Birmingham - Galton Gardens Smethwick
Brass House Lane : B66 1BA
Birmingham - Galton Gardens Smethwick : Map credit National Library of Scotland Birmingham - Galton Gardens Smethwick : Image credit Sandwell Community History The Swan Inn, on the corner of Holly Lane and Oldbury Road, existed from 1733 and Mr John F Rudge was the proprietor from the 1850s. Rudge ran Smethwick horse races from 1854 "on the splendid 1½ mile flat course at the back of Mr Rudge's Swan Inn, Smethwick." The ground behind the inn was used by Rudge to hold fetes and in 1875, Rudge was summoned for selling drinks there, without a license. The ground became known as Galton Gardens with Rudge as proprietor. The gardens were popular for fetes and picnics, sports were also held there including cricket, pigeon shooting, running and bicycle racing.

The first bicycle race at Galton Gardens was the West Bromwich Hospital Fete which was held on September 8th 1877 and included one mile bicycle handicap races and a ten miles race between John (Happy Jack) Keen, the world champion rider, and a fast trotting pony. Unfortunately, the pony could not continue after three miles.

Mr Rudge held a one mile bicycle handicap race on 20th October 1877 but bad weather interrupted the event and it was concluded on October 29th. There were some top riders in the handicap, including John Keen and J Prince, the event was won by G Owen of Birmingham, who won £20.

A one mile bicycle handicap race was held on March 13th 1880 with a first prize of a bicycle. July 19th 1880 there was a one mile match race for £60 between E Shelton from Wolverhampton and J Prince of Langley. Prince was given a hundred yards start but Shelton won by five feet. The third series of bicycle races of bicycle races was held on August 2nd and 3rd 1880.

There were some match races at the ground in 1882, on April 8th there was a race between D Slater of Smethwick and J Patrick of West Bromwich for £15. On May 24th 1882 there was a bicycle sweepstake between John Keen, the American A Pierce, D Packer and D Slater, each rider staking £10. The race was over one mile, Keen was on scratch, with the others having 150 yards start, Keen won by a length. This was probably the last bicycle race at Galton Gardens.

Running and pedestrian races continued at Galton for the next decade and in 1890, Robert Vernon, who at this time was the proprietor of the Swan Inn and Galton Grounds, was summoned for permitting betting at a running race meeting, he was fined £3.

The Swan Inn was sold by auction in 1918 and a new pub is shown on later maps. It is likely that the pub and grounds disappeared when the A457 Oldbury Road was developed.

Refs     : [p]
Photos : Sandwell Community History
Maps    : National Library of Scotland