Bristol - Clifton Zoological Gardens

Clifton Down : BS8 3HA Bristol - Clifton Zoological Gardens : Map credit Old-Maps.co.uk historic maps
The first use of Clifton Zoological Gardens for bicycle racing was probably the West of England Bicycle Meet on Saturday 9th September 1876. The event was organised by the Clifton, Stroud, and Bath clubs and attracted 100 riders. The Sporting Chronicle of 18th September describes the rally and subsequent race meeting. "A capital course about 2½ laps to the mile was roped off round the broad walk and a small portion of lawn, forming altogether the circuit of the gardens. The meet and sports attracted a large number of spectators, who were greatly interested in the keen competition which ensued. There were some very fine machines on the ground, the largest of them having 60-inch wheels." The bicycle racing events were 1, 2 and 5 mile races, race without hands, slow race and a one mile Ariel race (open only to riders of Haynes and Jefferie's machines, of Coventry). The evening was "terminated with a display of fireworks, with set pieces displaying emblematic designs, one of which was a monster bicycle with the inscription'Success to the West of England Bicycle Meet'".

The meet was extremely popular was held regularly throughout the 1880's. The 1882 meet attracted 24 clubs, 230 cyclists and the attendance for the race meet was "between 3,000 and 4,000."

The Zoological Gardens proved popular, in 1883, the Ariel Rowing Club ran athletics festivals which included several bicycle racing events. The Ariel Club cancelled two bicycle races in 1884 because of "bicyclists objecting to ride on the track". The Ariel Club omitted bicycle racing in 1885 "owing to the dangerous nature of the track." The Bristol Bicycle and Tricycle Club moved its annual race meet from Bristol to Clifton in 1887. The Bristol Mercury of May 16th 1887 reporting this meet, stated that "The grass track, which the Gardens Committee have substituted for the old track, on which there were so many accidents, was in very good condition. It has been greatly improved by the relaying of turf on the lower side, and there is now little to complain of except that the turns are rather sharp, and the start uphill over the gravel pitch is rather awkward."

Throughout the use of Clifton Zoological Gardens there were complaints about the track. The old gravel track was considered dangerous, "the corners were awkward , and a sharp curve and fall in the path near the bear pit seemed to be very cautiously negotiated by the riders." When racing changed to use the grass track, it also did not find favour and was considered too soft.

Perhaps, because of difficulties with the track, there does not appear to have been any bicycle racing at the Zoological Grounds after 1900, the County Ground seems to have been the more popular Bristol venue.


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