Birkenhead - Park Football Ground

Park Road North : CH41 8AA Birkenhead - Park Football Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland
Birkenhead Park was designed by Joseph Paxton and opened in 1847, it was the first public civic funded park in the world. Birkenhead Park influenced the design of Central Park in New York, it is listed Grade I by English Heritage and is a tentative World Heritage site.

Bicycle races were run in the park by Birkenhead Bicycle Club from 1880, the evening handicap races were drew a good crowd. There was no bicycle track at this time and the races were on Park Drive road, which looped around the park for about a mile.

The first track racing at the park was at the enclosed football ground. The material of the track has been reported both as grass and cinder, it was probably grass. The first significant track meeting there was the Birkenhead Police Sports on June 21st 1890, which attracted an attendance of 12,000 people. The one and two miles open handicap bicycle races proved to be a battle between the Anfield BC and Sefton and Dingle CC which ended in victory for the Deakin brothers of the Anfield, who rode pneumatic tyres, which were still quite novel at the time. Pneumatics riders carried an additional penalty of 50 yards handicap for the one mile event.

Tranmere Wanderers RFC held their annual sports at the ground on July 23rd 1892, the event was well organised, alcoholic drinks were on sale and there was a separate marquee for ladies refreshments. The usual ‘no betting' notices were displayed, but betting did take place, with only the most vociferous bookies being escorted from the ground. The one and two miles handicap races both had 34 entries and the racing was watched by 5,000 spectators. Tranmere Wanderers FC held their annual sports for the next three years, the club guaranteed their prizes, as it seems that some clubs in Liverpool, and no doubt elsewhere, were not giving the advertised prize money to winners.

Other organisations held their own annual sports at the ground from 1890 until the early 1900s, this included Clifton Park School, Claughton Collegiate School and Birkenhead Institute. Birkenhead Rangers held their athletic sports there in 1894, Birkenhead Wanderers RFC in 1899 and the Birkenhead Hospital Sports were held until 1899. Most of the sports seemed to include two bicycle handicap races (with heats) over one and two miles.

For the 1897 Queen's Jubilee the town council organised a Grand Sports event at the Park, which was held on June 19th, with one and two miles bicycle races, which attracted a crowd of 8,000. Bicycle racing at the park suffered when the hard track at New Brighton opened in 1897, after which all serious bicycle racing in the area took place there.

The Mersey Railway Social and Athletic sports were held at the Park ground from 1907 to 1914. Birkenhead North End organised a handicap event at one of their meetings, although the track was described as poor. The last Railway sports were held on July 18th 1914 and their half mile handicap was probably the last bicycle race on Birkenhead Park track.

The road circuit in Birkenhead Park has been used for criterium racing, in 1951 there was a 75 miles Festival of Britain race, New Brighton CC ran a series of criteriums in 1970, there was a criterium series in 1989 and Birkenhead North End CC ran a series in 1996.

Birkenhead Park is still one of the finest parks in the UK with a rich heritage. Birkenhead Park FC is a rugby union club which was established in 1871 and they still play at the ground.


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