Birmingham - Smethwick - Cape Hill

Kelvin Grove : B66 4PL Birmingham - Smethwick - Cape Hill : Map credit National Library of Scotland Birmingham - Smethwick - Cape Hill : Image credit Brewery History Society
Mitchells & Butlers Brewery was formed by the merger of two breweries in 1898, who then operated from a seven acre site at Cape Hill in Smethwick. A small cricket ground was built on the brewery site and bicycle racing was held on a cinder track at the ground from 1899.

The first bicycle racing at Cape Hill was the Mitchell's and Butler's annual sports on July 8th 1899, at which there were 500 competitors and 2,500 spectators. The one mile open scratch race for the M&B Challenge Cup was won by Hugh Vallance of Wolverhampton. The Birmingham Daily Mail reported that this was the second year that he had won the cup, so got to keep it, but there is no record of a M&B sports meeting in 1898. The Birmingham Daily Post reported on the event and effectively described the race as a fix and called for an official investigation. The NCU duly held a meeting the next month and declared the result void.

The annual sports of the M&B Cricket and Athletics Club took place at Cape Hill on July 7th 1900. The bicycle events were again a 1 mile handicap race and a 1 mile scratch race for the M&B Challenge Cup and there were 3,000 spectators. The M&B annual sports were held for the next fifteen years and normally included two bicycle races. There were other athletic sports held at Cape Hill including the Midland Counties Amateur Cross-Country Association meetings which usually had half and one mile bicycle handicap races. Attendance at these meetings varied, but could be as high as 5,000.

There were several meetings at Cape Hill in 1914 with bicycle races, on Good Friday and the M&B annual sports on August 1st. The big sports event of the year was the Birmingham Charity Sports on June 20th, the event was switched from Aston to Cape Hill because of repairs at the Aston track. There was a ‘massive entry' for the sports and the bicycle racing program included a 2 lap pursuit match, which was won by local rider Dennis Hodgetts.

M&B again held their annual sports on April 2nd 1915 with half and one mile bicycle handicap races. The Midlands Athletics and Cycling Club meeting on 19th June was probably the last time that bicycle races were held at Cape Hill.

Mitchells & Butlers expanded the site to 90 acres and opened a new sports ground in 1930, a little distance from the old cricket ground, at Portland Road and this later became the Edgebaston Foundation ground. The ground is now used by Warwickshire County Cricket Club as a home for their Second XI and youth teams. The original Cape Hill brewery closed in 2002 and the brewery and sports ground site was bought by Persimmon Homes who built around 1,000 houses in the area around Montague Road.

Birmingham - Smethwick - Cape Hill : Image credit Wiki Commons Birmingham - Smethwick - Cape Hill : Image credit Cycling magazine
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Photos : Brewery History Society, Wiki Commons, Cycling magazine
Maps    : National Library of Scotland