Rochdale - Athletic Grounds

Milnrow Road : OL16 4AT Rochdale - Athletic Grounds : Map credit National Library of Scotland
Rochdale Athletic Club was formed in 1870 and in April 1871 they set up a new club ground adjoining the Rochdale cricket field at Milnrow Road (entrance near the toll bar). The first meeting to be held at the newly opened Rochdale Athletic Grounds was the Rochdale Athletics Festival on June 18th 1883. There were amateur and professional running races and a one mile bicycle race. By the following year, there were two bicycle events in the sports program, one and two miles handicap races.

There were further events at the athletic ground, and the Athletic News of October 2nd 1893 reported that a company called Rochdale Athletic Club and Grounds Company Limited had been registered to form "an athletic ground in Rochdale on the same lines as the M.A.C.* Ground at Fallowfield."

The new Rochdale Athletic Grounds was constructed in 1894, it was situated alongside the Oldham & Rochdale branch railway and accessed from Milnrow Road, which was probably where the previous athletics meetings took place. The ground was the home of Rochdale Athletic Club who re-formed in 1894 and Rochdale Hornets rugby league club also played there. The grounds were very modern, there was a cinder bicycle track, 3 laps to the mile which was banked 5ft 6in and an inner cinder running track of 400 yds. There was a grandstand for 1200 people, changing facilities for competitors, baths and a temperance bar. The opening meeting was held on June 9th 1894 and included bicycle events; one mile local handicap, half and two miles open handicap and a one mile open scratch race.

Sports meetings at the new track continued to be popular and in 1895, there were 6,000 spectators at the Whitsun two day meeting and there was another meeting on August 10th. Although the grounds remained popular for sports meetings, the number of bicycle races declined, in the May 13th 1899 sports, there were only 2 bicycle races on the 8 event card. In 1901, the track was reported to be 3½ laps to the mile, well banked and 9 yards wide.

The Rochdale Athletic Grounds Company was in financial difficulties around 1905.

There were a few events in the 1910's, except for the police sports, which on June 11th 1910 had a record entry of 1,000 and 10,000 spectators for the ½ mile handicap for policemen, ½ mile open handicap (63 entries) and 1 mile open handicap (44 entries). A crowd of 12,000 people watched the Rochdale County Police sports day on July 11th 1914. Rochdale Hornets purchased the ground in 1913. There seemed to be no more bicycle races on the Milnrow ground after 1914.

The athletic ground was used for speedway from 1928-30 and from 1970-71. There was greyhound racing at the ground from 1932-69 and stock car racing from 1970-72. Rochdale Hornets sold the ground to Morrison's for £2.6M who built a supermarket on the site.

*M.A.C. was the successful Manchester Athletics Club that built and operated Fallowfield Stadium.


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