Shaw Croft was a grass field in the centre of Ashbourne, behind the Green Man Hotel, who owned the land. Shaw Croft was used for football matches from the 1860's and is still used as the starting point for the local Royal Shrovetide Football matches, which date back to at least 1667.*
The Wheel World Christmas annual records bicycle racing at the Paddock' in 1886, but nearly all other racing took place on Shaw Croft.
The first Ashbourne annual sports were held in 1877 and the first reported bicycle races at the sports were on August 20th 1879, which was in Ashbourne Wakes Week. The sports were held annually in late August for the next fifty years. The bicycle events were usually 1 and 2 miles scratch races and a 2 miles local race, all handicap races. Other events were running, long jump, potato gathering, walking and pole leaping.
In the following years, the sports became more organised, there were two refreshments stands, a ladies grandstand and brass band music. Evening entertainments included comic sketches, performing dogs and a fireworks display.
Ashbourne Cycling and Athletic Club was formed in the Green Man 1885 and they organised their own sports meetings on the Recreation Ground from Whit Wednesday June 16th 1886.
The cycling club then took on the organisation of the Wakes Week sports in August. The sports were held on Shaw Croft which was enclosed by canvas and the grass track was described as not a good one for riding, there being several nasty bumps.' The sports on Aug 20th 1890 included foot racing and one and two miles bicycle races (pneumatic tyres barred) and a one mile local handicap race for the Osmaston Cup (value 14 guineas) which was won by the club captain CH Purdy. There were 2,000 spectators each paying six pence for admission.
The August sports became well established and more amusements were added. In 1893 there were three lady unicyclists, Mepho' a high wire act, more performing dogs and the Brothers Olfa' horizontal bar performers. Betting must have taken place because the advertisement for the sports stated "BETTING - No form of betting will be allowed. Anyone seen using a Stool, Box, or making Bets in any form, will be put off the ground, and not allowed to re-enter."
In 1900, the meeting staged the ¼ mile NCU (Derby & Notts Centre) Championship, there was a bicycle polo match and a one mile race between J Houlden riding a bicycle and Jacques Bonhomie riding backwards, who had half a mile start - Jaques won.
The sports in 1901 were advertised as taking place on the new banked grass track, 5 laps to the mile.' The Ashbourne Cycling and Athletic Club sports continued, with a break during the First World War, resuming in 1919.
The 1920's were a great time for the Wakes sports, they staged the 5 miles NCU (Derby & Notts Centre) Championship for several year which was won in 1923 by FH Wild**.
Last bicycle races at Ashbourne were the Wakes Week sports on August 28th 1927. The bicycle events were ½ and 1 mile local handicap, ½ and 1 mile open handicap. The last race was the 5 miles NCU (Derby & Notts Centre) Championship, which was won by FC Ghielks of Ashfield CC. The Ashbourne Cycling and Athletic Club had been moribund for many years.' when they stopped organising the Wakes Week sports meeting.
The Lyme RC record a result for the 21st Aug 1965 Ashbourne Sports Meeting, the 5 miles scratch race was won by Brian Rourke with their club rider Jeff Garner coming 3rd. There are no other records of bicycle racing at Ashbourne.
Shaw Croft is now the main car park in the centre of Ashbourne.
* The Ashbourne game is played on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday from 2pm to 10pm. The two teams are the Up'Ards and the Down'Ards, for people in the north and the south of the town. There are two sets of goal posts three miles apart and each team tries to score a goal by carrying or hugging' the ball into their own goal. There is no set pitch, and no limit to the number of players, the play can move around anywhere - shops are boarded up for the game. If a goal is scored, the scorer keeps the ball and a new game is started at Shaw Croft.
** FH (Harry) Wyld was one of the four Wyld brothers. Harry won a bronze medal in the 50km track event at the 1924 Paris Olympics. In 1928 he won five NCU National Championships and the National Team Pursuit Championship with his brothers Lew, Percy and Ronald. Harry also won bronze at the 1928 Olympics in the team pursuit event.