Norwich - East Dereham Quebec Grounds

Quebec Road : NR19 2QY Norwich - East Dereham Quebec Grounds : Image credit Wiki Commons
There were four locations in East Dereham where bicycle racing was held. The first bicycle races in East Dereham were at Quebec Hall in 1877 and racing continued there until 1896. The East Dereham Recreation ground opened in 1895 with a cinder track, and bicycle racing was held there until 1907. The ground at Neatherd Road held occasional race meetings with the East Dereham Cycling Club from 1895 to 1910. The Norwich Road Cricket Ground held bicycle races for a few years between 1907 and 1911 and in 1910 sports were held on the Avenue Grounds, South Green.

The first bicycle race at Quebec Hall was in 1877. Quebec Hall was owned by the Lee-Warner family and Mary Anne Lee-Warner inherited the estate in 1858 when her mother died. Ann had married Captain Bulwer in 1855 and he ran the estate for the next 57 years. The estate hosted sports, cricket matches and the Norfolk Agricultural Show every 8 or 9 years.

Bicycle racing at Quebec was usually held in a field on the estate, which was variously described as Quebec Hall, Quebec Farm or simple Quebec. The grass track was four laps to the mile with an uphill finish.

The first bicycle racing at Quebec was at the East Dereham Cricket Club Athletic Sports which were held on Aug 6th 1877. The Norfolk Times reported that the event took place "on the grounds forming part of Captain Bulwer's estate, known as the cricket ground." There was one bicycle race, an open one mile race on grass for a silver cup, value five guineas. There was also a slow bicycle race, of the seven starters, six fell off and had to ride again for second place. Mrs Keppel presented the prizes.

The August sports continued at Quebec through the 1880's and normally two bicycle handicap events were run, a two miles local race and a two miles open race. The sports were a great local attraction with special trains and free rides from the station. In 1888, the event included a military tournament (with lemon cutting) and ended with a Pain's fireworks display. That year there were 7,000 spectators.

The Field of August 6th 1892 carried a report of the August Bank Holiday Sports event "The ground on which the sports were held belongs to Gen. Bulwer, and is fairly level, however, it cannot be called a good one." There were two bicycle events, one and two miles open handicap races. Frank Shorland*, riding off scratch, was handicapped out of it, finishing 4th and 3rd in the races. There were 5,000 spectators. Shorland had, two weeks before, won the 24 hour race at Herne Hill with a record distance.

The Oddfellows and Foresters held Whitsun sports meetings at Quebec Hall in the early 1890's and included one and two miles bicycle handicap races.

The organiser of the August sports at Quebec, Mr T Cranmer, ‘for some reasons best known to himself' would not organise the 1895 meeting, but the sports still went ahead. By 1896, the August sports moved to the Recreation Ground. The 1895 sports meeting was the last time that there was bicycle racing at Quebec.

In 1910 Captain Bulwer died and the estate was sold in 1912. The Hall was a private house until the 1950's and then was a school for a short period. In 1960, Quebec Hall became a residential care home, which it still is.

* Frank Shorland of the North Road CC won the Cuca Cocoa cup three times (1892-1894) at Herne Hill. His winning distance of 414 miles caused a sensation at the time. He held several long distance road records. Shorland usually rode a 36 inch Crypto geared front driver.


Refs     : [p]
Photos : Wiki Commons