Bridgwater - Malt Shovel field
Malt Shovel Lane (Victoria Road) : TA6 3QD
Bridgwater - Malt Shovel field : Map credit National Library of Scotland Bridgwater - Malt Shovel field : Image credit Veteran Cycle Club Library The first report of bicycle racing at the Malt Shovel was at a fete promoted by Mr J Denman in a field near the inn, on August 26th 1869. The principal attraction was a velocipede race for half a guinea, and the distance was twice around the field. There were only two competitors and C Lawrence beat "Master Hook, son of Mr C Hook, by about 100 yards."

Bridgwater Cycling Club held their first annual sports at a mid-week meeting on August 25th 1892 on a grass track at the Malt Shovel field. The events were ½ and 2 miles club handicap races, 1 and 3 miles open handicap races and a 1 mile handicap race for members of Bridgwater Wharf Cycling Club. The successful event was followed by a fete and firework display. This Thursday meeting became an annual event for Bridgwater CC and the attendance in 1894 was reported to be 5,000.

The Bridgwater CC annual sports at the Malt Shovel remained popular until the early 1900's after which they stopped and the club seems to have folded.

The next bicycle racing to be held on the Malt Shovel fields was the Bridgwater Rugby Football Club annual sports on May 21st 1904. There were three running races, two bicycle races and a five miles walking race. The bicycle events were one and three miles handicap races. In spite of the wet conditions, the meeting was a financial success.

The Football Club sports on June 22nd 1907 at the Malt Shovel enclosure was, for the first time, an unregistered meeting, because the club was unhappy with previous meetings that were run under NCU rules and the event was supposedly dominated by Bristol riders. The Bridgwater Mercury reported "Previous events had been run by the National Cycling Union and were dominated by the cycling, almost all of which was won by Bristolians and were ‘tame and uninteresting', which led to small crowds." The meeting drew in 3,000 spectators to watch the bicycle and running races and a military tournament. The two bicycle events were a one 1 mile handicap and a three miles scratch race. Other events were a ten miles running race, a tent pegging competition and ‘tilting the bucket'.

The following year, the Football Club had obviously tired of cycling and the Central Somerset Gazette June 26th 1908 reported "On this occasion the Club dispensed with the usual cycle events and devoted the program to foot races and military items."

The Hospital sports were held on July 4th 1908 and included a two miles handicap bicycle race. In 1909, the Football Club changed their mind again and bicycle racing was back on the program with 1, 2 and 5 miles events.

Bicycle racing in Bridgwater seemed to stop around 1910. The Malt Shovel area was developed in the late 1920's with housing and Victoria Park was built, which opened in 1928. The Malt Shovel pub, on the corner of Malt Shovel Lane (later Victoria Road) still exists.

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Photos : Veteran Cycle Club Library
Maps    : National Library of Scotland