Manchester - Weaste
The Willows : M5 5HF
Manchester - Weaste : Map credit National Library of Scotland Salford Football Club (a rugby club) leased a 5 acre site at The Willows in 1901, where they built a new stadium. An oval cinder bicycle track was incorporated, which was 4 laps to the mile and banked to 8 feet. The Willows ground was known as Salford Football Ground.

Bicycle racing at The Willows started in 1904, when Broughton Harriers and Athletic Club held their annual Athletic Festival on June 18th and included half and one mile bicycle open handicap races. The Harriers went on to hold their annual sports at Weaste until the First World War, attracting up to 10,000 spectators.

Salford Police held their first sports at The Willows on July 16th 1904 in fine weather. The 4,000 crowd watched the running events and two police bicycle races and a 2 miles open scratch race. In 1906, Ernie Payne, the British 1 mile champion and 1908 Olympic gold medal rider won the Police sports half mile scratch race in front of 8,000 people. Payne beat Albert Calvert, who also rode in the 1908 Olympics and John Harvey the NCU 25 miles champion. The Police sports continued at Weaste until 1913.

Several other organisations were regularly holding their sports at The Willows in the 1900's. Salford Royal Technical Institute held their student sports at the ground. The NCU Manchester Centre held a sports meeting at Weaste on June 25th 1910 and included open handicap races over 500 yards and ½ mile and the NCU (Manchester Centre) quarter mile championship.

The Manchester Dock Police held their first annual sports on August 11th 1906 and included 1 and 2 miles bicycle handicap races. The sports were watched by 2,500 spectators. The Dock Police sports meetings continued until 1930

Salford Athletic and Cycling Club held Wednesday evening sports meetings in 1922 and 1923 which included club handicap races over a quarter and half a mile.

A large crowd of 12,000 people watched the Salford Corporation Tramways sports on May 14th 1921. The main 5 miles scratch race for the Alderman Linsley Cup (value 100 guineas) was won by Albert White* from Jack Sibbit and George Owen** in 13 min 8 sec. As this was White's third victory in the event, he got to keep the valuable trophy. The Tramway sports continued until 1930.

The Manchester Dock Police meeting on July 1st 1922 attracted a crowd of 7,000 people to watch the sports. The 10 miles NCU (Manchester Centre) Championship race was won by George Owen, the Manchester Wheelers international star, for the third consecutive time in 27 min 47.8 sec.

At the Dock Police sports on July 5th 1930, the meeting included the NCU (Manchester Centre) 10 miles championship scratch race. The other bicycle events were ¼ and ½ mile handicap races, 1 lap scratch race and a ½ mile scratch errand boy's race. This latter race was described in the notice for the meeting as "open to boys under 16 years of age, employed daily delivering goods on a cycle within two miles of the Police Office, Manchester docks. Only tradesmen's cycles used in the delivery of goods will be allowed in this race."

Bicycle racing at The Willows seemed to come to an end in 1930. The rugby club continued to play at The Willows and changed their name to Salford Reds, and then Salford City Reds and the club left the stadium in 2012. After this, the land was developed for housing, in the area now called Lance Todd Close. Lance Todd was a well-known coach for the club in the 1930's.

* Albert (Lal) White won a silver medal in the 1920 Olympic Games. White was the subject of a 2012 Cultural Olympiad community opera called Cycle Song.

** George Owen competed in the track sprint event at the 1924 Olympic Games.

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Maps    : National Library of Scotland