Manchester - Royal Jubilee Exhibition
Old Trafford : M16 0RP
Manchester - Royal Jubilee Exhibition : Image credit The John Rylands Institute and Library Manchester - Royal Jubilee Exhibition : Image credit Julie Ramwell - In 1887 an Exhibition of Art, Science and Industry was held in a specially built exhibition ground at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Old Trafford to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria's accession. The main building was 1000 feet long with a central dome 140 feet high; the exhibition mainly showcased Victorian machinery but also had extensive recreation facilities. A cinder bicycle racing track 440 yards in circumference with banked corners was built at South Western Park on the site of Old Trafford Cycling Club's rented ground. The bicycle racing track was next to the Old Trafford cricket ground.

The exhibition centre opened on 3rd May 1887 and remained open for 166 days, during which time there were 4.5 million paying visitors, 74,600 in one day alone. The racing track opened in June 1887.

The first meeting at the new track was held on Tuesday June 21st, which was the celebration of Jubilee day and the event was organised by the Manchester Athletic Club. The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of 22nd June 1887 reported on the opening day event. "The sports were held on a cinder track, specially laid in the South-western Park, where a grandstand and dressing rooms have also been erected. The track is a quarter of a mile in circumference, and, except that it does not offer a good straight run in opposite the stands, is excellently suited to the purpose. Owing to the somewhat hurried preparation that it underwent, it became rather loose with the constant wear that it was subject to, but it will doubtless greatly improve." The prizes at the event totalled £100 and there were a large number of competitors for the races which included 1 mile handicap, 2 miles scratch and 1 mile tricycle.

The second meet on 9th July saw the appearance of the Dutch champion EP Kiderlen, who "had rather astonished the cycling world by winning the English One mile Amateur Tricycle Championship at Birmingham on the 4th July" and the racing at the meeting was described as exciting and memorable.

There was a further meeting on bank holiday Monday August 1st, organised by the Manchester Athletic Club and on Sept 17th. The first professional racing on the track took place on 15th October and the events included a 10 miles scratch race for a £15 prize as well as amateur races.

The exhibition buildings were demolished in 1888 and the area reverted back to the Royal Botanical Gardens. The bicycle racing track was rented by Manchester Athletic Club and was then known as the Manchester Athletic Club ground or Old Trafford. The club held their first sports meeting at the ground on July 7th 1888 with a crowd of 5,000 spectators. There were 150 entries, including H Synyer, the one mile champion. Synyer won the 2 miles scratch race in 6 min 17.2 sec.

The Lancashire Constabulary held their annual sports at the Manchester Athletic Club Ground, Old Trafford on June 23rd and 30th 1890 and included 1 mile novices handicap and a 2 miles open handicap bicycle races. Manchester Athletic Club held a ‘cycling tournament' at their ground at Old Trafford.

The Manchester Athletic Club moved to their new ground at Fallowfield in 1892 and this seemed to be the end of bicycle racing at the Old Trafford track.

In 1927 the White City Stadium was built on the old Exhibition grounds and used for speedway and later athletics. The stadium closed in 1982 and was demolished making way for the White City Retail Park which still occupies the site today. The old Exhibition track site was used for football and cricket and now forms part of the University Academy 92 site.

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Photos : The John Rylands Institute and Library, Julie Ramwell -