London - Canning Town Memorial Grounds

Memorial Avenue : E15 3DB London - Canning Town Memorial Grounds : Map credit Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps London - Canning Town Memorial Grounds : Image credit WHUFC
The Memorial Grounds at Canning Town were built in 1897 for Thames Ironworks FC (who later became West Ham FC) at a cost of £20,000 by the club's chairman Arnold Hills*. The stadium contained the football pitch, a cycle track, a cinder running track, tennis courts and one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in England. The concrete bicycle track measured 3½ laps to the mile and the bankings were 22 degrees. The whole complex was built in six months.

The Memorial Grounds was opened on Jubilee Day, 22 June 1897, to coincide with Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. The Manor Road station was built in 1898 to serve the grounds.

The Thames Ironworks meeting on August bank holiday 1898 drew a crowd of 6,000 people to watch the cycling and running races. Charity sports meetings figured prominently at the Memorial Grounds with large meetings taking place each year. On September 9th 1899 there was a Great professional bicycle carnival. In 1901 The Danes Cycling Club meeting included a motor cycle record attempt as well as bicycle races.

Major Taylor, the American world champion and ‘fastest man in the world' made a rare appearance at the Memorial Grounds on 8th August 1903 in front of 10,000 spectators. He raced against English champion Sid Jenkins and French star Charles Piard in three one-mile matches, Taylor dominated proceedings and won all three races.

The 1900's was a golden decade for the Memorial Grounds. Leon Meredith raced and won there in the Three day festival of racing in 1905. A 100km motor paced event was held on 18th May 1907 with no limit on motorbike power. The London Centre of the NCU held a meeting here in 1910. On 5th July 1913 the NCU (London District) one mile, ten miles and two miles tandem championships were held in front of a 3,500 crowd. SF Bailey of the Poly made a successful attempt on the 10 miles motor paced record.

The Thames Iron Works and Ship Building Company closed in 1912 because of a lack of orders from the Admiralty for warships. The Midland Daily Telegraph of May 9th 1914 reported that West Ham council were considering borrowing £10,275 to buy the Memorial Grounds and turning it into a public recreation ground. There does not seem to have been much bicycle racing after WWI.

The site is now a public park, known as Memorial Recreation Ground and is close to the present ground of West Ham FC and a mile from the Olympic Stadium.

This video about West Ham FC gives a good history of the Thames Iron Works

* Arnold Hills was the managing director of Thames Ironworks and built the Memorial Grounds at his own expense for his workforce to enjoy. Hills was also a keen sportsman, he was the English mile and three-mile champion and played football and cricket. In 2014 West Ham announced that one of the corporate entertainment areas in their new ground, the Olympic Stadium, would be called the Arnold Hills suite.

London - Canning Town Memorial Grounds : Image credit Wiki Commons
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Photos : WHUFC, Wiki Commons
Maps    : Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps