Belfast - Solitude Stadium

Cliftonville Street : BT14 6LP Belfast - Solitude Stadium : Image credit Lennonwylie.co.uk
The Cliftonville Recreation Company was formed in October 1889, with a share capital of £2,000. The company acquired around 6 acres of land near the Cliftonville cricket ground on a lease for perpetuity. Part of the land was sold for house building and a sports ground was constructed on the larger part. The main football ground was surrounded by a 400 yards level, cinder track and there was a handsome two storey red brick pavilion and stands for 1,000 spectators. A total of £2,000 was spent on the ground. The Company leased the ground to the Cliftonville Football and Athletics Club who ran all the events at the ground. The stadium was built on part of the Oldpark Estate, which had been known as Solitude since 1785.

The new ground was formally opened on August 27th 1890 and Cliftonville Football and Athletics Club organised annual athletics meeting at Solitude, which ran throughout the 1890's.

At the 1891 annual sports, it was reported that the track had been improved by altering one of the corners ‘which occasioned so many upsets in the bicycles races last year has been altered.' The bicycle track was also criticised for being too narrow. The racing consisted of seven flat (running) races and three bicycle races, which were: 1 and 3 miles open handicap events and a 1 mile roadster bicycle novices handicap race.

The track was described by the Irish Daily Independent of August 13th 1894 "the track was in good order but the corners require to be banked before another meeting is held." The meetings were very popular, attracting crowds of around 3,000, with top class bicycle race competitors, including riders who went over from England. The 1896 Cliftonville annual sports event was fairly typical and had three bicycle events including a 2 miles bicycle race for roadsters.

There was only one bicycle race in the August 17th 1901 annual sports, which was a three miles handicap, this was probably the last bicycle race at Solitude. After this, the sports continued until 1903 but without bicycle races.

The stadium still exists as the home of Cliftonville Football and Athletic Club, the ground has a new stand and a synthetic pitch.


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Photos : Lennonwylie.co.uk