Channel Islands - Guernsey Ivy Castle

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In early 1896, the Guernsey Cycling Club discussed building a new track in a field near the Ivy Castle, which was otherwise known as the Chateau de Marais. A new track was needed because the existing track at Elizabeth College did not meet NCU rules as it was not banked and races could not be run there after summer 1896. The estimated cost of banking the Elizabeth College track would have been £500. In addition, the rent for the track was due to be increase to £50 when the lease expired in 1898 and they would then be subject to one year's notice to quit.

A scheme was proposed whereby the club could buy new field for £1,385 and a ground rent of £100, but would have to lay a track and enclose the ground, which would cost around £950. It was proposed to raise the money for this by issuing shares. The club sought to amalgamate with the island's football and cricket clubs, who would use the new facility, but this amalgamation came to nothing.

The field was purchased and it was reported in the Guernsey Star on May 23rd 1896 "Notice is herby given that the Centre of the Field recently purchased by the Guernsey Cycling Club will be put up to auction for letting....The centre of the field is sufficiently large for a full-sized football ground." At the auction, the best bid for a three year lease was £45, which did not meet the reserve, so the lease was withdrawn. Whilst the new track was under construction, in February and March 1897, the club was in court pressing for payments due from four shareholders in the new track. It transpired that the club had cancelled its initial scheme and had set up an alternative one, which some financial backers objected to. The new track was duly constructed, it was a cinder track, four laps to the mile, 8 yards wide and raised to 8ft 6in at the bankings. The new track was handed over by the contractor in August 1897 and Guernsey riders started to train on it immediately.

The track was officially opened by the Governor of the island at a great cycling meeting on September 16th 1897. The meeting was successful, there was a very large attendance of 7,000 and several English riders were brought over by HH Griffin. There were two events restricted to Jersey and Guernsey riders - a 2 miles handicap and a 2 miles novices handicap. The open events were ½ and 1 mile open handicaps and the prestige 5 miles scratch race for the People's Challenge Cup, which was won by WH Webb of Portsmouth RC. In the evening these was a fireworks display. The meeting resulted in a profit of £132.

After the purchase of the field for £1,355 there was an outstanding debt of £480 to the contractor which the club needed to find from the financial backers. The NCU inspected the track in 1899 and considered it to be the finest banked track in the Southampton district.

The June and September race meetings became an established feature just as they had been at the Elizabeth College. These meeting proved very popular and attracted good crowds. At the NCU (Southampton Centre) championship meeting on July 20th 1899, the 5 and 25 miles titles were decided in front of a crowd of 5,000. The 5 miles championship was won by AS Ingram of the Polytechnic CC and HW Payne the 25 miles. For the 25 miles race each competitor was allowed six pacemakers.

The bicycle races continued into the early 1900's. At the September 1906 sports, CB Kingsbury* won the both the half and one mile handicap races off scratch and was second to FP Le Sueur in the 5 miles scratch race. This was probably the last race meeting to be organised by Guernsey CC.

The Jersey Evening Post reported on May 25th 1907 that the Guernsey CC had been wound up because of lack of interest and the assets and liabilities of the club would be taken over by The Guernsey Sports Association Limited. The new company held a successful sports meeting on September 12th 1907 at which Bill Bailey won the quarter mile handicap and was third in both the half and one mile races. This seemed to be the last bicycle racing that was ever held on the Ivy Castle track, but football matches continued to play there until the First World War.

The old Ivy Castle track is now a football pitch and Karting Guernsey have a go cart track there.

* Clarence Brickwood Kingsbury won two track gold medals at the 1908 Olympic Games, in the 20km race and the team pursuit. He also won an NCU championship every year from 1907 to 1912.


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