Harrogate - Prince Arthur skating rink

Walkers Road : HG1 5LA Harrogate - Prince Arthur skating rink : Map credit National Library of Scotland
The Association of Bicycle Clubs in the North of England held the first Harrogate Bicycle Meet in 1877 when 142 riders from 24 clubs met up for a weekend of activities. On Monday evening the bicyclists were "allowed full liberty to ride over the asphalte grounds" of the Harrogate outdoor skating rink. The Prince Arthur roller skating rink was an outdoor ‘D‘ shaped track with a Limmer* asphalt surface at the Royal Spa Pleasure Grounds, which opened in 1876. The rink was used for pleasure roller skating and evening entertainment. In winter, the rink was flooded and used for ice skating. The course used for bicycle races was 440 yards around.

At the second Harrogate Bicycle Meet on August 5th 1878, there were 200 riders who rode in formation from High Harrogate through the town to the Royal Spa, where they dismounted at the skating rink. A ten miles bicycle race was then held around the rink with eleven riders, this was won by M Tongue of the Hull Bicycle Club in 44 minutes. The course was described by Cycling "a rather peculiar course, consisting of a board incline, grass and path."

There was a bicycle racing event at the rink on Saturday August 23rd 1879. The races were over five miles (residents within 25 miles of Harrogate), four miles (residents within 12 miles of Harrogate), an event ‘for the best performance on a bicycle' (presumably trick cycling) by a local rider and a skating race. Arthur Spaulding, the captain of Harrogate Bicycle Club won both the 4 and 5 mile races.

A bicycle racing event was held at the rink on Saturday 21st August 1880, the races over 4, 4½ and 5 miles were all won by the local club captain, Arthur Spaulding. After the races, there was a masquerade in the evening. In the following few years, members of Harrogate BC took part in bicycle entertainment (fancy and trick cycling) events at the rink. There were no further bicycle races at the rink after 1880, probably because of the popularity of bicycle racing on the cricket ground, which was used by the Harrogate Bicycle Meet from 1881.

The roller skating craze had petered out by the late 1880's and the site was used to build the Harrogate Kursaal. The building was renamed The Royal Hall during the First World War, for patriotic reasons and it is now part of the Harrogate conference centre.

* Limmer is an asphalt rock lake, near Hannover in Germany, that supplied high quality asphalt for road construction. It was later developed by the Limmer and Trinidad Lake Asphalt Company along with the large asphalt Pitch Lake at La Brea in Trinidad.


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