards around, 15 feet wide and nearly circular in shape.

The opening meeting at the track was on 15th May 1880 and the first major event was a one mile race for the championship belt and £20. John Keen was the winner from Walter Phillips and Robert Patrick in a time of 3 min 15.6 sec. Attendance was very good with 10,000 people at the second day of the sports. The opening year 1880 was very busy for Belgrave Road, after the opening, there were further meetings several times each month and a large meeting at August bank holiday. A series of Monday evening bicycle races through the summer was promoted. This remarkable first year was achieved in spite of strong competition from the Aylestone Road Ground which opened in 1878.

Bicycle racing continued to be very popular in the 1880's and the owners of Belgrave Road organised a series of track championships races to attract spectators. In the 20 miles race on 28th March, in front of a crowd of 8,000 people the result was a dead heat between Dick Howell and Fred Lees. Throughout the summer there were championship races at 20, 25 and 30 miles. Because of criticism about dawdling, additional five shillings prizes were awarded to leaders at the end of each mile.

A report in the December 17th 1885 edition of The Sportsman is ominously headed "Disposal of the Belgrave Road Grounds, Leicester" and goes on to describe the financial pressure that existed at that time to develop the spacious grounds for commercial building. This was common in the late 1880's and 1890's and resulted in the loss of many prestigious cycle tracks. The commercial viability of the track was compromised because of competition from Aylestone Road, also trotting races were never very successful at Belgrave Road and the magistrates repeatedly refused a license application for the premises. In 1885 an offer of £5,000 was made for the leasehold of the track and the directors were advised to accept the offer.

The offer for the leasehold must not have been taken up as bicycle racing continued, virtually unchanged in 1886, although attendances started to reduce. Bicycle race meetings declined in the 1890's and in 1894 there was a 20 miles professional race, which only attracted four entries and by 1895 bicycle racing at Belgrave Road had stopped.

Belgrave Road Grounds closed in 1901 and houses and shops were built on the site which is now Roberts Road and Buller Road. Part of the Ground between MacDonald and Law Street was developed by The British United Shoe Company, Leicester's biggest manufacturing company. The Union Works employed 4,000 people at its peak and existed from 1899 to 2000.


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