Torquay - Recreation Ground

Rathmore Road : TQ2 6NX Torquay - Recreation Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland
The Torquay Recreation Ground Company was formed in 1888 with the intention of providing sports facilities on a six acre site near the railway station at a rent of £52 per annum on a 99 year lease. The company raised £1,100 in share capital and built the track at a cost of £350. The banked cinder track was 440 yards around, 20 feet wide with an extra 4 feet width at the finish.

The two day opening bicycle race meeting for the Recreation Ground was held on June 7 & 8th 1889. The small crowd on the first day may have been due to Gladstone visiting the town that day. On the first day, the handicap races were 1 mile, 5 miles (in which safeties were barred) and 2 miles safety. The second day drew a bigger crowd of 2-3,000 to watch the five bicycle races. The race of the day was the Grand five miles scratch race (safeties barred) for the Ladies of Torquay Plate.

The Torquay Times of August 9th 1889 reported on a track meeting "Torquay people are beginning to realise the advantage of being possessed of such a splendid cycle track and admirable enclosure for athletic sports as the Recreation Ground, near the railway station." The 500 spectators watched three bicycle races; a 2 miles ordinary (Penny farthing), a 2 miles safety and a 3 miles combined (both machine types).

There was a two day meeting on Whit Monday and Tuesday 1890, which resulted in a loss of £30. The Torquay Cycling Club held a mid-week meeting on July 2nd 1890 with 1 and 2 miles handicap races. The club championship was decided with a 3 miles scratch race, won by H Mayne in 9min 50sec.

A big cycle race and athletics meeting was held on August 4th 1890. A cycle race meeting was also held at Paignton (3.6 miles away) at the same time. The Recreation Ground Company was severely criticised for lack of commercial ability which resulted in Torquay people travelling to Paignton to watch sports, rather than attending their local meetings. In 1890 there was criticism of the track in the local press, that the track was in poor condition and has not been rolled or watered.

The 5th Devon Regiment held their sports on the Recreation Ground on July 8th 1891 and bicycle races were included. Riders from the regiment's Cyclist Section competed and the bicycle events were one and three miles handicap races. The crowd 1,000 was quite poor because of the bad weather. Torquay track racing continued at the recreation ground through the 1890's but was gradually losing popularity.

Torquay Albion FC held their sports on May 22nd 1899. The bicycle events were 1, 2 and 3 miles handicap races and these were all won by local riders from the Torre Rovers Cycling Club. The Torquay Athletic Club held their athletics and cycling sports on August 7th 1899 using a grass track at Plainmoor (TQ1 3PS), there were three bicycle races.

The Torquay Recreation Ground Company was voluntarily wound up in 1900 because it was losing money. The liquidators offered the remainder of the 99 year lease for sale. The loss of the recreation ground stopped bicycle track racing in Torquay for a few years.

The Torquay Polytechnic Club held a sports meeting on 20th May 1905, the attendance was disappointing. There were ½ and one mile bicycle races. Bicycle racing seemed to peter out at the recreation ground and there is no record of any racing after 1910.

The recreation ground is still in use, it has been the home of Torquay Cricket Club since 1926 and Torquay RFC also play there.


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