Workington - Lonsdale Park

Borough Park : CA14 2DT Workington - Lonsdale Park : Map credit National Library of Scotland Workington - Lonsdale Park : Image credit The Vintagent- Motorcycle Arts
Lonsdale Park was used by Workington AFC from 1888. A new private company called Workington Athletic Sports Co. Ltd. was set up in 1899, with a capital of £1,000 for the purposes of holding athletic sports in Workington. A lease on Lonsdale Park Grounds had been negotiated for use each May, June, July and August, plus Easter Monday and a day in the first week of September. The company agreed to construct a cinder cycle track on the grounds. The track was opened in 1900, it was four laps to the mile with ‘well banked ends' and a pavilion was built. The opening year saw several bicycle race meetings including two NCU National Championships.

The new Lonsdale Park Grounds opened with a cycling and sports meeting on Whit Monday June 2nd 1900, organised by the Workington Amateur Athletic Association club. The promoters offered a prize list of £120 and 4,500 spectators attended. The races were; 1 mile novices handicap, ½ and 1 mile open handicaps, 2 miles tandem handicap. In addition, there were two Cumberland and Westmorland NCU Championships, run over 1 and 5 miles.

The next meeting was on June 23rd 1900, at which there were running and bicycle races for club members only. The bicycle events were; 1 mile novices and 1 and 3 miles handicap races.

Two NCU English Cycling Championships events were decided at Lonsdale Park on July 14th 1900. In the 5 miles Championship race the London Polytechnic rider AS Ingram won a close race to gain his third consecutive 5 mile championship. In the 25 mile Championship race, local man WS Ramsey of Barrow beat the holder HW Payne. Both of the two championship races had 13 entrants and the attendance was 4,000.

There was a further sports meeting in August 1900 with 5,000 spectators who watched five bicycle events, including a win by new champion Ramsey. There was some criticism that the railway company could not lay on special trains for people to attend the sports, because of rolling stock shortages.

Racing continued through the 1900's with good quality meetings. On May 18th 1901 a crowd of 10,000 people saw Platt-Betts attempt the flying start one mile and five mile motor paced records. The wind was strong and Platt-Betts failed both attempts. The August 24th 1901 meeting had £400 prizes and the events included a 10 miles invitation scratch race for the Workington Licensed Victuallers' Challenge Cup (value 100 guineas). There were other mid-week and club sports events.

In 1901, Maryport opened a new four laps to the mile cinder track in the cricket field. Maryport is only 6 miles from Workington, so this may have impacted on the success of both tracks. At the second AGM of the Workington Athletic Sports Company, a profit for the year of £229 10s 6d was stated and a dividend of 5% was recommended. Six people were summon and fined on March 1st 1901 for digging up the cinder track bankings and taking the cinders away. Several tons of cinders were removed.

The Workington Athletic Association held their 3rd Annual Spring Meeting on May 10th 1902 and attracted 300 entries and a crowd of 5,000. The main attraction was the appearance of AA Chase with an attempt at his own mile flying start national record of 1 min 27.6 sec and his 5 miles standing start record, both paced by his ‘electric motor'. Unfortunately Chase's motor crashed in the 1 mile attempt, bringing down Chase. He recovered for his 5 mile record attempt, but burst a tyre after 3½ miles and retired.

The Workington Star of March 10th 1905 reported on the annual supper of the Workington Amateur Athletic Association, where complaints about the poor attendance at Lonsdale Park sports events were made "Workingtonians pay train fare and other expenses to patronise athletic gatherings in other towns, but grumble because they are charged a shilling to witness better sports at home."

Racing continued to be very popular in the late 1900's, at the August 24th 1907 summer meeting there were £500 in prizes and the good weather good weather brought in a record crowd of 12,000 to 14,000. There were five bicycle races including the 10 miles scratch race for Licensed Victuallers' Cup which was won by Victor Johnson of Birmingham.*

The Workington Athletic Sports Company brought several novel events to the sports meetings. In 1910, an aviator was contracted to fly his monoplane around the track, the plane was brought from London by road and returned the same way. ‘Dare Devil Watson' performed a ‘thrilling feat' at the August 24th 1912 sports in front of 8-10,000 spectators, he was strapped into his car, flew down a ramp and performed a loop-the-loop.

The 1914 Athletic Sports were abandoned, presumably because WWI started on 28th July 1914. The sports do not seem to have restarted after the war and there was no more bicycle racing at Workington.

Workington AFC moved from Lonsdale Park to a new ground Borough Park in 1937, which was built next door to the old ground. Lonsdale Park was subsequently used for greyhound racing and motor cycle racing. Greyhound racing there stopped in 1999 and the stadium was demolished. Lonsdale Park was sold in 2018 to Allerdale Borough Council to build a new community stadium, which was not subsequently built.

* Victor Johnson won a gold medal in the 1908 Olympic Games, he was National ¼ mile champion and World Amateur Sprint Champion. In 1909 he set world records at ¼, ¾ and 1 mile.


Refs     : [p]
Photos : The Vintagent- Motorcycle Arts
Maps    : National Library of Scotland