Birmingham - Royal Vauxhall Gardens

Duddeston Mill Road : B7 4ST Birmingham - Royal Vauxhall Gardens : Image credit Lost Wolverhampton
The name ‘Vauxhall Gardens' was used around Wolverhampton from the 1700's for pleasure gardens. Duddeston Hall pleasure grounds were located on Vauxhall Road (B7 4HU), the grounds closed in 1865 and some land was retained by the Galton Arms, which was sometimes known as the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. However, neither of these venues ran bicycle races and the first Vauxhall Gardens location to promote bicycle races was situated on the Cannock Road.

Mr J Stirk, a publican of the Alhambra Spirit Vaults, Market Street, Wolverhampton, opened the Vauxhall Gardens in 1860 as a running ground. Vauxhall Gardens was on Cannock Road, about 2½ miles from Wolverhampton. Various sports were held at the Gardens and bicycle racing took place from 1869.

The first bicycle race at the Gardens was the Wolverhampton Velocipede Club meeting on July 27th 1869. The Birmingham Daily Post reports that "The walks of the garden are in a circle; and seven times round makes a distance of two miles." The Staffordshire Advertiser reported that ‘there was a very large assemblage...there were three races - the Velocipede Derby, the Carlton Cup and a slow race." The Velocipede Derby was an open race was over two miles and the Carlton Cup was for Club members and the nine riders raced over 1 mile 150 yards.

Mr Edward Carter of Vauxhall Gardens obtained a drinks licence on August 26th 1869 which must have helped to popularise the future of bicycle race meetings at the venue.

On the evening of October 2nd 1869, five young riders were returning home to Wolverhampton after training at Vauxhall Gardens, one of the riders swerved to avoid a pedestrian and was crushed by a waggon and died shortly after.

Bicycle racing at the Gardens continued through the 1870's and late in the decade, J Keen (happy Jack) made regular appearances there. The meetings seemed successful with a crowd of 2,000 reported for the St James Bicycle Club event on August 27th 1877. A further meeting was held on 27th December 1877 with a mile handicap race. Despite the bad weather, a thousand people attended with sixty riders competing.

The Gardens had a new proprietor in 1878 and the Sporting Life reported on his first race meeting, which was held on July 20th 1878 with a handicap event that attracted 33 riders, including scratch man John Keen. There were sixteen heats and the finals were held two days later in front of 2,000 spectators. The winner was J Rolfe of Birmingham off 120 yards for a first prize of £20. The time was 3 min 3 sec and the course was described a "nearly a quarter mile round and sufficiently level."

At the Wolverhampton licensing session on August 22nd 1878, it was stated that the drinks licence at the gardens lapsed, which probably accounted for the decline in bicycle racing there.

By 1880 the gardens had new management and Sporting Life of 21st April 1880 carried an advertisement "Messrs. J Mac and R James will give £14 10s to be run for on Whitsun Saturday and Monday, May 15th and 17th in a one mile bicycle handicap". "NB these grounds are now under entirely new management, no club being connected with them, and the track is in splendid condition". The advert was repeated for one and five miles handicap races, which were held on August 14th and 16th 1880. This was the last bicycle racing event at Vauxhall Gardens.


Refs     : [130] [469] [470] [p]
Photos : Lost Wolverhampton