Portsmouth - The Mountbatten Centre

Alexandra Park - Stamshaw : PO2 9QA Portsmouth - The Mountbatten Centre : Image credit On the Wight Portsmouth - The Mountbatten Centre : Image credit Andy Connelly
In 1888 Portsmouth Corporation bought land at North End to develop a recreation ground. There was a cinder bicycle track there, built by Percy Boulnois, who was the Portsmouth Regional Engineer. Boulnois describes this project "Among other miscellaneous work which I carried out was the laying out and planting of a large Recreation Ground at the North End, which involved the construction of a bicycle racing track, of which very few had then been constructed in this country. At one end I was obliged to make a rather sharp curve, about 21 chains radius, and my difficulty was to estimate the correct elevation for the outer edge of the slope. In the end I took a tricycle as my gauge, and a speed of 25 miles an hour, and worked the slope on that basis, with the result that the slope, when finished, looked far too steep, though subsequent events showed that, if anything, I had under estimated it. "

The cycle track opened in 1900 and the area around it was later developed as Alexandra Park, which opened in 1907. The 586 yards asphalt track is D shaped with 12 degree banking and the track is 24 feet wide.

The Portsmouth North End CC organised races at Alexandra Park in the 1900's including an August Bank holiday meet. The Portsmouth Mercury held evening track meets and in 1900 Clarence Brickwood Kingsbury won the mile Club Championship. The North End also held their club championships there in 1900.

CB Kingsbury, now with Portsmouth North End, rode at the 1908 Olympics and won two gold medals, in the team pursuit and the 20km race. From 1907 to 1912 he won all national championships from ¼ to 50 miles, and competed in many world championships. In 1910 he won 33 first class scratch races.

The Isle of Wight County Press of June 12th 1909 advertises "The National Amateur Cycling Championships open to the world" at the Alexandra Park track, North End, Portsmouth on Saturday June 26th 1909. The races were ¼ mile English Championship (holder Vic Johnson, Olympic and World champion), 1 mile English Championship (holder CB Kingsbury, Olympic and British Empire champion) and 5 miles English Championship (holder Ben Jones, Olympic champion). The adverts for the meet state that the track has been specially widened by the Portsmouth Corporation for the meeting.

The August Bank Holiday meet of 1910 again saw a world class field with Bill Bailey of the Polytechnic winning the ½ mile and Bailey again winning the mile from Leon Meredith. Bailey won the 5 miles scratch race and Meredith lowered his 5 miles motor paced record to 8 min 48.6 sec.

Racing at the Alexandra Park continued throughout WWI with women's racing proving quite popular. After the finish of 1948 Olympics, Portsmouth staged a major track meeting which attracted an international field of Olympic riders.

The NCU Racing Handbook of 1955 shows several Portsmouth and Gosport mid-week track league meetings and open meetings at Whit and August Bank Holidays. The Portsmouth Alexandra Park Track League, which consisted of nine clubs, was active in the 1960's.

The Mountbatten Centre, which the cycle track forms part of, was opened in 1979 and extended to a leisure centre in 1983. There are facilities for tennis, badminton, squash, a gym and a pool.

After the death of racing cyclist Richard Phillips-Schofield during a race at the Mountbatten Centre in 2014, all racing there was stopped and British Cycling banned all riding on the track, including training. New perimeter fencing was installed in 2016 by Arbus and the track re-opened and training and racing resumed.,

Alexandra Park is used by Plymouth Dreadnoughts American football team and there is a running track inside the cycle track. Racing at the Mountbatten Centre is currently organised by Racing Club Omega. This video shows a juniors race at the Mountbatten Centre.

Safety barriers: After the death of Richard Phillips-Schofield, British Cycling introduced risk assessment for tracks and banned racing on tracks that failed. Several tracks failed their risk assessment because the perimeter fencing was not up to modern standards. After the accident fencing was replaced at the Mountbatten Centre, Preston Park and Carmarthen Park.

Portsmouth News reported the death at the time "PC Richard Phillips-Schofield died after he was involved in a 35mph multi-bike pile up at the Mountbatten Centre velodrome on March 9, 2014. The inquest jury at Portsmouth Coroner's Court heard from Steven Bell, Portsmouth City Council's enforcement officer who investigated the site. Mr Bell said that the safety of the track had been called into question following Sport England's guidance. The Mountbatten Centre did not meet the design guidance regarding the perimeter fence. Mr Bell went on to explain the guidance from Sport England was only introduced in 2003 and was not law."

Portsmouth - The Mountbatten Centre : Image credit classiclightweights.co.uk Portsmouth - The Mountbatten Centre : Image credit RS Watts Portsmouth - The Mountbatten Centre : Image credit RS Watts
Refs     : [105] [508] [p]
Photos : On the Wight, Andy Connelly, classiclightweights.co.uk, RS Watts