Weston Super Mare - Recreation Grounds

Sunnyside Road North : BS23 3PA Weston Super Mare - Recreation Grounds : Map credit National Library of Scotland
Bicycle racing at Weston-Super-Mare took place at the Recreation Ground on Sunnyside Road North. Some events in the early 1870's refer to the venue as "a field near the railway station" and "at the rear of Ellenborough Crescent" but these probably refer to where the Recreation Ground is now.

The first bicycle race in Weston-Super-Mare was the Weston-Super-Mare and East Somerset Athletic Society meeting on July 9th and 10th 1877, "In a field near the railway station (kindly lent by Mr John Harvey)." More than 10,000 people paid their sixpence to watch the sport. The bicycle races were an open amateur two miles handicap and an ‘All England' two miles handicap, which was won by T Wills riding a Haynes & Jefferies ‘Ariel' machine.

The next year their sports were held on August 12th 1878 in the recreation ground at the rear of Ellenborough Crescent, this included the 2 miles ‘All England' handicap race.

The Bristol and West of England Athletic Sports meeting was held in August 1879 at the Recreation Ground. There was an attendance of 4,000 people and two bicycle races were held, a 5 mile scratch and a 10 miles handicap race. Betting must have featured heavily in the 10 mile race, The Weston Mercury and Somersetshire Herald of August 9th 1879 commented that the race "proved one of the greatest sells for the bookmakers we have seen for a long time." Warlock was backed heavily to win but when Young was well in the lead, the punters who backed Warlock were shouting at Young to sell the race "with money in their hands and almost tears in their eyes." Young refused to sell the race and was the winner. "It is computed that nearly £100 changed hands over this race." Betting seems to have been a continued presence at track meetings through the 1880's.

The Weston-Super-Mare and East Somerset Athletic Society held their annual sports festival on July 5th 1880 on "the large field at the rear of Ellenborough Crescent (kindly lent by Mr John Harvey)." There was a single bicycle race, over two miles which was run on a grass track. The meeting was restricted to amateurs because of crowd trouble concerning betting in previous years. The early 1880's saw several annual sporting events at the ground which included bicycle races.

The Weston-Super-Mare Recreation Grounds Company was formed in 1885, with a capital of £2,000, and was built on a 10 acre field owned by Mr Blackmore, close to the new railway station. A new cinder track, 3 laps to the miles and 12 to 15 feet wide, was opened on September 12th 1885. The track event incorporated the Bristol & West of England Meet where 172 cyclists paraded through the town and rode to the track to watch the race meeting. The crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 saw the 1 mile bicycle and tricycle NCU Championships of the West of England and a full program of other cycle races. There was also an athletics meeting on Boxing Day 1885 with bicycle racing.

The first NCU national championship meeting of 1886 was held on July 14th, at ‘the new track', which was on the Recreation Ground. Percy Furnival won the 1 mile tricycle championship and JE Fenton won the 25 miles bicycle championship in a new championship record of 1 hr 19 min 29.4 sec.

Track meetings on the Recreation Ground were held throughout the late 1880's and the Easter athletic sports in 1886 ran over two days. The attendance on the first day was 6,000 to 7,000 and there were 300 entries. The eight bicycle races included both tricycle and tandem tricycle races.

At the 1888 AGM of the Recreation Grounds Company it was obvious that the grounds were not making money, a major reason being the difficulty in accessing the grounds because of the railway line. The company resolved either to let the grounds to CWH Paul for £130 per year or to sell the land for building. They let the grounds and on September 8th 1888 Mr Paul organised a sports event.

The Athletic Sports in August 1889 were held and a crowd of 3,000 watched the four bicycle and tricycle races. The Weston-Super-Mare Cycling Club promoted a sports meeting on September 16th 1889 and included races for safeties and ordinaries. Through the summer of 1889, the Weston CC held a monthly 1 mile handicap meeting.

The popularity of bicycle racing started to diminish in the late 1890's and the Cycling Carnival lapsed in 1894.

There was a Grand Amateur Athletics Sports meeting on August 2nd 1904 with bicycle races held over ½, 1 and 2 miles and there was a draw for a Centaur bicycle.

The ground does not seem to have been used for bicycle racing after 1904, until the Somerset Constabulary held their sports there from 1922 and these included bicycle races, typically ½ and 1 mile handicap races. The police sports attracted large crowds, 6,000 people attended in 1931. The last police sports at Weston took place in 1937 and after this they moved to the Somerset Constabulary Sports Ground at Mountfields, Taunton.

The ground still exists and has been the home of Weston-Super-Mare Rugby Club since 1880.


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