Stoke on Trent - Stafford Bicycle Grounds

Stone Road : ST16 1NS Stoke on Trent - Stafford Bicycle Grounds : Map credit National Library of Scotland
Stafford Bicycle Grounds was set up by Mr Henry Coombs of the Oak Inn, Stafford in 1882 at the Recreation Ground, opposite the Antelope Inn, on the Stone road about a mile out of Stafford. The ground had a cinder track which was 5¼ laps to the mile but the track was initially only used for the 1882 season.

The Stafford Bicycle Grounds opened on May 28th 1882 with a three day Whitsun race meeting. The bicycle events were one and two miles handicap races (each had 20 entries), a youth's under 15 handicap over one mile and the Stafford Bicycle club one mile handicap race (with 10 entries) for a £15 bicycle. There was dancing after the races and Frank Hall's brass band played. The crowd was reported to have been 2,000 on Monday, increasing to 3,000 on Wednesday.

The Staffordshire Advertiser of June 10th 1882 reported that a meeting at the Grounds had taken place on 3rd June 1882 with "a ten miles race for £50 between J Keen, champion, and A Pierce, a coloured rider, stated to be the American champion, and a two mile race between Bradley Keen, of London, and RW Edwin of Leicester." In the ten miles race, Pierce was given three minutes start, but Keen won on the last lap in 34 min 30 sec. The attendance was reported variously between two and four thousand.

The next bicycle race meeting was held on July 1st 1882. The new track was reported as being ‘a bit heavy and would have benefited from being watered and rolled.' The events were half and one mile amateur handicap races, with a large number of heats. The Wolverhampton riders W Crutchley and P Kaye met for a £10 a side contest with three races over 1, 3 and 5 miles. The Sporting Life of 5th July 1882 reported "The attendance, however, was far below expectations, not more than 300 putting in an appearance."

On October 21st 1882 there a 10 miles sweepstake race between John Keen, F Wood and R James for £30. After an exciting race, James won by six yards in 31 min 45 sec. The was also a 3 miles scratch race with the same three riders for £5, which John Keen won. The weather was not good and there were less than 600 spectators.

The attendance at these last two meetings would have been very disappointing for Henry Coombs and he most probably lost money. This may explain why the Grounds lasted only a year.

Stafford Cycling Club was established around 1890 and some 12 years after the track fell into disuse, Stafford CC held their first athletics sports ‘at the old track' on 22nd September 1894. There were four bicycle races, including a 16 miles handicap race confined to club members. All events were confined to riders "within a radius of 7 miles from the Borough."

The following year, Stafford CC held their annual sports at Lammascotes Cricket ground on August 31st 1895 with 1 and 2 miles bicycle handicap races. At the AGM of the Stafford CC in August 1896, the club abandoned the annual sports because of "lack of enthusiasm on the part of members and supporters."

It is possible that the land on which the Grounds stood was sold to the Stafford Common Trust, as the area is shown as Stafford Common on later maps. This area is where Stafford car boot sales are currently held, on the Common, off Stone Road.


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