Southend - Southend Park
Milton Road : SS0 7PJ
Southend - Southend Park : Map credit National Library of Scotland Southend - Southend Park : Image credit Southend Borough Council The private 5 acre Southend Park was developed in the early 1870s and was owned by William Stewart a building contractor. The Park was created as a commercial enterprise, the public paid six pence to enter and the park which had a boating lake, playing fields, tennis courts, cricket and football pitches. A cinder bicycle track was built in November 1880, the 15 foot wide track measured about 490 yards around.

The first bicycle racing at Southend Park was the Rochford Football Club sports meeting on April 6th 1881, which included a 5 miles bicycle race. William Steward, the Park owner, was extremely active in promoting races at the Park and invited the three newly formed bicycle clubs Orsett BC, Rochford BC and South Essex BC to run club and open events at the Park.

Many of Steward's events included 1 and 5 miles races with plenty of heats. The first meeting of this type was on Easter Monday 1881, which attracted 1,500 spectators. He continued these events throughout the summer of 1881.

The Southend and Rochford Bicycle Clubs held inter-club races on 22nd and 23rd June. The South Essex BC held club races on July 23rd. The annual club races of the Orsett BC were held on August 31st and included a 15 miles club championship race. The Rochford BC annual club event was on September 7th with 1 and 5 miles races.

There were annual club races on September 17th, when the Orsett BC held their 15 miles championship race and a 5 miles handicap. At the same meeting, the Rochford BC held their 1 and 5 miles club handicap races.

There was a match race for £5 a side on September 21st 1881 between C Potter and JC Aylen, both members of Orsett BC. This was followed by a South Essex BC club meeting. The 25 miles championship of South Essex BC race took place on September 29th.

The Park was put up for sale in September 1881, it was first offered to Southend Corporation for £800 but they declined the offer. Willian Steward then sold the Park privately for £2,800. The purchaser intended to build houses on the Park, but it continued to be used as a park for another year.

The final race of 1881 was a 5 miles match race between J Turner and H Pryor for a prize of £6 10s on December 30th. This intense activity in the first year of the track was due in no small part to the efforts of the owner, William Steward.

The 1882 season of racing commenced at Easter with 1 and 3 miles handicap events, 1,000 spectators. There were further races at August Bank Holiday. Although the Park was used for bicycle racing in 1882, the Park was falling into disrepair.

The Southend Standard of September 15th 1882 reported that entries for the meeting scheduled for the previous day, were so low that the event was postponed, apart from two matches of the Orsett BC. The 15 miles club championship race saw only two competitors and the 5 miles handicap had only four riders. This was probably the last bicycle racing at Southend Park.

The new purchaser of the Park started developing the site in 1882, houses were built on the area between Park Street and Avenue Road, which became known as the Park estate. The Park Tavern and the Cricketers pubs are near the Park estate and are a reminder of the old Southend Park.

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Photos : Southend Borough Council
Maps    : National Library of Scotland