Manchester - Sale Botanical Gardens

Beaufort Road : M33 3WR Manchester - Sale Botanical Gardens : Image credit Wiki Commons
The Sale Botanic Gardens and Pleasure Grounds were acquired by John and Marmaduke Witty, the gardens included a ballroom, pleasure gardens, a lake, cycle track, lawn tennis and croquet ground, bowling green and gym. There was also a hotel, the Sale Hotel (also called The Moorfield) at the gardens. People visiting the gardens "were astonished to find so charming a resort so near to Manchester...In the centre of the grounds is a lake with and island and a gravel track runs around the lake. There are ornamental bridges to the island that can hold several thousand spectators."

The first bicycle racing at Sale Botanical Gardens took place on the 24th September 1881. The Athletic News Sept 28th 1881 reported the event "The track is exactly 355 yards in circumference, perfectly level...there are no sharp turns to negotiate". At the first meeting the prizes were quite large (15 guineas for the 3 mile event), the bicycle events were 1 and 3 miles open handicap and 2 miles handicap confined to residents within a radius of three miles from the Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately bad weather stopped the meeting which was concluded the next day. At the opening, Mr Whitty, the proprietor, said that he intended to promote a series of bicycle handicaps in the gardens.

The gardens increased their popularity in 1882 with bicycle race meetings put on by Manchester BC, Manchester & Southern BC, Rusholme BC and the West Manchester BC. Evening race meetings were also introduced. Crowds of 2,000 have been reported at the racing but press comment on "the small value of prizes". The Athletic News commented that "Ward was on an exceptionally light ‘jigger', as it weighed only seventeen and a half pounds, saddle and pedals included. Surely we have got machines as light as they can be made."

Manchester Wheelers held a long series of race meets at Sale, the first being a club event in 1884. In 1886 the Wheelers joined forces with the YMCA and ran a small open meeting which was a financial success thanks due to the arrival of a large number of visitors to the gardens for a political picnic.

In 1887, the North Manchester CC and Manchester Southern CC held their club championships at Sale but the West Manchester CC, a long-time supporter of the Sale track, held their annual meeting at Pomona Gardens, although they continued with their evening meetings at Sale. The gardens remained popular, but there were complaints that there was no cinder track in Manchester at that time. Queen Victoria's Jubilee was in 1887 and the track that was built in Manchester for the exhibition seemed to have taken some interest away from Sale. The Manchester Athletic Club trained on the new track and held an open meeting there.

The newly formed Harpurhey CC held their successful first meeting at Sale in 1888. The number of events at Sale seems to have reduced in the late 1880's along with the attendance and there was fresh competition from the new track at Old Trafford.

The pneumatic tyre made its appearance at Sale in 1890 and the handicapper decided that it should carry a penalty of 40 yards if the day was wet it 35 if dry. HA Clarke of Stoneygate on the new "air bags" won both handicaps from virtual scratch. Pneumatics had first appeared at the Queens College Sports in Belfast on Saturday 18th May 1889 where William Hulme rode and won every bicycle event using the new Dunlop pneumatic tyres.

There does not seem to have been any bicycle racing at Sale from 1901 and the opening of the new track at Fallowfield in 1892 sealed the fate of Sale as a bicycle racing venue. The Gardens and Pleasure Grounds closed in 1896-7 and the land was subsequently developed for housing as the Moorfields estate which still exists.

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Photos : Wiki Commons