Portsmouth - East Hants Cricket Ground

Clarenden Road : PO5 3SB Portsmouth - East Hants Cricket Ground : Image credit Hampshire Cricket History Portsmouth - East Hants Cricket Ground : Image credit Wiki Commons
The East Hants Cricket Ground has a long history from the 1850's until 1873 when the last cricket match was played there. The ground was sometimes known as the East Hants Recreation Ground.

The Hampshire Telegraph of May 28th 1870 reported that there was to be a bicycle race at the cricket ground, between "Mr H Vosper, engineer and bicycle maker, Grigg Street Southsea and Professor Brown, the champion bicycle rider, for £15 a side." There were four to five hundred spectators for the race of 4 laps. Vosper had 10 yards start, but Brown was the better rider, only for him to stumble, enabling Vosper to pass him and win.

The Southsea Bicycle Club was formed in 1875 with their headquarters at the East Hants Cricket Ground, their intention was to build a cinder track at the ground. The new shale track was duly constructed and measured about 480 yards around. The first racing on the new track was the Portsmouth Bicycle Club meeting on Easter Monday 1875, the successful event included half, one and two miles races and a slow bicycle race.

The popularity of the cinder track is shown by the large number of bicycle races in 1875. There were meetings on19th and 21st July, on August 9th David Stanton, the famous 6 day rider, met Mons Thuillet, the French Champion, for a match race. Thuillet raced there again on September 13th against William McCann ‘Champion of the North', from Sheffield.

The Portsmouth Evening News of July 27th 1878 reported "Great bicycle contest. The contest between Keen and six other well-known bicyclists takes place on Monday, and will no doubt attract a large number of visitors to the East Hants Cricket Ground. There will also be an exhibition of some novel and clever feats with the iron horse."

Electric lighting was used for the first time in Portsmouth at the ground on November 28th 1878 for an athletics and bicycle race meeting. There were four lamps with electricity produced by a Siemen's generator, driven by a 5 hp engine. There were also four battery lamps, each powered by a Benson 50 cell battery. The lighting equipment came from Southampton and filled three railway trucks and need five hours to set up.

Racing at the ground continued to be popular in 1879 with a meeting on Whit Monday and Portsmouth BC held monthly meetings with a series of three miles handicap races. There was also an inter-club five miles contest on September 4th between Chichester and Portsmouth Cycling Clubs. The race was run off in heats and George Lacey Hillier* ensured that his Chichester club won the contest.

On February 26th 1881, there was a match race, for £5 a side, between bicyclist A Evans (Hampshire champion) and runner S McLennan (Army champion), Evans riding 10 miles and McLennan running 6 miles. McLennan ran away with the race, winning by 2½ laps. Evans had a match race against Bradley Keen the following year for £20, Evans won.

Portsmouth Grammar School arranged to rent the cricket ground in summer 1881. By 1883, the ground was referred to as "old East Hants Cricket Ground", the new name being the "Games Ground of Portsmouth Grammar School." The last bicycle race at the ground was a 2 miles local riders handicap in the Portsmouth Harriers meeting on September 29th 1883.

In 1889, housing was built over the Recreation Ground in the area around Taswell Road. The nearby Wimbledon Park survived because the area was too boggy.

* George Lacey Hillier was a national cycling champion over all distances in 1881, he also won international races. In 1891, he initiated the construction of the Herne Hill Velodrome. Hillier wrote several books on cycling, his most famous being the Cycling volume for the Badminton Library series in 1887.


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Photos : Hampshire Cricket History, Wiki Commons