Northumberland - Seaton Delaval Astley Arms
Foreman's Row : NE25 0QG
Northumberland - Seaton Delaval  Astley Arms : Map credit National Library of Scotland Northumberland - Seaton Delaval  Astley Arms : Image credit Brian Townsley There were two pubs in Seaton Delaval, the Astley Arms and the Hastings Arms and they were both central to the social life of the village.

James Dawson was the landlord of the Astley Arms from 1876 to around 1900, Dawson was a sports lover and he ran sports events on a field adjoining the hotel, the sports included bicycle racing, quoits, fives, sparrow shooting, pigeon flying and bowling.** The Seaton Delaval flower show was held in Mr Dawson's field from 1884 to 1895, with a ball in the evening. Dawson's catering was legendary and he provided suppers for local sports teams, the brass band, the village social club and colliery workers clubs. Mr & Mrs Dawson ran a soup kitchen during the miners strike of 1886.

There was no bicycle track at Seaton Delaval, so the first bicycle racing took place on the road. Dawson ran a 4½ miles bicycle handicap race, which was concluded on August 24th 1878. The following month, Dawson took the second deposit of £5 for a March race between Tom Battinsby and R Bowman. The two well known local riders raced for £20 as-side and the ‘Championship of the North' over 11 miles on the turnpike road## on October 26th 1878. Both riders were on 54 inch machines and Battensby was the easy winner.

The first racing on a grass track was at a gala and sports day, held on July 19th 1879 and organised by the Ancient Order of Foresters. The event was held in a field near the Astley Arms. Bicycle races were very prominent, and in the one mile handicap, local scratch man Tom Battensby was beaten by J Noble, off 200 yards. The other bicycle races were the heats of the 4½ bicycle handicap race, the four heat winners were Bowman, Roberts, Smith and Weeks, all of Cramlington. A large marquee served tea and there was a ball in the evening. The final of the race was held a fortnight later, and a crowd of 1,000 spectators were present to see long marker William Weeks beat the two of his old opponents R Bowman and Robert Roberts.

James Dawson was an active support of local cycling. He was president of the local Seaton Delaval Astley Touring Club which was formed on 4th June 1890 and had the Astley Arms as their headquarters. He took the deposits from local riders to set up match races and on 30th June 1883 William Park of Byker and John Battensby of Seaton Delaval made a second deposit of £6 a-side for their £40 match to be run at Waller's Byker grounds. New Hartley BC held their AGM at the Seaton Arms 1883

Astley Touring Club held a two miles open handicap race on July 26th 1890, there were sixty entries and several hundred spectators. The location was not given. There was another club handicap race on September 6th 1890

At the Seaton Delaval Flower Show on September 13th 1890, attended by 2,000 people, there were some sports, including a one mile bicycle open handicap race, held in a field near Seaton Delaval railway station. Bicycle racing was not included in the flower show sports, after the first year.

Local riders had complained for a long time that there was no proper, made up track in Seaton Delaval, which was surprising considering that the top rider Tom Battensby and his brothers were from the village, the local Astley Touring Club had to hold their race meetings at Holywell bicycle grounds. At the club's annual gathering in December 1891, Mr Dawson, the club president, commented that it was regrettable that there was no track in Seaton Delaval and he would donate £25 if suitable land could be found for one.

Seaton Delaval Hall was the venue for a large meeting of 800 bicyclists on Sunday May 24th 1891. Riders from all around the area converged on Seaton Delaval and local mining village bicycle clubs had a very large representation. The cyclists assembled at the gates of the hall and rode in procession down the long tree lined avenue, ringing their bells, blowing bugles and horns whilst being watched by over a thousand people. Outside the hall there was a sermon, readings and hymns, followed by a collection which raised over £14 to endow a "Cyclists Cot" at the sick children's hospital. These church parades became massively popular in the early 1890s in Northumberland.

Blyth News on 20th June 1891 reported "A few days ago six members of Seaton Delaval Astley waited upon the manager of the colliery to ask permission to lay down a bicycle track in a field directly opposite the Astley Arms Inn." They were promised an answer within a week. The club was asked why they didn't amalgamate with the Hastings Hartley Club, who had a track that was not used. The club responded that when the track opened, Hastings would not let them use the track, but they now wished to join Astley. Presumably there was still some bad feeling between the clubs.

It was unusual for a place like Seaton Delaval to have no track at this time, but strangely there was a report in the Morpeth Herald on June 11th 1892 that Seaton Delaval ABC held an evening meeting on June 8th 1892 "on the track at Seaton Delaval". There was a half mile handicap race, run off in six heats, which was won by the scratch man G Murray of Morpeth BC.

There was no further track racing reported at Seaton Delaval until September 17th 1949, when there was a Penny farthing bicycle race, organised by Seaton Delaval amateur football club. This was the last track racing at Seaton Delaval.

The Hastings Arms Inn in Seaton Delaval was built in the 1840s and was run by Thomas Harper from 1877 to 1889. The Hastings Arms, like the Astley Arms, was a focal point for the community and Harper played an import part in village life. The Hastings Arms hosted all kinds of lectures, meetings, musical gatherings, concerts, suppers and the Christmas ball. The village Floral and Horticultural Society annual show, the Leek show and bird shows were held there. The Hastings hosted public auctions and inquests following deaths and a soup kitchen was operated during miners strikes.

Harper organised sports on a field, adjacent to the hotel, which was owned by the colliery. The first annual gala and sports were organised on July 30th 1882 by the Seaton Delaval White Rose Cricket Club and the sports included running, quoits and a cricket match, but not bicycle races. There does not appear to have been bicycle racing on the Hastings Arms field at any time.

Harper promoted bicycle races on the road, his first contests were a one mile amateur race and a two miles professional race, using the turnpike road from the Hastings Arms to Avenue Head (the entrance gates to Seaton Delaval hall) and back. The heats were run off on 26th August 1883 with the finals a week later, the race attracted a good crowd. The professional race was won by R Stephenson of Cramlington off scratch and the amateur by J Stephenson.

Harper promoted another one mile amateur handicap on the turnpike road, with twenty three entries on 30th August 1885. The following year there was another one mile open amateur handicap race, which took place on May 22nd 1886, from the Hastings Arms with crowds now in their hundreds. Two days later, the finals were held, but there was a dispute and after a re-run the following week, W Wright of Seaton Delaval rode in fine style to win the race and collect 25 shillings prize money.

A one mile amateur road handicap was held on June 9th 1888, promoted by R Gibson of the New Victoria Inn and William Mood of the Prince Albert Inn, Seaton Terrace. The final was held two days later and won by H Banks of New Hartley. On July 7th 1888 Thomas Harper organised the heats for a one mile amateur bicycle road handicap race. The racing was followed by a match between Thomas Harper's pony Polly and W Simpson a bicyclist from Hartley. William Harper promoted a one mile open handicap race, with heats on October 18th 1890 and the final a week later, the location was not stated

Harper does not seem to have promoted any bicycle racing on a track, what track racing there was in Seaton Delaval was on the field near the Astley Arms.

The Astley Arms on the outskirts of the village, is now known as the Keel Row pub and the Hastings Arms is still a popular pub, in the centre of the village.

** Outdoor or potshare bowling - the aim was to throw a stone ball over a course, of about a mile in distance, depending on where the match was taking place. Two men would take it in turns to bowl with the first one to cross the finishing line being the winner. It was a bit like a very simple game of golf without the clubs or the holes. The sport was hugely popular and gambling was an important factor in its popularity.

An indoor bowling alley was installed at the Astley Arms in 1886 and matches held there, for money with betting. Again, it was very popular with crowds of 600 reported.

## The turnpike road ran from North Shields to Morpeth, through Seaton Delaval, it is probable that the race was run through the village to Seaton Terrace and beyond, then back again, as most people in the village would be able to see the race.

Northumberland - Seaton Delaval  Astley Arms : Image credit Newcastle Chronicle Live
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Photos : Brian Townsley, Newcastle Chronicle Live
Maps    : National Library of Scotland