The first bicycle race at Bridlington was reported in the Bridlington Free Press of July 23rd 1870 to be taking place "in the Cricket Field, near to the Railway Station, on Wednesday, August 17th, when a number of prizes will be offered for bicycle racing, running, jumping, throwing the ball and other athletic sports." The cricket field was probably the future site of the recreation ground.
The Annual Meet of Yorkshire Cyclists at Bridlington Quay started in 1882, when 80 cyclists assembled in the town and rode in procession, then held a race meeting in the town. The Bridlington Bicycle Club organised the meet, which was held annually for the next 23 years.
The 1883 race meet was at the Beaconsfield Estate and included a 1 mile open scratch race and a 5 miles handicap race. The 1884 meet was very successful and there were five bicycle races, including the 1 mile and 5 miles Championships of Bridlington Quay.
After the success of this meeting, Bridlington BC decided to take a lease on the cricket field at £40 per annum from Rev J Thompson and construct a bicycle track. The Bridlington Quay Recreation Ground Company was formed by the leading members of Bridlington BC* in 1884 with £250 capital, club members having preference in the allotment of shares. The cricket field was leased and a recreation ground was built there, with a level cinder track, 440 yards around and 21 feet wide. A pavilion, committee and changing rooms, judge's box etc was provided. A cricket field was in the centre of the track.
The recreation ground opened on August 25th 1884, with bicycle and running races. There was a one mile tricycle handicap race, one and three miles bicycle handicaps and a two miles Bridlington club handicap race.
The Yorkshire Cyclists' meeting was again held in Bridlington on Whit Monday 1885 and the new recreation ground hosted the event. 230 cyclists assembled at the Recreation Ground and paraded around the town watched by thousands of onlookers, to finish back at the Recreation Ground. A race meeting was then held with the following open handicap races; 1 mile bicycle, 1 mile tricycle and a 2 miles scratch race for the Bridlington Plate and a 5 miles open handicap race for the Tradesmen's Prize. There were around two thousand people watching the race meeting, the local MP presented the prizes and music was provided by the Bridlington Rifle Volunteers band.
The Yorkshire Cyclists' meeting on Whit Monday, became an established annual event, which was very popular with local tradespeople and attracted visitors to the town. The August Bank Holiday meeting also became an annual affair and the Bridlington Free Press of August 29th 1885 reported that the fast speed of the track was confirmed when J Lee of Clay Cross recorded 5m 59¼s in the two miles safety race.
In the cold winter of 1885, the Company had the track flooded and capital skating has been provided there, of which a very large number have availed themselves.'
The 8th annual gathering of Yorkshire Cyclists' was held at Bridlington Quay on June 10th 1889, where 200 cyclists assembled at the Recreation Ground and paraded around the town watched by thousands of onlookers, to finish back at the Recreation Ground. The prize for the collective furthest distance was won by Sheffield Sharrow CC with 38 members present and Hull Grosvenor CC had 84 members in full uniform.
After the procession, there was bicycle racing at the Recreation Ground. The two miles scratch race for the Bridlington Plate was won by local rider JW Stocks of Hull Grosvenor CC. John Stocks was only 18 years old, he started racing the year before in 1888 and he went on to be the first rider to exceed 25 miles in one hour and in 1897 he broke all cycling records from 6 to 32 miles, at Crystal Palace. HH Sansom of Nottingham won the two miles scratch tricycle race. Stocks won the one mile bicycle handicap race off 105 yards and also won the main event, the five miles bicycle handicap race. At the close of the meeting, the superintendent stated that "he had not had reported to him a single case of intoxication, theft, or disorderly."
The Whit Monday meet and the annual August race meetings continued through the 1880's with professional bicycle races making an appearance.
By the early 1890's, the running of the Company was being criticised and that reported a small deficit at the 1892 AGM. The lease for the Recreation Ground terminated in 1894 and the Company were offered a further year at a reduced rental of £25. The Company stated that they did not wish to promote further race meetings at their own risk and would need the local tradespeople or inhabitants to guarantee them against loss, or they may wind up the Company. The directors of the Company had not taken any dividends and considered that their race meetings were a great benefit to the town. A subscription fund to guarantee race meetings was set up in January 1894 and very quickly raised £200.
The 1894 Whit Monday Meet was successful, but did not make a profit and the Company lost over £64 due to track maintenance. It was reported in the Bridlington and Quay Gazette of August 4th 1894, that the Recreation Ground had been sold. The purchaser was the Dukes Park Trust. The Bridlington Quay Recreation Ground Company was in the hands of the liquidator in early 1895. The Bridlington Quay Recreation Club was set up in March 1895 by a dozen local tradesmen, to try to keep the Whitsun Cyclists' Meet going.
The Whitsun Cyclists' meet of 1898 had a successful race meeting with a crowd of 3,000 people and 250 race entries. The expenditure in the previous year on banking the track should have been re-couped to some extent by the profit from the meeting.
The Bridlington Free Press reported that the Yorkshire RC had held a 100 miles unpaced handicap race on July 6th 1898. There were thirteen starters but a crash at half distance affected three riders. E Lundy from Hull led for much of the race and was the eventual winner. This was probably the last bicycle race at the Recreation Ground.
The Whitsun Cyclists' Meet seemed to survive until 1905 and after this, a gymkhana was held on the Recreation Ground, but with no bicycle racing. The ground continued to be used for cricket and tennis.
Duke's Park still exists and is the home of Bridlington Lawn Tennis Club, Bridlington Town AFC and Bridlington Sports and Social Club.
* Bridlington Bicycle Club was formed in November 1880, taking over the previous Gentlemen's Amateur BC. The president and Treasurer was JJ Burbery, Captain G Sherwood and Secretary J Harper.