Northumberland - New Delaval
Newsham : NE24 4TG
Northumberland - New Delaval : Map credit National Library of Scotland Northumberland - New Delaval : Image credit Mike Fishpool The first bicycle race at New Delaval was on July 21st 1877 at the Mechanics' Institute sports, which were held on Mr Wigham's field. There was a good attendance and a velocipede race was run, which was "the most interesting item of sports". The race over "a couple of miles" was won by John Polwarth from R Bowman and T Bowman. The other sports were a 110 yards foot race, a three-legged race and a pigeon flying handicap race. There was tea in the after, the Seaton Delaval brass band played and there was a ball in the evening. At the annual sports on 6th July 1878, held on a field near the village, a bicycle handicap race was included, which was won by Thomas Bell of New Delaval, riding a 50 inch machine (off 2 minutes) from J Battenby from Seaton Delaval riding a 52 inch machine (off 50 seconds), the winner received one pound.

New Delaval Amateur Bicycle Club was formed in 1886 with its headquarters at the Black Diamond Inn at Newsham. By December 1886, the club had forty members and was in a healthy financial state when they held their first annual gathering at the Black Diamond. It was reported that the club "hoped that their new track would soon be completed", the piece of land for the track belonged to the Delaval coal company and this relationship was maintained throughout the life of the club. The two guests of honour at the meeting were Tom Battensby** of Hartley and TD Oliver^^ of Newcastle, who promised to give the new club practical support at future race meetings. The club was sometimes referred to as the New Delaval Black Diamond Bicycle Club.

A new bicycle racing track was built for the club on a piece of land near the railway, donated by the colliery owners of New Delaval. The cinder track was 292 yards around (approximately 6 laps to the mile) The making of the track was under the control of Mr Swindle. The track opened on March 9th 1887 with an enormous attendance, the schools had a holiday for the event. The New Delaval ABC rode in procession from the Black Diamond to the new track, led by the New Delaval Brass Band. The club captain and club members rode around the track, then Battensby and Oliver gave an exhibition of their abilities. After the event, members adjourned to the Black Diamond Inn for refreshments and drinks.

The first open meeting at the track was held on 17th September 1887. The events were the one mile club championship, one mile amateur handicap, half mile novices handicap and a two miles professional handicap won off scratch by Tom Battensby.

Neil Carter++ comments that "between April and September there were weekly races for club members and also four to five annual meets, which attracted racers from all over the north-east."

In June 1888, the club held their second spring meeting on their enclosed track. The track was built through "the physical labours of the members and the raising of £60 to pay for the work". The Morpeth Herald of June 2nd 1888 reported "The members, in providing such an excellent enclosure and track, incurred a large debt, a considerable sum being yet required to free them from the bondage of finances". The track was reported to be in good condition and had been re-laid. The events were 1 mile handicap and 1 mile roadster handicap races.

The Blyth Weekly News of 1st June 1889 reported that the club held their annual spring meeting "on their enclosed track". The attendance "could not be considered large". The bicycle events were a 1 mile open handicap and a ½ mile club race.

Five of the top American women professional track racing cyclists toured Britain for four months from September 1889 to January 1890, and they raced at New Delaval on 7th December 1889. The women were Louise Armaindo, Lottie Stanley, Jessie Woods, May Allen and Lillie Williams. Attendance at the meeting was not large, as a rumour was going around that the women would not be appearing. The American team were Louisa Armande from Chicago, Lottie Stanley and Jessie Woods, May Allen and Miss Lillie Williams from Pittsburgh. In the one mile mixed handicap, M Flannigan from Wallsend won off scratch and in the women's one mile handicap, May Allen off 40 yards, led all the way to win easily. There was also a women's quarter mile dash, which was the most exciting race of the day and was another win for May Allen by two lengths.

On 6th May 1892, the club held their annual carnival track meet. The ½ mile handicap event attracted 50 competitors and needed seven heats. Later in the year on July 6th, the club held a Wednesday evening meet "on their excellent track". A report on the May 1893 meeting states that "the track, which is six laps to the mile, has been re-laid and rolled.

At the club's annual banquet in December 1893, the NCU was heavily criticised for bringing in a levy of 2s 6d license fee to be paid by every racing amateur, when the club itself had to pay an annual affiliation fee of half a guinea to the NCU. By 1894, the track meetings were in decline and the following year, the New Delaval Amateur Bicycle Club disbanded and Newsham Villa Football Club took over the bicycle ground.

** Tom Battensby was a famous Northumberland racing cyclist, he was 19 when he won his first 6 day race at York in 1880, covering 674 miles. He went on to win a total of eight 6 day races. He rode a 56 inch Rudge.

^^ Newcastle rider TD Oliver of Jesmond ABC was famous for winning and retaining the Waller Cup five times in 1882. The cup races were run off at the World Champion track cyclist, George Waller's Ground in Byker. Oliver opened a gymnasium in Newcastle as a school for cycling.

++ Neil Carter, Cycling and the British, A Modern History, Bloomsbury Academic, London 2021

Refs     : [p]
Photos : Mike Fishpool
Maps    : National Library of Scotland