Taunton - Vivary Park
Upper High Street : TA1 3QF
Taunton - Vivary Park : Map credit National Library of Scotland Vivary Park was built on land that originally was a medieval fish farm, or vivarium. The 19 acre park was part of Wilton House, which was built in 1705. The park was owned by William Kingsgate who allowed the park to be used for local events from 1850.

The first bicycle race at Vivary Park was held on July 27th 1869, at a fete in aid of the Bristol and Exeter Railways Widows and Orphans Fund. The sports included a velocipede race for a first prize of £2, which attracted seven competitors and the race was won by J Morgan of Bristol. 8,000 people attended

Taunton Athletic Sports we're first held there on September 13th 1877 financed with donations from local people. The Somerset County Gazette reported "A capital course a quarter of a mile in circumference had been staked out." Amongst the dozen athletics events, there was a two miles bicycle race was limited to Somerset residents. There were six starters in the race but unfortunately three riders fell badly just after the start, due to the wet conditions and the race was won by W Hansford in 10 min 30 sec.

Sports were held again in 1878 and this time the bicycle race was a handicap which was won again by W Hansford, off scratch. Entries for the event were low as local club members "objected to riding on turf." The 1879 sports included a two miles open race and a 2 miles race for Taunton club riders.

In 1880, Dr Kinglake declined to lend Vivary Park for the annual sports and they were moved to a field lent by Messrs Hardwell. £65 taken at the gate (probably 1,000 spectators). It seems that this was the only time that the sports were held there. In the meantime, a new track was opened in 1881 at the Taunton Athletic Club grounds and all local racing moved there.

After a gap of some ten years, bicycle racing returned to Vivary Park with an evening sports meeting and Conservative fete on August 7th 1890, with one and three miles bicycle handicap races. This interest did not last and the Taunton Courier commented in 1890 about the lack of local track riders "Mr Mitchel is almost the only cyclist who represents Taunton on the racing path." The Conservative fete was to be the last time that there was any track racing at Vivary Park.

The Municipal Borough of Taunton purchased Vivary Park in 1894 for £3,659. In September 1973 there were schoolboy and senior riders cycle racing using a 600 yard circuit at the park. Olympic rider Brian Sandy of Taunton won the 20 lap senior event.

Vivary Park is still well used and houses tennis courts, a bowling green and an important rose garden.

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