Maryport - Solway BC track

Mealpot Road : CA15 6NE Maryport - Solway BC track : Map credit National Library of Scotland Maryport - Solway BC track : Image credit Cumbria County Council eLibrary
The Solway Bicycle Club was formed in 1878 and held their first annual race meeting at Cracrow Lodge bicycle path in Dearham (CA15 7HE) on July 19th 1882. The bicycle races were 1, 3 and 5 mile handicaps. In November 1882, it was reported that the Solway BC had railed off a meadow, near the bowling Green, with the intention of building a bicycle track. In the same month, they invited tenders for the construction work. There is some confusion around the final construction of the track, it was variously described as ‘cement', ‘cinder' and ‘cinder and cement'. It was possibly constructed of cinder and cement initially, then topped-up and repaired over the years, to eventually become a cinder track.

The first bicycle racing on the new track was the Solway BC second annual sports on June 2nd 1883. The Athletic News reported for the event "The races took place over the new cement track, which is exactly nine laps to the mile." The bicycle races were again 1, 3 and 5 mile handicaps, but the report commented that "All the local ‘cracks' competed, but several well known cyclists from a distance, failed to put in an appearance." Before the racing, there was a procession of cyclists and a prize of a silver bugle was offered for the club with most riders in uniform. This was won by the Aspatria Bicycle Club, who mustered 17 riders.

The Solway BC continued to run club and open events at the track through the 1880's. Events seemed to be well supported with the 27th Aug 1883 Oddfellows sports meeting attracting four to five thousand spectators. The sixth Solway BC annual meeting on August 24th 1884 was reported to be on "a new track at Netherton. The path, which is made of furnace slag and cement is nine laps to the mile." The track condition deteriorated and sports meetings were held there without any bicycle racing.

In 1889 the track was re-layed. The Solway BC advertised a meeting on August 23rd 1890 with professional bicycle handicap races and 1&3 miles amateur races. It is not known if these races were held. In 1890 and 1891 there were sports with no cycling events. It was reported that the track was owned by a small number of members of the Solway BC. The club did not seem to be active after 1891.

The Maryport track had a new lease of life when Maryport Wheelers Cycling Club was formed in 1892 and started holding bicycle races on the track. In 1893 the Wheelers held club events, followed by a big open meeting July 8th 1893, which was very well attended. The track was widened and levelled in 1894.

The Wheelers had some financial difficulties in 1896 and there was discord within the club. At the AGM it was proposed not to hold any open track meetings in the following year because of financial uncertainty. Club events at the track remained popular. Early in 1897, it was reported that the cinder track was being re-layer as a grass track, to reduce injuries from spills. The West Cumberland Times reported that "Members of the Maryport Wheelers Cycling Club re-opened their new grass track on Wednesday evening by a series of club races." Monthly club racing had around 20 riders in each event. The Wheelers were very strong as a club in the 1890's with well supported club racing on the track.

The cycle track was next door to the cricket and football pitches and there must have been some conflict between the sports. The West Cumberland Times of August 4th 1900 described a plan to harmonise the interests of the cricket and football clubs and the ‘old bicycle track' with a new sports facility including a new bicycle track. The plans resulted in the building of a new 4 laps to the mile cinder bicycle track. Maryport Wheelers ran the opening meeting of the track on June 22nd 1901 and the bicycle racing included the Cumberland and Westmorland regional championships at ¼, 1 and 25 miles.

The Maryport Football Club held a Grand Sports meeting at the Athletic Grounds on June 25th 1904. The cinder track was described as one of the safest and fastest in England. Cycling events included: 1 mile Novices, 1 lap and ½ mile Open and 1 mile Scratch races. On June 7th 1905 there was an open meeting but with ‘barely a thousand spectators'. The Wheelers held a club sports meeting on August 2nd 1905 which was probably the last bicycle racing on the track. Maryport Wheelers seemed to disband after this.

The track is now the site of Maryport Rugby League Club and Maryport bowling club.

Maryport - Solway BC track : Image credit Cumbria County Council eLibrary
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Photos : Cumbria County Council eLibrary
Maps    : National Library of Scotland