London - Paddington

Randolph Avenue : W9 1PD London - Paddington : Image credit Wiki Commons London - Paddington : Image credit Wiki Commons
Paddington Recreation Ground is on ground owned by the church and was first used in 1860 as a cricket pitch. In the 1880's solicitor Richard Beachcroft led a local campaign to extend the Ground to 27 acres and in 1888 the Ground was completed at a cost of £5,000. The cinder cycle track was laid out by Melville Beachcroft and was an irregular oval shape, which measured 3½ laps to the mile. The corners were well banked and there was a fence on the outer edge. Lacey Hillier describes the surface as "burnt clay, brick dust and coal dust, with a small amount of cinder, and it wears fairly well, though towards the end of the season it gets noticeably bumpy." There was also a 440 yards running track.

The track was formally opened on 28th April 1888 and the first bicycle racing was on May 26th 1888. The Kilburn Times of June 1st reported that the event "was a great success, a large number of entries having been received". "the chief interest for the majority centred in the running and bicycle grounds, where (we may note) improvements in fencing have been made. There were two bicycle handicaps - one 880 yards for ordinary machines, the other a one mile for dwarf machines; in both there was a large number of starters, and both created immense interest."

In the first four years of operating, the track made a profit of £300 from entrance money and hire charges. In 1892 there was a harsh winter and the track decided to hold ice skating on a circuit between the cycle track and the running track. This required a bank if clay to be built at the side of the cycle track. The venture was a failure and lost money. The clay bank remained until 1936, when the track was concreted.

The opening year at the track was busy, Spartan Harriers, the Polytechnic and Paddington held their sports. The NCU 5 miles tricycle championship was held at Paddington on July 31st 1888 in conjunction with the Oxford and Cambridge inter-varsity race meeting. The 2,500 spectators saw FJ Osmond of the Brixton Ramblers take the title in 16 min 40.6 sec.

There was a large entry of around 50 riders for the one mile handicap bicycle race in the Finchley Harriers annual athletic sports on August 18th 1888.

On 15th October 1888 Dan Albone & EE Glover beat the tandem twenty miles record with 1 hour 2 mins 16.6 sec. In 1889 and 1890 Paddington hosted all of the NCU track Championships. The hour record was broken three times at Paddington in 1890. Richard Mecredy rode 21 miles 880 yards on the cinder track in July, using Dunlop's new pneumatic tyres. Then a month later, RA Lloyd rode 21 miles 1,150 yards. Finally, ten days later, Harry Parsons recorded 22 miles 620 yards in the hour.

The Polytechnic CC and London County C&AC had a meeting on 28th May 1892 which included a half mile invitation scratch race. Nearly all the famous amateurs in London took part including the future World Amateur Champion, A Zimmerman on a rare UK appearance.

On September 30th 1893, Paddington Borough purchased the track for £50,000 with the condition that the ground would be open free of charge to the public. After this, the use of the Paddington for prestige meetings fell dramatically because no admission charge could be made for meetings. The Polytechnic regularly used the track and organised evening meetings and clubs like the Pegasus, Kilburn Ramblers and the Clarence, made good use of the track for their club championships.

The Polytechnic was an extremely successful club in the 1900's, Bill Bailey was a member and world champion at 1,000 metres in 1909-1913 and by 1938 the club members had won five world, two Olympic and 62 national and Empire championships. The Polytechnic Cycling Club had a strong association with Paddington and they ran an evening track league. The Paddington Amateur Athletic Club was formed at the track and members were both cyclists and athletes.

The Polytechnic and Catford clubs met in August 1901 and attracted a crowd of 5,000 people. Leon Meredith, who was a member of the Paddington CC, made an attack on the motor paced 12 miles record at the Paddington meeting on 16th August 1913.

Cycling magazine commented on 12th July 1911 "Today it is a sort of free track, as no charge is made to the public and were it not for the Paddington CC, there would not be much class racing in this neighbourhood." A sanction was however granted that allowed the track to charge spectators five times a year.

There was steady club and local use of the track after WWI with evening meetings. The West London Cycling Association held their championships at Paddington. Harry Hill broke the UK hour record in 1938, recording 26 miles 1008 yards.

After WWII, Paddington was well used for amateur races. The Paddington Track League was established in the 1950's. Reg Harris and Cyril Peacock rode at Paddington in the 1950s.

It was a mainstay of amateur racing in London and nurtured a lot of talent, including Bradley Wiggins, Tony Gowland, Steve Heffernan. Chas Messenger ran the track league from the 1980's, up to its closure. Established riders such as the Australian Danny Clark also rode the league.

In 1988 it was clear that the track would be demolished as part of the refurbishment of the Recreation Ground even though it was used by the track league and by schools and a large petition had been presented to keep a track at Paddington. The last track league meeting was reported to be on August 8th 1988, but strangely the Pinner Observer of 25th July 1991 reports on a track league meeting at Paddington. The closure of Paddington left Herne Hill as the only track left in London.

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Photos : Wiki Commons, Philip Taylor, Yesterdays Velodromes