Newcastle upon Tyne - Fenham Park Grounds

Fenham Hall Drive : NE4 9BB
Fenham had a long sporting history. A track was laid out in 1863 and the venue was used for running, dog racing, rabbit coursing, quoits and pigeon shooting. The ground closed in 1875 when the land was bought by the North Eastern Railway Company. After this, a 574 yard track was laid out at Nuns Moor which then became the most popular running track in the area.

A program of racing at Fenham typically consisted of running, dog racing and a bicycle race. Fenham introduced bicycle racing very early, the first race taking place on December 25th 1869. The velocipede handicap race was twice around the park, entry fee was two shillings and first prize £5. Handicapping was introduced at 4 secs per inch diameter of the drive wheel.

The Sporting Life of February 16th 1870 reported on an event which started with two match running races. "A velocipede race followed. There were three competitors - James Thompson, Newcastle; J Waller, Newcastle; and H Arkle, Benwell. The distance was twice around the ground." In the race Thompson and Arkle collided and fell, but Thompson re-mounted to win, only to be disqualified and the race awarded to Waller.

Two days later, Sporting Life continued "a very large number of persons assembled to witness a race on bicycles between JB Wright of Newcastle and Professor Booth's Novice (said to be J Talbot of Wolverhampton) for £25 a side, distance one mile. There was a great deal of betting on the event at even money." The Novice took the lead but fell at 10 yards, enabling Wright to win easily.

Further bicycle races were held at Fenham in 1870. On 4th June - JB Wright and J Beldon ran a bicycle handicap race. On 13th August there was a one mile bicycle handicap race "for which Mr JB Wright offered as prizes, a bicycle for the first, a silver medal for the second." A crowd of 500 watched and the race was won by T Waller on a 35½" wheel. On 24th September, there was a match bicycle race for £10 a side between Patterson of Blaydon and an Unknown of Newcastle. "Over-anxiousness on the part of the Unknown, caused him to slip his foot off the treadles several times, the result of these mistakes being that Patterson won by about 20 yards." There was considerable betting on the event at evens.

The following year, 1871 was a bit quieter for bicycle racing. On February 18th there was a press announcement the "an Unknown of Blaydon to run on foot against R Patterson of Blaydon on a bicycle, one lap for £40. Patterson to receive 40 yards start." George Waller's first race was on May 6th 1871 when, as a 16 year old, he won his heat in the one mile handicap race. First prize was a bicycle, £1 for second and 10 shillings for third. Waller was riding a 36" wheel and off 220 yards. A week later, in the finals, Waller came third. Waller went on to become world champion and the top six day rider in the world.

A race on June 18th 1872 was sponsored by Mr Triggs, the agent for the Patent Tension Bicycle Wheel. The two lap race, first prize a bicycle, was run off in twenty heats. JB Wright was scratch and George Waller was now on 50 yards, both men won theirs heats. Unfortunately the final, held a week later, was not reported.

This seemed to be the last year that bicycle racing took place at Fenham but the venue continued to run dog racing, running, pedestrian events and quoits for several years.


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