Saffron Walden - Bridge End

Castle Street : CB10 1BE Saffron Walden - Bridge End : Map credit National Library of Scotland
The Saffron Walden Athletic sports were held from around 1878. The earliest meeting at which bicycle racing took place was 1880. The sports generally were in the meadow adjoining Bridge End Gardens* with the kind permission of Mr W Murray Tuke. Mr Tuke was a Quaker, a banker and a philanthropist. Bicycle events were held on a grass track, ‘five laps and a few yards to the mile'. The sports were held annually at August Bank Holiday. Bicycle events were over one and two miles with open races and local races for residents with a five miles radius.

The first event was run Saffron Walden Football Club in 1880 and it was reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle of August 6th. In the 1 mile handicap, there were six starters and the prizes were; a clock, a Cooper's hub lamp and a bicycle alarm. The other bicycle events were a 2 miles scratch race and a slow bicycle race. At the following year's sports, there was a crowd of 1,500 people. It was reported that the rough grass track was difficult for bicycle races because of the hill on the course and in the 1 mile race WH Pugrum fell and fractured his arm.

From 1882, a Saffron Walden Athletic sports committee was set up with a special fund to finance the annual event. The sports ran in approximately the same format through the 1880's in Tuke's field.

The Saffron Walden and North Essex Athletic Club held their bank holiday sports meeting on August 4th 1890. There were 15 events, including 4 bicycle races which were one mile and two miles handicap races both open and local. Four thousand spectators attended and admission to the ground was 6d and to the enclosure 2/6d. The 1890 sports were the last time that Bridge End was used, after that time, North Deer Park was the sports venue, on land owned by Lord Braybrooke.

On Whit Monday May 18th 1891, the Saffron Walden Amalgamated Friendly Societies' held a Grand Fete and Gala in the North Deer Park, lent by Lord Braybrooke. The crowd of 5,000 people were entertained by fireworks, a balloon ascent, a contortionist, burlesque, clowns and jugglers. The bicycle events were one and two miles handicap races. The evening concluded with fireworks and a cinematograph display. The sports continued at North Deer Park through the 1900's.

In 1909 the sports were held with the annual cottager's flower show at Temple Park overlooking Audley End Mansion, again by courtesy of Lord Braybrooke. The bicycle events were the usual 1 and 2 miles races, which were both won by a B Burton. In the following year, a boys under 16 years old one mile race was added.

1910 seems to be the last year that bicycle races were held in Saffron Walden.

* Bridge End Gardens were set out from 1828 on a seven acre site at the edge of Saffron Walden. In 1918 the council took over responsibility for their management. In 1987 the gardens were listed by English Heritage II*, from 2002 they were restored and are now open to the public.


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