Newport - Athletic Grounds

Rodney Road : NP19 0UU Newport - Athletic Grounds : Map credit National Library of Scotland Newport - Athletic Grounds : Image credit Wiki Commons
The Newport Cricket, Athletics and Football club held its annual sports on the Marshes from 1873. A new sports ground at Rodney Road was leased from Lord Tredegar in 1877 and the ground was levelled and the club spent £300 on the ground. Bicycle racing was included with the sports at the Rodney Road ground from August 7th 1877 on an oval grass track 440 yards around. The events were watched by a crowd of 5,000 and two bicycle races were included of one and three miles. The newspaper report gives the wheel diameters of the riders, which varied from 46 to 54 inches.

The ground continued to be popular for bicycle racing through the 1880's with Easter Monday and August Bank Holiday meetings. On 5th August 1882 there was a competition between the Newport and Cardiff Bicycle Clubs. A grandstand was built on the ground in 1885, costing £150.

In June 1886 on the grounds of the Newport Athletic Club there was an athletics meeting which included ½ mile Bicycle Handicap race and 1 mile scratch race, running and high jump. Attractions at the event included a lion. At a championship race in September 1889, there were 1 mile races for ordinaries high wheel machines and safety machines. Interestingly the ordinary winner's time was 3 min 14.2 sec and the safety 3 min 16 sec.

The ground was extended in 1892 when a former salt pool was acquired and the rugby field was moved there. A new cycle track was built by WM Appleton around the original rugby field; the cinder track was 440 yards around with banking of 4½ feet. Cycling of 6th February 1892 described the construction "the foundation consists of furnace clinkers and broken brick while on the top are layers of Risca Limestone gravel. The width of the new path is 18 feet."

On 22nd June 1893, the Western Mail reported that George Barrett had broken Linton's Welsh hour record with a ride of 22 miles 1510 yards. Barrett's bicycle was a Howe path races weighing 22 lbs, with Dunlop tyres and he was paced by seven solo bicycles each doing half mile in turn. The South Wales Championship races over ½, 1 and 5 miles took place at Newport on 15th July 1893 in front of 5,000 spectators.

In the 1880's and 90's the ground was an international rugby venue and used for the Home Nations Championship.

At the Easter Monday meeting In 1895, bicycle racing was still popular with four events and a crowd of 10,000 spectators. The NCU ran some World Championship events on the ground on 23rd June 1896. The events were ¼ and 5 miles amateur championships and ¼ and 1 mile professional championships. The amateur 5 miles title was won by the famous Russian rider Diakoff.

Dick Swan reported in The Boneshaker that "The Newport track, built in 1896 by the Newport Athletic Club, with an asphalt surface of 440 yards lap-size, saw the top pros including Barden, Osborn, Green, Parlby, Macferson, and many more, plus the top amateurs such as Ingram, Broughton, and Johnson at its open meets of the 1890's."

Bicycle racing remained quite popular through the 1900's. NCU and Welsh Championship races continued to be staged through the 1920's and there are some reports of races in the 1930's. Maps up to the 1950's still show a cycle track at the ground.

The ground is now known as Rodney Parade and is an athletics and rugby ground, home to Newport-Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC. Part of the ground was sold in the 1990's and Maindee Primary School was built on the site.

Newport - Athletic Grounds : Image credit Wiki Commons
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