In 1885 Michael Ellison leased a piece of land from the Duke of Norfolk and established a cricket pitch, which was used for local and county matches. Football was also played at Bramhall Lane from 1862 and was the home of Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world, formed in 1857. The name Bramall (no aich) comes from the Bramall family who owned land in the area.
The first bicycle race at Bramall Lane was on June 3rd 1873, organised by the Garrick Football Club and held on a 3 laps to the mile cinder track around the cricket field. The 20 feet wide track was fairly square with banked corners that annoyed the cricket club because riders taking the corners pushed cinders onto the pitch. The bicycle race at the meeting was billed as a "Grand Bicycle Handicap Race" and was the only bicycle race amongst fifteen other athletic events.
The following year saw Bramall Lane put on several bicycle races, and it became one of the foremost bicycle racing venues in the North of England. The event promoter was Mr Cooper, the landlord of the White Bear Inn in Sheffield, who was the father of bicycle crack' Fred Cooper.
On the 25th April 1874, 5,000 people paid to watch a 1 mile bicycle handicap race for £20 first prize. There was also a 1 mile scratch race between John Keen and Fred Cooper for the "championship of the world" and a prize of a £100 gold chronometer. Entries for the handicap race were so numerous that there were 21 heats and the event spread over two days. Keen and Cooper were the fastest one mile riders in the country and had many match sprints for large prizes. The next day's event drew an even larger crowd of 9,000 to watch Keen and Cooper, with the local man Cooper winning by a yard to tumultuous cheering.
After the event, The Sheffield Telegraph reported "George Brown and John Fury, described as obtaining their livelihood by their wits, were sent to gaol for three months each, for gambling with dice at the bicycle race at the Bramall Lane Cricket Ground on Monday afternoon."
Another event on the 29th August 1874 was almost a repeat of the 25th April event for the one mile "championship". This time Keen and Cooper were joined by George Waller, William Cann, Shelton and J Meere of Paris (probably James Moore) - a world class field.
Racing continued to be popular at Bramall Lane through the 1870's and 80's, although the opening of Sheaf House track in 1879, virtually next door, did affect it.
Sharrow Cycling Club was established in 1887, making it the oldest cycling club in Sheffield still in existence. The cycling clubs in Sheffield set up a Sheffield Cyclists Charity Tournament' which was to be a track meeting at Bramall Lane. The first edition of this annual event was on Monday August 20, 1888 and was a great success with 14,000 spectators, 173 competitors and a full card of bicycle races. This helped to improve the popularity of Bramall Lane. The Tournament was again successful; in 1891 attendance was between 15,000 and 20,000. Pneumatic tyres started to make their appearance at this meeting.
The Tournament of 1892 launched the career of Elijah Scott who won the one mile race in front of 25,000 spectators. Elijah went on to be the English 25 mile Champion at Fallowfield in 1895 and ride in the English team at the world championships in Cologne later in the year.
Throughout the 1890's the Sharrow CC held their Club Sports at Bramall Lane, which often included the NCU (S Yorks and N Derbyshire) ten miles championship. There seems to have been a lot of club racing at Bramall Lane in the late 1890's but not many top class open race meetings.
At the Sharrow CC annual dinner in December 1901, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported "no track racing on account of the track being done away with at Bramall Lane." The same newspaper reported the death of John "Happy Jack" Keen from Surbiton, who had raced many times in Sheffield. Keen, aged 52, died of tuberculosis and in spite of riding many big money match races, he fell "upon evil days, ended up in such straitened circumstances that an appeal is being made on behalf of his widow."
The Charity Tournament in 1910 was reported to have taken place on a grass track. Nevertheless the sports were well supported with 117 competitors. By now the annual Charity Tournament had become a Sheffield institution with attendances of 10,000 not being uncommon. The Charity Tournament event continued up to 1930.
Bramall Lane is still the home of Sheffield United and is the oldest major stadium in the world still to be hosting professional football matches. It was, until recently, a three sided pitch, which hosted international football and Test cricket. The last Yorkshire cricket match took place at Bramall Lane in August 1973, after which the South Stand was constructed on the cricket pitch and the football ground became enclosed.