Belle Vue was set up in 1836 by John Jennison as pleasure gardens with some zoological exhibits. The facilities were influenced by the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851 and Belle Vue extended the Pleasure Gardens and Zoological Gardens and introduced a funfair and massive fireworks events. By the 1890's Belle Vue had become Manchester's premier attraction, with bank holiday crowds of 250,000.
An athletic ground, next to the amusement park, was built in 1887 in the shadow of the deserted prison on Hyde Road. It had a banked cinder track, 3½ laps to the mile, where bicycle and running races were held.
Salford Harriers held many of their sports meetings at Belle Vue and from around 1888 bicycle races were included. Salford Harriers was a very successful athletics club in the Manchester area and like many athletics clubs they included both runners and cyclists as club members*.
Many races were held at Belle Vue in 1890; Herbert Synyer's racing diaries show two events at Belle Vue both 2 mile races with a rose bowl as first prize. On 26th July, JW Stocks won the rose bowl and on 13th September, Herbert Synyer won. Salford Harriers held their club championship at Belle Vue on December 26th and the event included a 5 miles bicycle race won by CP Glazebrook in 19m 2s.
The Anfield BC Journal describes one of their club members Frederik Hendrik Koenen who joined the Anfield BC in 1895. "He had learned to ride in Holland whilst still at school, and by 1886 he had won his first track race in Amsterdam. As a path racer in England he was very successful too, at Belle Vue (Manchester) winning three races in one afternoon. In those days the general public flocked to race meetings and F.H.' with his debonair air, striking appearance and good sportsmanship, became very well known and popular. The track frequenters called him The Flying Dutchman".
At the Salford Harriers Sports on 27th July 1901, total prize money of £200 was given for cycling events, walking, running and gymnastics, the racing included a half mile bicycle handicap race. The event was noticeable in that there was an entire absence of betting due to the ejection of known bookmakers. This was not taken well by some sections of the crowd who "vented their spleen in ironical remarks and cheers."
16th July 1902 the Manchester City Bicycle Club held their unpaced 25 mile club championship and sealed handicap for the Galloway Cup. At the Harriers sports at Easter 1905 there was a record entry of 533 competitors for the bicycle and athletics events. There was a top class field of 51 riders for the one lap bicycle race which included JS Benyon, the British ¼ mile champion and the crack Leon Meredith, the world 100k champion.
At the 15th September 1925 Harriers meeting "The 50 miles cycling champion FH Wyld, of Derby, recorded a sensational victory at the autumn sports meeting of the Salford Harriers, which attracted 5,000 spectators to Belle Vue on Saturday. In the five miles scratch race Wyld raced clean away from the field after a mile had been traversed, and in the end only just failed to lap the rest of the field."
Salford Harriers were still running their summer meeting in 1927 and the Daily Dispatch carried the results of the August 15th meet. The 5 mile scratch race was the most outstanding event and it was won by Albert White the ex-England cycle champion who beat Jack Sibbit his Manchester rival in 12m 28.2s to win the NUR cup.
The LNER railway company held their championships in 1933 at Belle Vue, Jim Forbes of Withington Wheelers won the one lap championship.
In 1928 a new speedway stadium was built on the Hyde Road site, which was also used for stock car racing. Belle Vue went into decline from the 1960's with competition from the new safari parks and eventually closed in 1981. Housing, entertainment facilities and a car auction lot were built on the site together with new speedway and greyhound stadiums.
* Salford Harriers and other athletics clubs had a cycling section. This situation started to break down around 1910 when the governing bodies of the two sports, the AAA and NCU failed to agree on a number of things and went their separate ways. Salford Harriers continued to have cyclists in their ranks for some years after this and programmes for 1920's sports meetings show club members among the entries for cycling events.