Driffield - Recreation Ground

King's Mill Road : YO25 6TT Driffield - Recreation Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland Driffield - Recreation Ground : Image credit Wiki Commons
The history of the Recreation Ground and the sports of cycling and cricket in Driffield are inter-woven. Cricket had been played in Driffield since the 1860's and in 1874 there were two cricket clubs Driffield Cricket Club (later re-named Driffield Town Cricket Club) and Mr Marshall's Club. The teams each had a cricket ground opposite each other on King's Mill Road.

The Driffield Bicycle Club was formed in 1879 and the York Herald of July 18th 1879 reported "a course, some three or four yards broad and a quarter of a mile in circumference, is being cut and prepared in the cricket field, completely encircling the ground." The Driffield Times reported on the first bicycle race on the new cinder track which was held on August 31st 1879. There was a mile handicap race and a 25 miles scratch race for the championship of Hull BC. The championship race was won by CG Shaw of Driffield. At this date, there was probably no cinder track in Hull.

Driffield BC held their second race meeting on July 16th 1880, then the bicyclists paraded through the town led by a brass band and then1,500 watched the racing. The one mile handicap race had 12 starters and was won by E Mills of Beverley BC. The main event was a 20 miles match between DJB Tonge, the Driffield BC club captain, CG Shaw the Hull BC champion and CAR Stuart the Beverley champion. Tonge raced the first 10 miles against Shaw, who he beat by a few yards, then as arranged, Shaw was replaced by Stuart for the final 10 miles race. The two men were together until the 18th mile, when Stuart spurted ahead to win by 140 yards.

Driffield BC continued to hold club and open race meetings on the cricket field and the meeting, which was on the evening of the Agricultural Show, became an annual event. Attendances of up to 2,500 were reported. At the Driffield BC meeting on September 29th 1884 there seemed to be friction between the cycling and cricket clubs involving the profit from the joint sports meetings that they had organised and following this, there were no reports of any further track racing by Driffield BC.

The Driffield Cycling Club was formed in the early 1880's, they held their early club races at Bridlington Recreation Ground as Driffield presumably had no access to a local cycle track at this time. In 1888 the club advertised in the Driffield Times for "a field for track and recreation ground." There was still no track racing in Driffield and in 1890, the club was organising its races on the road.

Driffield Recreation Ground Company was set up in December 1892 with a share capital of £1,500 with the objective of procuring land and creating a recreation ground for cricket, cycling, football, lawn tennis, playgrounds and other sports. The company arranged to lease 11 acres of land in King's Mill Lane, from Viscountess Downe at a rent of £44 per annum. The principal shareholders were the local MP and various local councillors.

In April 1893, the company invited Mr Joseph Shepperdson, a local architect, to prepare plans for the ground and they aimed to complete the work by June and hold sports there in July. During the excavation work, Anglo-Saxon remains and artefacts were discovered, probably from battles with the Danes.

The Recreation Ground was surrounded by fencing and included a cricket ground, grandstand and a four laps to the mile banked cinder cycling track, twenty feet wide. The three main users of the Recreation Ground were the Driffield Cycling Club, Driffield Town Cricket Club and Driffield Football Club. The annual rents charged by the company to the clubs were respectively £30, £20 and £10. The £30 rent for the cycling club equates to £3,000 in 2023 prices and would have been a huge amount to raise annually for a small club. The Recreation Ground was on King's Mill Road, but was probably in a different location to the older cricket pitches.

The first event on the new recreation ground was a bicycle race meeting organised by the Driffield CC, which was held to celebrate the wedding of the Duke of York on July 6th 1893. The races were a one mile club handicap, a local farm servants handicap, a local one mile combination race* and a five miles race for the Club Championship, which won by H Dry.

On the evening of the Agricultural Show on July 21st 1893, there was a cycling and athletics festival with one and two miles bicycle handicap races. The Driffield CC held a meeting on August 25th 1893 with a one and two miles handicap races and a three miles invitation team race between Bridlington Wheelers, Market Weighton, Pocklington and Driffield cycling clubs. At the end of 1893, the club had a balance of over £28.

Bicycle racing continued to be popular on the Recreation Ground for the next few years. Driffield CC held regular Friday evening club meeting, at which admission was three pence. Driffield CC club member HW Dry set up the club one hour paced record on July 13th 1894, by completing 20 miles 400 yards. Three weeks later, the club record was broken by AH Gage who managed 21 miles 612 yards, but attendance at cycle meetings was described as poor.

At the club AGM in May 1895, the club had a balance of £6 and they announced that the club was unable to pay the £30 annual rent due to the Recreation Ground Company. The Recreation Ground Company, to whom the club owed £30 rent, decided that it would accept £4 cash from the club and take over the pavilion which the club had built, in full discharge of their claim. Following this, Driffield CC re-organised themselves as a road club and successfully held road races but did not organise any further track races at the ground.

Bicycle racing there did however continue, organised by the cricket club. The August 7th 1896 athletics meeting, on the eve of the Agricultural Show, included 1 and 2 miles bicycle handicap races. There was no shortage of entries, around 30 for the bicycle races. This event was run annually until 1912 with up to 3,000 spectators attending. An annual gymkhana with cycle races was run for a few years and the Hull Police sports were held there in the late 1890's.

The Driffield Recreation Ground Company transferred the ground to the Town Cricket Club in 1906, when their lease ran out, and the company was then voluntarily wound up. During the period of the lease, the shareholders did not receive any dividends. Following the cricket club takeover, a new lease was given by Viscount Downe which involved clearing the cycle track and replacing it with grass.

After the First World War, a Victory sports meeting was held on July 26th 1919 and a Driffield Show meeting in 1921. Driffield CC after running successfully as a road racing club, gradually faded in the 1910's and became defunct. The club was re-formed in 1927 and started organising track races again on the Recreation Ground. The Annual sports and gala resumed on July 13th 1928 with cycling events which were; half and one mile handicap races and a half mile handicap race for Driffield CC members. There was a gap of nearly 10 years before the next track meeting on July 10th 1936, which was the Hospital fete, followed by one open and two Driffield CC club races.

In 1938, Claude Butler, the London frame builder, presented a cup to be competed for in the Driffield CC one mile scratch race at the June 24th meeting. This professional meeting was very popular and attracted good riders including professionals Gus Foster the Cumberland champion and I Davies the British professional mile champion. The meeting was granted a liquor licence and drew a crowd of 2,000.

The 3rd Annual professional sports meeting was held on June 23rd 1939 and this was the last time that cycle racing was held on the recreation ground.

The Recreation Ground still exists on King's Mill Road as Driffield Town Cricket and Recreation Club, with two cricket pitches, two bowling greens and nine tennis courts.

* Combination race - walk a lap, run a lap, ride a lap, wheel a lap with the rear wheel foremost.

Driffield - Recreation Ground : Image credit woldsweekly.co.uk
Refs     : [p]
Photos : Wiki Commons, woldsweekly.co.uk
Maps    : National Library of Scotland