Northampton - Cricket Ground
Wantage Road : NN1 4PR
Northampton - Cricket Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland Northampton - Cricket Ground : Image credit Historic England Northampton County Cricket Club was formed in 1878 and the Northamptonshire County Cricket and Recreation Grounds Company was set up in 1885 and they rented 10 acres of land for £2,000 to build a cricket ground and bicycle track, for a period of 21 years at a peppercorn rent. The ground was built at a cost of £4,000 with the cricket pitch, a cinder bicycle track, 680 yards around and 15 feet wide, a pavilion, lawn tennis courts and a bowling green.

The Northampton and County Athletic Club was very active in promoting sports at the cricket ground and undertook to include bicycle races with the athletics. The first bicycle racing at the new ground was the Athletics Club sports series on Thursday evenings in June 1886, a one mile bicycle handicap race was included.

The Athletic Club held their annual sports on August 3rd 1886, with a very large attendance of over 5,000 people. There was a one mile bicycle handicap race, won by R Billson of Leicester BC and the easy winner of the one mile tricycle race was the Coventry rider FW Allard, who was the multiple British amateur tricycle champion. Admission to the sports cost 6d.

A Cycling Festival was held on Easter Monday 1887 with one and two miles amateur bicycle handicap races and a one mile professional handicap. Interestingly the amateur race winner's prize was five guineas but the professional winner received only £3 10s. After the events there was some clever exhibition wheeling by a one legged bicycle rider, followed by dancing to the Militia band. More bicycle racing followed at the Infirmary Sports in June and the annual Athletic Club sports in August 1887.

The Athletic Club sports and the Infirmary sports continued through the 1880s and 1890, the former attracted a crowd of 8,000 in 1888. The County Cricket Club started holding their sports on September 6th 1890 and included bicycle races. The Athletic Club sports incorporated the NCU (Northampton District) five miles Championship race in the 1890s.

The Athletic Club sports bicycle races were run off on a grass track from 1894, this was presumably because the cinder track was unfit for bicycle racing. Sixty tons of cinders were purchased by the cricket club in 1903 to ‘put the track in thorough order', but the bicycle races were still run on the grass track, although running races were on the cinder track.

Bicycle racing continued at the ground with the Hospital Sports meetings. The Police also held sports meetings there in 1907, Northampton Rovers CC held their club 5 miles handicap roadster race at the Hospital sports in 1909. The Hospital Sports was revived in 1912 after a lapse of two years and included the NCU local area half mile championship.

After the First World War ended, a Victory Sports meeting was held on August 4th 1919 with three bicycle races. The Hospital Sports were revived again in 1923 with cycle races which drew 8,000 spectators, but the Hospital Sports ran intermittently until the 1930 meeting on June 14th 1930, which was probably last cycle racing to be held at the ground.

The County Ground is still in use as the home of Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. The ground was also used by Northampton Town FC from 1897 to 1994. The cricket ground has been used for County Championship and Cricket World Cup matches.

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Photos : Historic England
Maps    : National Library of Scotland