Cirencester - Popes Seat
Cirencester Park : GL7 6LX
Cirencester - Popes Seat : Image credit Wiki Commons Cirencester - Popes Seat : Image credit Pearson Cycles Cirencester Park is part of the privately owned Bathhurst Estate and Pope's Seat is a Grade II* listed building within the Park, on Broad Ride. The small stone building is set near a large amphitheatre of trees giving beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The building takes its name from the poet Alexander Pope, who is said to have designed the stone building and written some of his work there.

The Wilts and Glo'stershire Standard on July 3rd 1869 carried an announcement that the Cirencester Temperance Society and Band of Hope would be holding their fourth annual Rural Fete on July 15th 1869 at Pope's Seat in the Park. There was to be a procession from the Cirencester Temperance Hall to Cecily Hill Gate and then sports would be held, including "cricket, quoits, croquet, archery, football &c.". There would also be five velocipede races for both bicycles and tricycles. Admission to the event cost 6d and "No intoxicating drinks will be allowed in the Park, and any person evading this rule will be ejected by the police."

In the event, there were only three velocipede races. The first was a bicycle race over half a mile, in which there were eight riders, the winner was William Davis of Cheltenham, who received £1 and second was George Dowling of Cheltenham, who won 10s. The tricycle race also had eight competitors and was won by Samuel Cooke from Thomas Lewis, both local men from Cirencester. In the consolation race, there was only two riders, Thomas Pewtrees won riding a bicycle, beating an unnamed tricycle rider. There were around 3,000 people at the event and sports were followed by a meeting and speeches from members of the Temperance Society which lasted for two hours. The local newspaper reported that "much dissatisfaction was expressed at the holding of the meeting ..when ..amusements in the cool of the evening would have been so well enjoyed."

The Temperance Society held their fete again in 1870 and included a half mile bicycle race, a quarter mile race for boys under 14 years old and a consolation bicycle race. The attendance was 2,000 and the bicycle races were described as rather tame. At the 1871 fete, there was no bicycle racing, so 1870 was probably the last time that there was bicycle racing at Pope's Seat.

In 1873, 1879 and 1894, Blondin, the world famous tight-rope artist, who walked over Niagara Falls, performed at Pope's Seat and rode a bicycle on the high-wire.

There was no further bicycle racing at Cirencester Park until 1887, when sports meetings were re-started at Cirencester Cricket Ground in the Park.

Refs     : [p]
Photos : Wiki Commons, Pearson Cycles