Birmingham - Bournbrook Grounds Kerbys Pool

North Road : B29 6BL Birmingham - Bournbrook Grounds Kerbys Pool : Map credit National Library of Scotland
James Kerby owned 43 acres of land in Bournbrook in the 1830's that included pools, a forge, and the Bell and Shovel Inn. The area was made into a Victorian pleasure garden called Kerby's Pools. Its three pools were devoted to boating and fishing and there was a leisure garden. The public house was extended, partially rebuilt and opened as the Bournbrook Hotel, at Whitsuntide, 1877. People would travel in great numbers to enjoy the entertainment and facilities. the resort offered. There were a variety of attractions and events like fireworks displays.

A cricket pitch was set up with a running track on which bicycle racing took place. The first Australian cricket team which came to England, played a match at the grounds.

The Birmingham Daily Post of December 26th 1878 advertised an event at Kirby's Pools "a cricket match on the ice, Athletic sports and Bicycle races (admission sixpence).

By 1880, the grounds had been re-named the Bournbrook Grounds and Mr Arthur Morrell, was an energetic organiser of bicycle racing events there.

There were several bicycle race meetings in 1880 and 1881. The format was usually one and five miles handicap races run over 2 days. On July 10th 1880, the racing was marred by crashes; three riders went down in the one mile, with G Saich breaking both his arms. In the five miles, J Raybould came down heavily at the same place. Following a match race on Sept 16th, Frederick Collins was summoned for taking bets at the meeting.

Mr Morrell ran professional races again the next year on July 9th 1881 for a prize of £10. The heats for the one mile handicap race attracted 39 riders and 11 heats were needed.

The Speedwell BC held a meeting there on May 21st 1881. The races were; a 2 miles handicap, run in four heats and won by FH Clarke (300 yards) in 6 min 9.4 sec, a 1 mile novices handicap and a 2 miles scratch race.

Kerby's Pool had gained a reputation as being rather rough in the 1870's and the event organisers in the 1880's tried to improve its reputation. The racing in the 1880's was advertised as Bournbrook grounds and several proprietors organised events there, including Arthur Morrell, R Hall and D McInnis.

World champion rider John Keen and S Prince of Birmingham raced over ten miles for a purse of £50, with Prince getting 40 seconds start on May 14th 1891. Prince led for most of the race, but in the final few laps, John Keen passed him easily and won in 35 min 48 sec. The Speedwell BC held their sports at Bournbrook on May 21st 1881, attracting over 1,000 spectators. There were three bicycle events, one and two miles scratch races and a two miles handicap race.

All through the 1880's, Bournbrook was used for bicycle racing. The following organisations held bicycle races there: Southfield Athletic Club, Calthorpe Harriers, the Printers sports and the Early Closing Movement sports. The August Bank Holiday meetings were very popular, organised by Edgbaston Harriers.

Match races were held there - on September 24th 1883 there was a 10 miles match race for £10, between Smith and Barlow, ‘the latter receiving two minutes start.'

The Harrow Gazette of September 3rd 1889 reported "There was a scene of great disorder at Bournbrook Grounds, Birmingham on Saturday, owing to the failure of Professor Higgins and Miss De Voy to perform a parachute feat which had been announced. The wind was too strong for the feat, but this being the fourth disappointment of the kind at the grounds, the spectators became very angry and demanded the return of their admission money. The parachutist was mobbed and assaulted."

On Easter Monday 1890 the proprietor of Bournbrook, Mr R Hall, held the first annual sports meeting of the North Mail and Birmingham Heath Cycling Clubs, there were two bicycle races over three and five miles. This was probably the last bicycle racing at Bournbrook.

During the 1880's, industry and housing spread to Bournbrook and made the Grounds less attractive to visit. The Grounds closed and were sold off in 1891 for development. Bournbrook Works was set up there by Hudson bicycle rim manufacturers. The Cycle Components Manufacturing company (chairman Harvey Du Cross) and the Ariel cycle company, owned by Charles Sangster, occupied the Works later. The University of Birmingham campus was built at the edge of the Grounds in 1900. More recently, the Ariel works have been replaced by housing and the A34 trunk road crosses the old Ground.


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