St. Albans - Clarence Park

Clarence Road : AL1 4NF St. Albans - Clarence Park : Image credit St Albans City F.C. History and Archives website St. Albans - Clarence Park : Image credit Google maps
Clarence Park and Recreation Ground was constructed on ground donated to St Albans City Council by Sir Blundell Maple, of the Maples furniture company. Maple also paid for the laying out of the park and grounds, the total cost to the donor being around £20,000. The 16 acres Recreation Ground was officially opened on July 23rd 1894. The ground had facilities for football, cricket, lawn tennis and tracks for running and bicycle racing. The ‘well banked' cinder cycle track was 2½ laps to the mile, one of the largest tracks in the country.

The first bicycle racing at Clarence Park was at the St Albans Cricket Club 26th annual sports that were held on August 6th 1894 and attracted a crowd of around 10,000 people. The bicycle races were a 1 mile member's handicap for Hertfordshire residents and ½ and 2 miles open handicap. The top cycling event was the NCU (London Centre) 1 mile championship which was won by T Osborn of the Poly in 2 min 39 sec after a ‘crawl' until the last lap. The meeting made a profit of £77 7s 5d but it was reported that the iron posts and rope around the track were ‘totally insufficient to resist the pressure of the crowd' and strong oak posts were installed.

The August Bank Holiday sports meeting turned into an annual event, with ½ and 1 mile handicap races and a 5 miles scratch race becoming regular features on the program. The one mile NCU (London Centre) championship was often held at this meeting.

The North Roads CC held club races at Clarence Park. On October 13th 1894, they held a 50 miles scratch race and sealed handicap. The event was tandem paced and there were nine starters, watched by 2,000 spectators. The winner was TG King in 2 hrs 30 min 56 sec. On June 10th 1899 they held a 100 mile race, the race was again tandem paced, each rider providing their own pacing team.

The annual race for the Clarence Cup and 10 miles Championship of Hertfordshire was held on August 14th 1895. A lap prize was given to deter dawdling and the race was won by HC Sandy of Watford Wheelers in 28 min 8.8 sec.

The track was re-made in 1896 and advertisements for the Whit Monday meeting announced "Opening of the new cycle track at Clarence Park, 2⅔ laps to the mile, well banked, Smart's Patent Surface. It is not known if the track was compacted or reinforced before the new surface was applied.

Mid-week club and open evening race meetings were held at Clarence Park. In August 1897, a meeting was organised for the 10 miles Championship of Hertfordshire. St Albans Athletic Association held their Whit Monday sports in 1898 with ½ and 1 mile handicap bicycle races, a 1 mile handicap for local riders and a 5 miles scratch race for the Grand Silver Challenge Prize, weighing 60 ounces. The Whit Monday sports became an annual event.

The Luton Times of July 13th 1900 commented that the Kingsdale CC used the track for a club race, followed by a meal. There were to be 150-200 people but they were told by the St Albans Council that no alcohol would be allowed. The newspaper commented "I hear the Clarence track does not pay. No wonder."

St Albans Hospital Grand Athletics, Cycling and Motor sports were held on August 7th 1905. The four bicycle races included a 5 miles open scratch race, but unfortunately ‘several rather bad smashes occurred, all in the one mile open event'. There was also a 10 miles motorcycle open handicap event.

The Whit Monday and August Bank holiday meetings continued up to 1908, after which bicycle racing at Clarence Park seems to have stopped. Clarence Park is still in use and has facilities for cricket, hockey, bowls and croquet and is also the home of St Albans City Football Club.


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Photos : St Albans City F.C. History and Archives website, Google maps