Oldham - Oldham Bicycle Grounds

Honeywell Lane : OL8 2JP Oldham - Oldham Bicycle Grounds : Map credit National Library of Scotland
Oldham Bicycle Club was formed in September 1877 and had 35 members in 1881. The Wheel World describes the club's uniform as a dark blue knickerbocker suit, there was no joining fee but subs were 10s 6d. The club headquarters was the Friendship Hotel grounds, Honeywell Lane and club possessed "the finest private grounds in the north."

The Oldham BC set up a bicycle racing track at Honeywell Lane in 1878, there was a cinder track, five laps to the mile which was circular in shape. The location was described as the grounds of the Friendship Hotel.*

The opening meeting of the new ground was on September 21st 1878 and 2,000 people went to watch. There were four handicap events, a 1 mile novices race, a 1 mile club race and two open races. The open events were over 1 mile, won by CD Allen and over 3 miles won by T Wood of Manchester. Two months later, the two open winners returned for a two miles match race, which Allen won.

On 1879 April 12th & 14th the sports meeting included a one mile bicycle handicap and a one mile novices bicycle handicap. There were also two running races and £40 in prize money. Later in the year on May 17th there was a 1 mile novices handicap and a 10 miles handicap, which was won by T Wood of Manchester in 35m 25s. Wood rode a 52 inch Rudge machine.

On August 2nd 1879, the Grounds stages a 1 mile race for the ‘North of England Championship', a 2 miles handicap and a ½ one-legged bicycle race.

The Good Friday meeting on March 26th & 27th 1880 was Oldham BC's 6th athletic sports and they included professional running, a walking race, 1 and 2 miles bicycle handicap races and a 5 miles members handicap race. There were 3,000 spectators. The track was described as "hard as a board" for the 29th May 1880 twenty five miles scratch race for the ‘North of England Championship'. From the 13 competitors, the winner was R Darlington of Crewe, who won by 3 laps in 1h 30m 2s, taking a 25 guinea cup and £6 prize money

At the September 11th 1880 meeting there were various events including running and boxing, but only one bicycle race, a one mile handicap. This meeting was the last time that the Bicycle Grounds were used and there is no reference to the Grounds after this date.

After having so many bicycle races in the first two years, it was unusual for the track to disappear so quickly and there probably was some problem, such as financial difficulties or club politics. Another good cinder track at Tong Lane, opened in Oldham at this time, which may have contributed to the demise of the Bicycle Grounds.

In April 1883, J Chadwick, the captain of Oldham BC, wrote to the Athletic News announcing that the club ‘did not countenance Sunday riding'. The racing activity of Oldham BC reduced in the 1880's and the club seemed to fizzle out after this.

* The exact location of the Oldham Bicycle Grounds is not known. It was always advertised as being located on Honeywell Lane, Oldham. The Wheel World describes the track as the Friendship Hotel grounds, but there is no record of a hotel of that name on Honeywell Lane. The track probably existed for a couple years from 1878, so is not shown on OS maps. The most likely location of the track is on Honeywell Lane, near the Phoenix Bowling Club.


Refs     : [124] [199] [p]
Maps    : National Library of Scotland