Southampton - Southampton Imperial Cycle Track

Bevois Valley Road : SO14 0SH
The Hampshire Advertiser of September 28th 1887 reported "The new cinder track has been laid on the piece of reclaimed ground between the road from St Deny's to Southampton and the road from Bevois Valley to the Old Farm House, Mount-Pleasant, and a space of between five and six acres has been enclosed." The cinder track was 4 laps to the mile and 20 feet wide; a grandstand was erected a little later.

A consortium of the Southampton Athletic, Southampton Rangers Cycling Club and Southampton Wanderers Cycling Club jointly rented the track in 1888 for a year at "a rather high rental". It was their intention to run meetings at the track each month.

The first bicycle races at the track were the annual bicycle, tricycle and foot races on September 24th 1887, organised by the consortium. The bicycle events were a 2 miles handicap races and both the Wanderers and Rangers held 5 miles tricycle handicap championships and 10 miles championships. In spite of poor weather, there were 2,000 spectators.

Southampton Harriers organised a meeting on April 2nd 1888 and attracted 2,000 spectators. Among the athletics events were bicycle handicap races over one and three miles. On April 28th 1888 there was the ‘First United Spring Meeting' of the Consortium. The 1 and 3 miles bicycle handicap events were extended with a 1 mile tricycle handicap race. The Hampshire Advertiser reported "During the afternoon, a clever unicycle performance was given gratuitously by Mr WG Hurst, one of the artistes from the Gaiety Music Hall." Mr HH Griffin presented the prizes.

In their first year of renting the track, the consortium organised lots of events, their Whit Monday meeting was well supported and the May 26th meeting included an American team of cyclists with Ralph Temple, the 20 miles world professional champion. Further meetings hosted the NCU 1 mile bicycle and 5 miles tricycle regional championships. A crowd of 2,000 spectators were at the September 1st meeting, but generally, attendance was not so high as expected. The newly formed Winchester Wanderers CC held evening meetings at the track, as there was no cycle track in Winchester.

There were rumours at the end of 1888 that the track Consortium may be in difficulties and they advertised for a new full-time manager in March 1889. Racing continued through 1889, at the Southampton Harriers Easter Monday meeting, 3,000 spectators watched the 1 and 3 miles open handicap races. On Whit Monday there was a reasonable crowd but bad weather and high winds tore the newly covered grandstand canvas to shreds.

On August Bank Holiday 1889, new cinder track at Westwood Park opened, which immediately cast doubt on the future of the Imperial track. The new track at Westwood Park was situated in a natural bowl, which gave spectators a good view, whilst the Imperial was perfectly flat.

The last bicycle race at the Imperial was an evening meeting of the Winchester CCC on September 5th 1889, at which their 20 miles champion was decided.

The exact location of the Imperial track is unknown, but it was probably near Bevois Park railway sidings and one of the roads in the area called Imperial Way may have taken its name from the old Imperial track. This area is now light industrial buildings.


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