London - Beckton Cricket Club
Armada Way : E6 7ER
London - Beckton Cricket Club : Map credit National Library of Scotland London - Beckton Cricket Club : Image credit Mike Forster The London Gas Light and Coke Company built the largest gas works in the world at Beckton in East Ham, which opened in 1870. The gas was produced by heating coal to form coke, which produced by-products such as coal-tar and ammonia. The works supplied gas to most of North London, using a 48" gas main which ran to the City of London.

A sports ground was laid out by the company, with a cricket pitch and a fine quarter mile bicycle track around it, which opened in 1881. The first Beckton Cricket Club sports meeting took place on 1st October 1881, which attracted a thousand spectators and included a one mile bicycle handicap race, together with running, walking and athletic events. These sports became an annual event.

The Beckton Bicycle and Tricycle Club was formed early in 1883 and they held an Easter Tuesday meeting at the ground. The club joined with the Criterion Bicycle Club to hold a joint meeting at the ground on 21st July 1883, with club and open races.

The annual sports were held at the ground for ten years and regularly attracted around 3,000 spectators. The cinder track was kept in excellent condition, but the bicycle racing never seemed to attract quality riders.

The Beckton annual sports meeting on August 29th 1891 was the last bicycle race meeting to be held at the ground. Four thousand people watched the Criterion BC and Beckton Cricket Club sports at which there were four bicycle races and eight other events. By 1895, the Beckton Cricket Club sports were moved to the South West Ham ground at North Woolwich Road and in 1897, the Thames Ironworks Memorial Grounds track at nearby Canning Town opened.

The gasworks closed in 1970 and for some time in the 1990s, the spoil heaps were converted into a dry ski slope, known as the Beckton Alps. The site of the abandoned gasworks was used in many films, including George Orwell's "1984", Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" and the James Bond movie "For your eyes only". Part of the site is now an industrial estate and the Gallions Reach shopping centre.

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Photos : Mike Forster
Maps    : National Library of Scotland