Bristol - County Grounds - Ashley Down

Nevil Road : BS7 9EJ Bristol - County Grounds - Ashley Down : Map credit Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps
The Bristol County Ground, at Ashley Hill, opened on Saturday 18th May 1889. It was noted that "hitherto there has not been a track sufficiently safe to induce good men to visit the city." No doubt referring to the Clifton track. The new rectangular shaped track was 3 laps to the mile, thirty feet wide and banked just over four feet. The track had a top surface of natural limestone gravel on a bed of crushed limestone chippings. The track ran around the outside of the cricket pitch. There was also a grandstand for 350 people. The opening meeting was organised by the Bristol Bicycle and Tricycle Club and attracted eight to nine thousand spectators and the grandstand, enclosure and pavilion were crowded. Betting was prohibited on the ground "this has been one of the greatest nuisances to be found at local athletics meetings". The racing consisted of eight events with 32 heats, with specific races for ordinaries, safeties and tricycles.

1890 saw a spectacular NCU championship meeting at the County Ground watched by 5,000 people with top rider from around the country taking part, including Mercredy, riding a pneumatic safety. Record attempts were made, and broken, at the meeting, including the paced 2 miles record, which Mercredy lowered to 5 m 12.8 sec.

The Bristol Bicycle and Tricycle Club continued to hold track meetings at Ashley Down through the 1890's with large crowds (10,000 in 1892 at which world champion Zimmerman competed). There were also Wednesday evening track meets. Interestingly, the Bristol Bicycle and Tricycle Club called on subscribers to underwrite their 1899 meeting to raise a guarantee of at least £70.

An advert in the Bristol Times and Mirror of April 30th 1898 for the Post Office sports states that "The cycle track has been wholly re-laid, banks and corners raised to the original height, and the surface tarred, which should regain for the Track its popularity as being one of the fastest in this part of the country." All the NCU championships were held at the ground in 1901, after an interval of ten years. Bicycle racing at the County Ground seems to have declined by 1910.

At some point the track may have been ‘cement' and half a mile round, as reported article in The Weston Mercury and Somersetshire Herald of July 23rd 1904. The Bristol Police sports were held on July 2nd 1910 at which the Olympic double medallist Charles Kingsbury of Portsmouth North End won both the one lap and five miles open scratch races.

Bicycle racing at the County Ground was revived with grass track racing and the 1946 National Grass Track Championships were held there. The track around the cricket pitch has disappeared on the 1951 map. The NCU Racing Handbook for 1955 shows an advert for Bristol Constabulary Sport at Ashley Down.

The County Ground was originally bought in 1889 by WG Grace and has been home to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club ever since. It has been sold twice over the years to Fry's confectionery and the Royal & Sun Alliance, each time the club bought it back again.


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