Southampton - Antelope Ground

St Marys Road : SO14 1NW
The Antelope Ground was on St Mary's Road and was originally called the Glebe Cricket Ground. The Antelope Hotel stood opposite, which is probably where the name of the ground came from. Hampshire County Cricket Club was founded at the Antelope Hotel in 1863 and continued to use the Antelope Ground until 1884 when it moved to the Northlands Road site.

The Antelope Ground was owned by the church and the local St Mary's church Canon would only allow the ground to be used for sport. The Canon had a strong working relationship with the Ancient Order of Foresters and the MU Independent Order of Oddfellows, which explains why these two organisations held so many sports meetings at the ground.

The Hampshire Independent of June 26th 1869 reported on the Coronation Day event organised by the Ancient Order of Foresters at the Antelope Grounds which included "Various feats of pedestrianism, and bicycle and velocipede racing will take place, to be followed by dancing and a display of fireworks." There was also a report in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of a sports meeting at the Antelope on December 27th 1869, the sports "consisting of running, hurdle jumping, bicycle racing &c."

The Foresters repeated their Coronation Day meeting in 1870 with a two miles bicycle race, run in three heats. In the final, a Frenchman Hamel won easily "being evidently a superior rider and having a much better machine than the others." There was also a bicycle race for boys and a second 2 miles race. In the evening there was dancing to the band and a display of Pain's fireworks. The Foresters sports became an annual event and in 1872 there were 5,000 spectators and over £100 was raised. Throughout the 1870's and 80's the Foresters and Oddfellows held sports at the Antelope Ground.

The Southampton Cricket Club signed a lease for the Antelope Ground in 1875 and the ground was subsequently referred to as the Southampton Cricket ground or the Old Antelope Ground.

Southampton Amateur Bicycle Club was formed in 1877 and their first annual meeting was held at the ground on July 10th 1880 and their meetings continued until 1883. There were up to 16 races at the meetings including club championships. The Southampton Temperance Sports Club held their first sports meeting on May 10th 1884 and included one and three miles open handicap races.

In 1884, the lease for the ground was taken over by St Mary's Football Club (now Southampton FC). After this, bicycle racing at the Antelope wound down. It appears that St Mary's church would not allow liquor to be sold at the ground. This could explain why bicycle racing went out of favour at the Antelope, as other tracks in the town became popular. The last bicycle race at the Antelope Ground was the Southampton College old boys three miles tricycle race on June 28th 1888.

In 1890 there was an attempt to build on the ground which was resisted by Canon Wilberforce of St Mary's church. In 1894, Canon Wilberforce left Southampton, so the strong requirement of using the Antelope Ground only for sport, left with him. In 1895 the Ecclesiastical Commission offered to sell the Antelope Ground to Southampton St Mary's FC for £8,000 (around £1M in 2020 prices), but the club subsequently left the ground in 1896.

Eventually the Ecclesiastical Commission sold the ground and it was developed for housing. The original Antelope site was around what is now Clovely Road, a mixed commercial and housing area.

* The Antelope Hotel, 66 St Mary's Road was on the corner of Bellevue Street. Hampshire County Cricket Club was formed at the hotel in 1863. The hotel closed in April 1931 and the site is now Charlotte Place.


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