Northumberland - Bates Cottages
East Holywell : NE27 0JJ
Northumberland - Bates Cottages : Image credit US Library of Congress East Holywell colliery was built on an estate belonging to R Bates and the name Bates Cottages referred to a tiny area consisting of three or four streets around North Row, East Holywell. The small area retained a strong sense of community and a bicycle club was formed there in 1887, called Bates Cottages Amateur Bicycle Club.

Bates Cottages ABC held their first sports meeting on August 28th 1887 in a field in Hollywell village, lent by Miss Stobbs. The main bicycle event was a two miles handicap, run in six heats and won by Durham rider Appleby off scratch. There was also a 100 yards running race, a pigeon race from Morpeth, and football and cricket matches. In the evening there was a ball, with music from the Backworth Brass Band.

The event was held the following year on September 8th 1888 and there were "Three special prizes" for a one mile amateur bicycle handicap, for machines not less than 30lb in weight. Admission to the field was 6d, and to the field and tea, gentlemen 1s, ladies 9d. The event was held under NCU rules,

A new bicycle grounds for Bates Cottages ABC was made in 1889 on the site of the old gas works at East Holywell. The track was 6½ laps to the mile, with the ground enclosed by six foot paling. The Morpeth Herald of May 25th 1889 commented that one bad bend needed banking and the dressing room needed improvement.

The grounds were opened on Saturday May 18th 1889, and the sport attracted a crowd of over 800 people. The meeting opened with a show of exhibition riding by top local riders T Battensby of North Shields and Frost of Blyth. The bicycle event was a one mile amateur handicap race for prizes £2, £1 and 10s. There were 36 entries and the exciting final was won by James Bone of Backworth by a few inches from John Jaques of Bates Cottages.

The Holywell Bates Cottages ABC second sports meeting was held on June 29th 1889, but with a poor attendance. The one mile bicycle handicap was again the main event and there were twenty two entries. The sports also included a 110 yards running race and a quoits competition. A grand ball was held in the evening in a large marquee, which was owned by the club.

The third race meeting of the 1889 season, organised by Holywell Bates ABC was held on August 3rd 1889 in front of a poor crowd, because of rain in the morning. The main bicycle race was a one mile open handicap for a first prize of £4, this needed six heats and the race was won by N Bone who fainted at the finish. The final event was the five miles Bates Cottages ABC club championship won by R Williams. The winners of both events rode Sparkbrooke machines.

A meeting on 21st September 1889 brought the season to and end for Holywell Bates club with a half mile handicap race, but unfortunately, there was once again a poor attendance.

Miss Lottie Stanley, the American rider had a match arranged with Harry Symington on May 23rd 1890. Miss Lottie's manager, Mr Gannon, gave a reporter from Blyth Weekly News background information about the rider. She was eighteen years old, a native of Pittsburgh and had been a professional rider for two years, eight months of that time having been spent in England with four other women US racers. She claimed to be the world champion at all distances, with a 48 hour record of 679 miles. Her favourite machine was a 49 inch American racer weighing 22 lbs. The match was for £5 a side and Lottie was given 500 yards start over 5 miles. There was a large gate of over 600 paying spectators. Before two miles were ridden, Harry gained one of the two laps needed, then when two laps from home, they were level. For the last two laps, they raced each other but neither could pull ahead and in the final sprint Harry managed to win by a foot in 19min 40sec.

The wet weather played havoc with the series of fortnightly handicaps in 1890 and the first successful meeting was on June 26th, which featured a one mile handicap race. This was won by H Steel from G Rendal by a foot, Steel was riding a 22lbs Raleigh Racer. Attendance was again poor. The club continued to hold its open summer and evening meetings in 1890 and 1891 and the track was re-covered in 1891.

The track re-opened on July 16th 1892, after extensive alterations, a new straight was laid, the whole track was re-surfaced and the turns were improved. The opening meeting had a single race, a one mile open handicap. The weather was poor, resulting in a poor turnout of riders and spectators.

The meeting on August 6th 1892 drew a large crowd of around 1,000 people. The two miles scratch race was won by local fast man J Jaques and the popular one mile open handicap by RS Jackson of Cramlington. The Seaton Delaval Astley club held their club championship race over three miles.

The final track meeting of 1892 was abandoned because of a lack of entries. The Holywell Touring Club held their 100 miles race for their club championship at Holywell on October 1st 1892, the six competitors were on roadster machines and only two completed the race.

On April 10th 1893, there was a match race between E Priestly of Seaton Delaval and John Ritchie of Seaton Terrace, over two miles for £10. There was a notice in the June 5th 1893 Newcastle Daily Chronicle stating "Bates Cottages Amateur Bicycle Club - The sports advertised to take place under this club's auspices on Saturday have been indefinitely postponed through insufficient entries." On July 5th 1893 there was a half mile bicycle handicap race, with 19 entries, but this was to be the last bicycle race at the Holywell track.

It was reported on December 16th 1893 that the Bates Cottages club had collapsed. At the New Delaval cyclists' banquet, which was held on the same day, the club secretary blamed the NCU "whose licensing scheme had been adopted. Personally, he never believed in the NCU's scheme, as he considered the cost of being an amateur rider was quite heavy enough without an extra fee of 2s 6d for the Union." This coincided with the demise of bicycle racing in the Northumberland pit villages, but local touring clubs began to flourish.

Bates Cottages has now almost disappeared from maps, but the name is kept alive by Bates Cottages Cricket Club, which was established in 2012.

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Photos : US Library of Congress