Northampton - Victoria Gardens
Victoria Promenade : NN1 1HH
Northampton - Victoria Gardens : Map credit National Library of Scotland Northampton - Victoria Gardens : The two acre Victoria Gardens was financed and constructed by Henry Mulliner, and opened on Easter Monday 1877, after a year of construction work, but still not fully finished. The Gardens included a large, open air, asphalt skating rink, which connected to the existing indoor rink, and the outer walk was used for bicycle races. At the opening of the Gardens there were performances by Pindar's circus and a bicycle race with three competitors, in the evening there was a fireworks display.

The Summer season opening of the Gardens commenced on May 21st 1877 when over two thousand people paid for entry to see the sports and amusements. The bicycle race had a disappointing entry, because other conflicting local meetings. The Great Bicycle Races meeting which was held on July 23rd and 24th 1877 were advertised as a one mile handicap, rather optimistically "Open to the World", with a first prize of £10. There was also a one mile amateur handicap for a new racing bicycle, value 16 guineas.

This was rather a disappointing start to bicycle racing at the Gardens, and after the October 12th 1878 two day meeting, there does not appear to have been any bicycle racing at the Ground from October 1878 until 1889.

The Northampton Brewery Company** re-developed the Gardens in 1887 and changed its name to Plough Gardens, as the Plough Hotel was next door to the Gardens. In 1889 bicycle racing at the Gardens was re-vitalised, Mr Carl Konow, a well known local publican, took over the lease for the Plough Hotel and Gardens and a new manager, Fred Smith of the famous Molineux Grounds, Wolverhampton was appointed to organise racing. The cycling track was re-laid by Mr J Broughton, who prepared the Lillie Bridge tracks, the new track was seven laps to the mile, 18 feet wide and banked to three feet. A new stand accommodating 3,000 people was also built.

The opening meeting of the new track was on Saturday and Monday September 29th & 31st 1889 and attracted 1,500 spectators. The professionals who rode in the Saturday meeting included R Howell, AH Robb and T English. Five of the top American women professional track racing cyclists toured Britain for four months from September 1889 to January 1890, and they raced at Victoria Gardens on 31st September 1889. The women were Louise Armaindo, Lottie Stanley, Jessie Woods, May Allen and Lillie Williams. There were 700 people present to watch Mondays racing, which included a men's two miles professional scratch race and a five miles women's scratch race. In this race Lottie Stanley defeated Louise Armaindo in 18m 10s.

Race meetings were held at the Ground in October and there were a series of races in November 1889. The following year races continued, but the manager of the Grounds, Carl Konow died suddenly on August 4th 1890 and bicycle racing seems to have stopped after this. The Northampton Brewery had bought Melbourne Gardens and built a new bicycle track there, so the much smaller Victoria Gardens site could be disposed of.

Northampton Brewery sold the Gardens by auction on June 3rd 1891 after the site was laid out for 51 building plots, each suitable for one house. The site was duly developed for housing in the area where Victoria Gardens now stands.

** The Northampton Brewery Company was first registered in 1887 and was run by its energetic managing director Samual Seckham. The company was very active and profitable, they purchased Victoria Gardens and Melbourne Gardens in Northampton, both of which had bicycle racing tracks.

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Maps    : National Library of Scotland