London - Kensal Rise

College Road : NW10 3JP London - Kensal Rise : Map credit National Library of Scotland
The Daily Telegraph of March 26th 1890 described the new facilities "Twenty seven acres adjacent to Kensal Green station (henceforth to be known a Kensal Rise) have been acquired from the Warden and Fellows of All Souls, Oxford, and are being laid out for running and bicycle purposes. They will be known as the National Athletics Ground." The rented ground had a 1,000 seat grandstand, dressing rooms and showers. The cinder bicycle race track was 3 laps to the mile. Within this was a running track, 4 laps to the mile, and a sports field. The manager of the grounds was James Barden, father of the international track cyclist Charlie Barden.

The Grounds opened on Whit Monday, May 26th 1890 with a bicycle race meeting in front of a crowd of 4,000 people. The six events included safety, ordinary and tricycle races, and the star event was the 5 miles International Challenge Shield which was won by FP Wood of Brixton CC. The cinder track was described as ‘loose and unfinished'. In the opening year of the track, 1890, there were a lot of open bicycle race meetings, as well as many athletics events. This event was followed on May 31st by the Kildare Bicycle and Tricycle Club meet and at which the ‘inflated tyre' riders performed remarkably well in spite of being penalised 20 yards per mile. At the August Bank Holiday meeting organised by the Kildare B&TC there were six races, only two of them for bicycles, including a mile handicap race for roadster weighing over 30lbs.

On the August 23rd meeting, the mile handicap race was for ordinaries and safeties (pneumatic and cushion tyres barred). A report on the Finsbury Park Rifles meeting, which drew a crowd of only 700 or 800, lamented on the unpopularity of the track, for various reasons.

The 1891 and 1892 seasons saw a lot of meetings at the track, but none were too popular and attendances were not high. One newspaper commented that the track was ‘inaccessible and not too popular'. The track was also on high ground and was very windy.

CH Larette in his Athletic News ‘Cycle Jottings' of 27th February 1893 commented "I have been told on good authority that it is intended to cement the whole of the Kensal Rise track. I am sorry to see so much money spent on this fine enclosure, as I am certain from past experience that it's situation will always prevent it from becoming a paying concern."

It was reported that the track was re-surfaced in 1893 with ‘cement' but without a built up concrete base. In 1895 Kensal Rise and Putney were reported as the only ‘cement' tracks in London but neither of these tracks had a concrete base.

In 1893, Percy Brown of the Polytechnic equalled Zimmerman's national ¼ mile record.

The prediction of Larette proved correct and in the late 1890's, Kensal Rise did not prove too popular as a racing venue and would have had difficulty making money. Meetings continued to be held, for example a crowd of 7,000 attended the London & NW Railway sports in 1894 to watch the athletics and one bicycle race, but most meetings attracted far fewer spectators. Whippet racing was introduced to Kensal Rise in 1894 and in 1896 QPR moved into Kensal Rise.

Problems with promoters and the lease of the stadium dominated from 1900, probably because of the difficulty in making money from the venue. The lease for the whole stadium was advertised in June 1900 for £104 per annum with possession and 10 years unexpired. QPR left in 1901 when the landlord of the Stadium terminate their lease, but moved back to Kensal Rise the following year.

The early 1900's saw Kensal Rise still in the doldrums with too few bicycle race meetings. In the summer of 1904 Queens Park Rangers left Kensal Rise and moved to the Agricultural Showground in Park Royal. The following year Kensal Rise was let to the sporting promoter W Ecclestone, or Jolly Jumbo as he was known, whose intention was to refurbish the ground and the cycle track. An event was advertised to take place at Kensal Rise on September 9th 1905.

There were minor bicycle race meetings after 1905, including Queens Park Harriers and The Club Artistes Athletic Club in 1906 and the Journeymen Bakers Bread and Biscuit Bakers Pension Society meeting in 1907. Further meetings were held there for The Hairdressers Athletic & Cycling Club in 1908, The Aeolian AA sports in 1909, Queens Park Harriers 1910 and Gaelic AA 1911. After this, bicycle racing seems to have stopped at Kensal Rise.

By 1930, old maps show the stadium redeveloped as housing which is still there in the area around Whitmore Gardens.


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