Sheffield - Niagara Grounds

Wadsley Bridge : S6 1LU Sheffield - Niagara Grounds : Map credit National Library of Scotland Sheffield - Niagara Grounds : Image credit SYP Sports Club
Joseph Clarke, better known as "Sausage" Clarke, lived at Niagara House, Wadsley Bridge, he was a sausage maker with premises in Niagara Works. Clarke was a great supporter of sports including running, pedestrianism, cycling and trotting. He constructed a sports ground next to his home, on an old rubbish dump purchased from the Duke of Norfolk. He organised race meetings and trained runners on his 600 yards cinder track.

The first sports at Wadsley Bridge were the Parsons Cross cricket club annual sports, held on September 22nd 1879. It was not until their third annual sports on August 21st 1882 that a bicycle race was included, a one mile bicycle handicap event, which had four competitors. The sports were held "in a field kindly lent by Mr J Clarke", it is possible that the field referred to was where the Niagara Grounds were built.

Joseph Clarke started to organise sports on the Niagara Grounds from 1891. That year he organised a foot race and advertised for people to skate at Niagara. Clarke organised the Wadsley Bridge Annual Sports which were first held on June 6th 1892 at the Niagara Grounds. The Sheffield Telegraph of July 4th 1893 carried a report that two men had been arrested for gambling with cards outside the Niagara Grounds on July 1st. The men had been warned off the Niagara refreshment area. Richard Maloney, one of the men was sentenced to six weeks hard labour.

It was not until the third annual sports on May 14th 1894 that bicycle racing was included. At these sports, there were 10 events, 300 entrants, £100 in prizes and 'between five and six thousand spectators'. There was one bicycle race, a 2 miles handicap.

The Niagara Grounds continued to organise various sports in the mid-1890's. Sheffield Central CC held a members 20 miles handicap race on September 6th 1894, there were twelve starters and J Truman won in 1hr 3min 20sec. Later that month, the Sheffield Globe CC held their members 20 miles handicap race. The track was described as being "90 yards over three laps to the mile."

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of April 9th 1896 announced the death at 66 years old, of Joseph Clarke. Sheffield United Harriers held a meeting on May 25th 1896 with two bicycle races, the one lap scratch race was described as being 607 yards long. There were 2,000 spectators.

There were some sporting events at Niagara up to 1899, but no further bicycle races until 1892, which was a busy year for the track. Sheffield Central CC held a bicycle race meeting on July 10th 1892 with an inter-club match against Kimberworth CC. Local rider A Tarr established a track motor paced record for five miles of 12 min 2 sec, but an attempt at the track one mile record came to grief when the motorcycle came off the track and the cyclist was brought down.

Over the next 30 years, the Niagara Ground held sporting events, but bicycle race meetings were quite spasmodic. On September 30th 1902 a professional sports meeting was held, which included half, one and five miles bicycle handicap races. The famous Chesterfield racer Jeb Gascoyne came out of retirement for the meeting and his son won the five miles race.

The Kings Own Light Infantry, who were stationed at Hillsborough Barracks, held their sports on July 12th 1907 and included a 2 miles bicycle race. The Heeley Recreation CC Club meeting July 4th 1910 August 19th 1912.

The Post Office held their sports July 15th 1922 which included five bicycle races. These were probably the last bicycle races at Niagara Grounds.

The Niagara Grounds were acquired by the South Yorkshire Police in 1928 and rebuilt. The Police Sports and Social Club Ground and facilities and were opened by the Princess Royal on 23rd August 1928. The grounds are still in use as the Niagara conference and leisure centre.


Refs     : [509] [p]
Photos : SYP Sports Club
Maps    : National Library of Scotland