Tunbridge Wells - Lower Ground - Nevill

Nevill Gate : TN2 5ES Tunbridge Wells - Lower Ground - Nevill : Image credit Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators Tunbridge Wells - Lower Ground - Nevill : Image credit Bluemantels CC
The Commons at Tunbridge Wells are areas of outstanding natural beauty that date back to the 13th century. The Higher Ground was used by Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club from 1839. Less than a mile north-west is the Lower Ground, which was used for cricket from 1850. Southborough Common further to the north-west was used for cricket from 1794.

The Easter Monday sports at Upper Ground moved to Lower Ground in 1892 and the date was changed to Whit Monday. The track used was 6 laps to the mile. The sports were organised by Tunbridge Wells Cycling Club and Harriers. The first sports meeting was held on Whit Monday 1892 and included six bicycle races for ordinaries and safeties, HH Griffin was the handicapper. By 1894, all the bicycle races were for safeties.

The Tunbridge Wells Cricket, Football and Athletic club was formed in 1895. A public company was set up to construct a new sports ground and they took out a 99 year lease at £65/annum on the Lower Ground from William Nevill, the Marquis of Abergavenny. A sum of £10,000 was spent on the sports ground which was encircled by a 3 laps to the mile cinder track. Football, tennis, hockey, archery, athletics and cycle racing were held at the ground.

The new athletic ground, known as Nevill Ground, was formally opened in 1898, with a Whit Monday sports meeting. There were plenty of bicycle races, the 1 mile open handicap race had 37 entries with six heats and there were open scratch races over ½ and 5 miles. Tunbridge Wells CC held their club handicap races over ½ and 1 mile and a 3 miles scratch race for the Club Challenge Cup. The 1900 Whit Monday meeting hosted the NCU (Sussex Centre) one mile Championship race.

The following year, the St John's Cycling Club's Easter meeting had to be held at Nevill ground because their previous venue, Skinners track, was too waterlogged. The event proved successful with 2,000 spectators.

Motor sports had been introduced into the sports by 1907 with three motor cycle races and only two bicycle races.

The county has held the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Week on the ground annually, despite a suffragette arson attack which destroyed the pavilion in 1913. the original pavilion was burnt down in 1913 during a protest by the suffragettes. The current structure, a near-identical replica of the original, dates from this period and bears a small scoreboard.

The sports meetings stopped in 1914, but they were revived on Whit Monday 1920, using a grass track of 4 laps to the mile. At this meeting B Bragg of Balham CC, won all the bicycle races - half and one mile handicap and one mile scratch.

There were some racing over the next two decades, including a Tunbridge Wells Cycling and Athletic Club meeting on Sept 14th 1927 and their mid-week event in March 1933 which included a two miles cycle race.

The newly formed Tunbridge Wells Albion CC started holding a lot of grass track meeting, mostly mid-week, from 1937 and this started a period of intense racing activity led by the club secretary Bob Lawrence. For the next three years, the Albion track races took place on both Lower and Higher Grounds.

The Albion re-formed after the war and once again, racing in Tunbridge Wells was revived, with several track meetings from 1946 to 1955, on both Nevill and Linden. The club also took an interest in bicycle polo. The last track meeting at Nevill was the Whit Monday 1951 event run by the Albion.

County cricket matches were played on Nevill from 1901 and continue to this day. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council acquired the freehold of the ground in 1946. Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club still use the ground in summer and Tunbridge Wells Hockey Club use it in winter. The cricket ground is frequently been described as the loveliest ground in England.

Tunbridge Wells - Lower Ground - Nevill : Image credit Nigel Chadwick Wiki Common
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Photos : Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators, Bluemantels CC, Nigel Chadwick Wiki Common