Leigh - Leigh Harriers & Athletics Club

Charles Street : WN7 1EP Leigh - Leigh Harriers & Athletics Club : Map credit Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps Leigh - Leigh Harriers & Athletics Club : Image credit Dale Coan	 personal collection
Leigh Harriers formed in October 1888 and the club rented a field at the bottom of Charles Street, Leigh, from Lord Lilford for a period of 14 years, at a rate of £20 per year. The new ground was opened in October 1891, purely for cycling and athletics.

In 1897 the Harriers held a meeting at the track and over 1,000 people saw local man Joe Bates, the British Professional Skating Champion, beat George Woodward, the captain of Tyldesley FC.

The Leigh Harriers held their athletics sports on May 20th 1911 at the Athletics Ground in Charles Street and attracted 4,000 spectators. There were three bicycle handicap races over 500 yards, 1,000 yards and a novice's event also over 1,000 yards. The first prize for the 500 yards race was a pair of divan easy chairs, value £5 10s. The club also introduced Monday evening races with running and cycling events with crowds of a thousand people.

The May sports day became an established feature and in 1913 the NCU (Manchester) ten miles championship was held there. In 1921 the club teamed up with the Makerfield Athletic Club to run the annual sports.

In the report of the 1929 annual sports meeting it was noted that the track had been re-surfaced with red shale and was in excellent condition. At a track meeting in May 1930, Jack Sibbitt scored a double sprint victory. The athletics ground was very popular for open air boxing and wrestling matches in the 1930's.

During WWII the ground was occupied by the army and many soldiers joined the club, boosting membership to over 1,000. This enabled the club to buy the Charles Street Ground outright at the end of the war.

Track racing at Leigh became very popular again in the 1950's and the Harriers ran the Leigh Track League. Ken Coan was the Harriers club sprint champion in 1951, Alan Danson of Wigan Wheelers won the Leigh Track League championship in 1951 and the N Lancs RC rider Erik Dooley won in 1952.

The 1955 NCU Racing Handbook list the track as a 411 yards cinder track, 18-24 feet wide and unusually, banked to 5 feet.

There does not seem to have been much cycle racing at the stadium after the 1950's but the athletics activity remained very strong. The new Leigh sports village was built in 2008 which is an £83M development with a 12,000 capacity stadium, but without a cycle track. The athletics ground and cycle track is now a housing area around Runfield Close.

Leigh - Leigh Harriers & Athletics Club : Image credit Dale Coan	 personal collection Leigh - Leigh Harriers & Athletics Club : Image credit Dale Coan	 personal collection Leigh - Leigh Harriers & Athletics Club : Image credit Dale Coan	 personal collection
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Photos : Dale Coan personal collection
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