Swindon - Wiltshire County Ground

County Ground Lane : SN1 2ED Swindon - Wiltshire County Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland Swindon - Wiltshire County Ground : Image credit British Newspaper Archive
The Great Western Railway Company built a railway works in the 1850's about a mile from Swindon and this location became known as New Swindon.

The earliest bicycle racing in the Swindon area was the Red Rose Cricket Club sports, held on May 26th April 1870 at the Cricket Field, New Swindon. The meeting included a one mile bicycle race for a new silk hat. Other early bicycle races took place at Beckett Park, Shrivenham in 1871, where the Ancient Order of Foresters held sports which included a half mile bicycle race.

The New Swindon United Bicycle Club held a meeting on a rough field at Eastcott hill on August 24th 1878, there was a half mile handicap race and a slow bicycle race.

GWR Cricket Club Athletic Sports were held in the mid-1870's at the Park, New Swindon. At the September 6th 1879 meeting there was a one mile bicycle race which was won by long marker, R Lindsey on a 47 inch machine from F Thomson (52 inch) and A Feltham (48 inch). Rider's machines ranged from 47 to 54 inch wheel diameters. Bicycle races were still being held at the New Swindon Park in 1894.

It was not until the early 1890's that a purpose made bicycle track was built in Swindon. The Wiltshire County Ground Company was formed in 1891 with the intention of constructing an athletic ground on a 25 acre site at Dunsford Wharf in Swindon. The company raised £7,000 and in 1892, a bicycle track and the cricket ground were completed. By the formal opening of the ground on May 13th 1893, there were two football pitches, a polo ground, pony track, running track, a grandstand holding 500 people, changing rooms, luncheon room and a refreshments bar. The bicycle track was made from burnt clay, 3 laps to the mile, 18-25 feet wide and banked to 5ft 4in. The Salisbury Times of May 19th 1893 described the track "Laid out for three laps to the mile it has been built and banked with heavy clay, upon which is laid about ten inches of burnt ballast, the surface being finished with fine screened ballast, well damped down and rolled."

The new ground was opened on May 13th 1893 with a successful meeting that attracted 8,000 spectators. There were 200 entries for the bicycle and running events, with £80 in prizes. The bicycle events were a 1 mile local handicap and ½, 1 and 3 miles open handicap races.

There were a few more bicycle race meetings in June and July, included an inter-club race meeting between the Swindon Road BC and the Swindon Amateur BC. The Swindon AA & Cycling Association held a cycle race meeting on September 9th 1893. The bicycle events were 1 and 2 miles open handicap races, a 5 miles open scratch race and a ½ mile race for the NCU local Championship.

The Swindon AA & CA held a Grand Athletics and Cycling Meeting on May 5th 1894 with four bicycle races. The Swindon Advertiser of July 14th 1894 recorded a low attendance at a mid-week cycle race meeting and commented that it may debar local clubs from renting the ground as it may result in financial loss.

At the Sports meeting on September 19th 1894, the Swindon Amateur Bicycle Club held a three miles club handicap race. There seemed to be little bicycle racing at the ground for the next five years.

Swindon Cricket Club moved to the ground in 1895 and Swindon Town FC moved there in 1896. The Wiltshire County Ground Company continued in business, but the company had not paid a dividend to shareholders for several years and £25 worth of shares in the company were sold in 1897 for £7 10s.

The was an athletics and bicycle race meeting advertised for Sept 8th 1900, which included half and one mile open handicap races. This was probably the last bicycle racing to be held at the ground.

The cricket ground is still in use and is the home of Swindon Cricket Club. The football ground next to it is still the home of Swindon Town FC. The remainder of the site is taken


Refs     : [p]
Photos : British Newspaper Archive
Maps    : National Library of Scotland