London - Lille Bridge - West Brompton

Lille Road : SW6 1UE London - Lille Bridge - West Brompton : Map credit National Library of Scotland London - Lille Bridge - West Brompton : Image credit Wiki Commons
Lillie Bridge sports ground opened in 1866 and the London Athletic Club moved there in 1869. The cinder track was 3 laps to the mile and square shaped and unbanked. One of the corners was particularly dangerous and responsible for many spills, it was known as ‘Hospital corner'.

The first meeting on the new cinder track was an Oxford vs Cambridge athletics meeting in 1869. The first bicycle race at Lillie Bridge was announced in Sporting Life on November 26th 1870, "Boxing Day - Some gentlemen of the AAC will offer the following prizes on their grounds, West Brompton - Bicycle Two-mile handicap - ten to accept or no race." Charles Liles, the one mile champion, rode for the Templar BC and trained at Lillie Bridge from the time that it opened.

Lillie Bridge and the Amateur Athletic Club (AAC) were staunchly gentleman amateurs and the governing body introduced a rule declaring mechanics, artisans and labourers to be professionals and hence unable to compete in amateur events. The status of artisans was sharply demonstrated in the first AAC 4 miles bicycle championships held in 1871 at Lille Bridge. Andrew Ritchie in The Boneshaker quotes HH Griffin "Out of about twenty entries, seventeen were ruled out, and protests were lodged against two of the three starters, and it was almost a walk-over for HP Whiting, a public-school man."

From 1873 the St George's BC organised bicycle racing at Lillie Bridge and there was another controversial meeting where riders were objected to as ‘not amateurs'. There were not many other races at Lillie Bridge in 1873.

The following year, 1874 saw the venue increase in popularity and the top professional riders began appearing at Lille Bridge. There was a match race between David Stanton and John Keen over 100 miles on October 19th 1874, Keen retired after 90 miles but Stanton carried on to take the record in 7 hrs 35 min 43 sec.

On 26th December 1874, St George's BC organised the ‘biggest bicycle meeting ever held in London." Its success may have been due to including separate amateur and professional events. A crowd of 2,000 saw star riders in the one mile professional event including Bill Cann (Sheffield) John Keen (Surbiton) and Arthur Markham (London) with Cann winning in 3 min 7.6 sec.

On 24 Jan 1875 there was a 24 miles match race between Keith-Falconer on a 60 inch Humber and Whiting on a 54 inch Keen weighing 30lbs, Whiting won in 1 hr 41 min 28 sec with Keith-Falconer second. In 1876 a 25 miles professional handicap race was held with riders including D Stanton (scr), W Cann(1m 45s start), C Thuillet (1m 3s), S Rawson (2m 15s) and B Keen (2m 15s). The large field led to a chaotic race which finished with victory for Cann from Stanton and Thuillet in 1 hr 30 min 2 sec. The London Athletic Club moved from Lillie Bridge to Stamford Bridge in 1876. Racing continued to be very popular at Lillie Bridge in the 1870's with a gate of 12,000 being reported for an 1877 meeting.

The Lillie Bridge track was not particularly popular to ride on, The Wheel World reported in 1882 "Lillie Bridge, widely hated because of its corners." Lillie Bridge suffered when the Stamford Bridge track opened in 1877 and the track became neglected with the gravel sub-base becoming exposed through the cinders. A 440 yard cinder oval track was laid down in 1884 made of cinder with a red brick-dust dressing. The track was laid inside the existing 3 laps to the mile track.

The 1880's was also a busy time, Lillie Bridge hosted the Sporting Life 50 miles £50 challenge, the Lillie Bridge cup, in 1882. The Stanley CC held a great amateur and professional meeting with Howell, Wood, James, Lees and Keen. Many clubs held open and club meetings, including the Kildare B&TC, Jubilee sports, Surrey BC, London BC, Brixton BC, Chelsea B&TC and Oxford vs Cambridge. There were some NCU championship races at Lillie Bridge; the 1 mile bicycle and 25 miles tricycle races in 1884 and the 50m bicycle race in 1886.

Lillie Bridge closed following a riot on 18th September 1887. An athletics meeting was held for the 120 yards running championship of England with a purse of £200. A crowd of 2,000 spectators were there when one of the runners refused to start, the match was called off and the meeting was cancelled. The crowd rioted, destroyed the track and the stadium, and then set fire to the debris. The venue closed the following year. The site was subsequently developed for housing, which is now the area around Ongar Road

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