Tunbridge Wells - Higher Ground

Fir Tree Road : TN4 8BU Tunbridge Wells - Higher Ground : Image credit Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators
The Commons at Tunbridge Wells are areas of outstanding natural beauty that date back to the 13th century. The Higher Ground was used by Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club from 1839. Less than a mile north-west is the Lower Ground, which was used for cricket from 1850. Southborough Common further to the north-west was used for cricket from 1794.

County Cricket matches were played on the Higher Ground from 1845 until 1880. The sports ground area on the Higher Ground was not enclosed, which meant that attendances were very large, but also the ground suffered due to public use and trampling by animals.

The Fashionable Amateur Athletic Sports started on the Common around 1870 and, as the name suggests, they were a society affair. The first bicycle race on the Common was at the Fashionable Sports on Easter Tuesday 1875. Although a bicycle race was not scheduled for the event, the Kent and Sussex Courier of April 2nd 1875 reported "A bicycle race was not included in the program, but in the course of the day, arrangements were made for one to take place." There were four competitors and the race was over two miles.

The Tunbridge Wells Athletic Club sports were held on Easter Monday and they included a one mile bicycle race in their 1877 meeting. The events were mainly running races and the sports attracted around 10,000 spectators.

The Tunbridge Wells Bicycle Club held their annual race meeting on June 21st 1877 on a course of 271 yards. The bicycle events were one, two and five miles scratch races, a slow bicycle race, a race without handles (no hands presumably) and a consolation race. The press reported ‘There was not a large attendance of spectators.'

Tunbridge Wells Bicycle Club moved their annual sports meeting to Tunbridge Wells Cricket Week on July 16th 1879.

The Easter Monday Athletic Club sports meeting became a regular event for the next five years and the ‘Fashionable' Easter Tuesday sports continued, making two days of races. The Easter Tuesday events usually included a one mile handicap race and a two miles open race. The sports regularly attracted over 10,000 spectators.

Camden Bicycle Club* organised the 1882 Easter Monday meeting in association with the Athletic Club and tricycle races were added to the program. There were eight bicycle/tricycle events including the one mile Championship of Tunbridge Wells Bicycle Club. The following year, Tunbridge Wells Bicycle Club organised bicycle races at the sports.

Both the Easter Monday and Tuesday sports survived because there were subscriber clubs which provided the necessary cash to run the events. In 1882, the enclosure of the ground was discussed so that admission could be charged.

The Fashionable sports meetings continued until Easter Tuesday 1884 and the Easter Monday sports until 1891. After this, bicycle racing was held at Lower Ground

The newly formed Tunbridge Wells Albion CC started holding a lot of grass track meeting, mostly mid-week, from 1937 and this started a period of intense racing activity led by the club secretary Bob Lawrence. For the next three years, the Albion track races took place on both Lower and Higher Grounds. In 1939, there were several race meetings and the club hosted the NCU (Kent Centre) championships over 5 miles in 1939, these races were on the Higher Ground cricket pitch.

The Albion re-formed after the war and once again, racing in Tunbridge Wells was revived, with several track meetings from 1946 to 1955, on both Nevill and Linden. The Albion held their first post-war track meeting at Linden Park on August 26th 1946 in association with Uckfield and District CC. The last bicycle racing on Linden was probably the West Kent Cycle Racing League meeting on September 19th 1950.

The Higher Ground has been home to Linden Park Cricket Club since 1898, who moved there from the present Nevill Ground.

* The Camden Bicycle Club's headquarters was the Camden Hotel, Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells from where the club got its name.


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Photos : Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators