Join us as we share the history of the Asda site in Gosforth. Sports have played an active part in the history of Gosforth. We are sure many people will have been involved with sports clubs for example rugby and cycling clubs in some way, either directly or with their families and friends through social events. Both rugby and cycling have their early roots in events at this site. Other sports including speedway and greyhound racing remain popular and went on to find venues elsewhere.
Discovering Heritage are a team of specialist historical researchers with expertise in local and residential history. We are researching and curating the history of Gosforth and Jesmond. We are incredibly grateful to David Wardell the author of this article, who has undertaken a lot of work in this area and generously shared it with us.
The History Of The Asda Site
Towards the end of the 19th century many sports were becoming popular with a surge in interest in football, athletics and cycling . As a result there came a demand for the development of stadia to provide adequate places for these activities to take place.
It was in 1892 that Newcastle United moved to St. James Park to develop their stadium and it was around this time that pressure was amounting for a stadium to be provided for cycling and athletics. It had been mooted that the town moor would be an excellent site for this but it was repeatedly turned down for a variety of reasons. An article appeared in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle on 13th April 1892 suggesting an approach to the Directors of the Gosforth Park Company for a stadium to be developed at Gosforth Park.
It would appear that this plan never got off the ground and eventually an 8 acre piece of land was purchased on a 21 years lease on the right side of the Great North Road looking Northwards towards Gosforth Park, very suitable for the laying down of a cycling track. The cost was estimated at about £3,000 to provide the track and necessary dressing rooms, with a running ‘path’ on the inside of the cycle track. The centre part of the track was to be used for football which would help the stadium pay it’s way. Half of the money had already been put up and shares of £1 each were to be offered to cyclists. This was reported in the press and one article appeared in the Shields Daily Gazette on 19th November 1892 . This was what is now the Gosforth Asda Site.
A company was formed for the purpose and was named the Newcastle-on-Tyne Cycling and Athletics Ground Company Ltd. Tenders were sought for the necessary works and advertisements appeared in the press in December 1892. It was situated south of Harewood Road and north of Hollywood Avenue but could be accessed from the Great North Road or Hollywood Avenue, and at that time there was very little of the housing that exists there today.
In January of 1893 and article reported on the advancing works to the new grounds and it’s close proximity to the city. It was to be opened at Whitsuntide . A comment was also made suggesting that it could also be used as an ice rink in the winter.
A very lengthy article (below) was published in the Newcastle Journal on 12th May 1893 discussing the details of the new Grounds in great depth.
The National Cyclists’ Union (NCU) was an association established in the Guildhall Tavern, London, on 16 February 1878 as the Bicycle Union. Its purpose was to defend cyclists and to organise and regulate bicycle racing in Great Britain. It merged with the Tricycle Association in 1882 and was renamed the National Cyclists’ Union in 1883.
Much praise was heaped upon the new cycling track and athletic grounds. Cycling was at it’s peak and adverts abounded in the local press for bicycles , with many reports regularly appearing regarding all the local meetings and competitions. There were a vast number of cycling clubs popping up all over as instanced in a report in the Newcastle Journal 09 June 1893. Club runs for the following day listed some 52 local clubs . The track however was initially said to be little more than a cinder track around a sports field.
Cycles were available from very many local cycle dealers some of whom regularly advertised their wares in the local press with quite a large array of cycle manufacturers. Adverts were promoting the large range of bicycles available. There were Beeston Humber, Raleigh, Whitworths, Rudge, New Howe, Hardy, Townsend and Elswicks to name just a few.
An article appeared in the Newcastle Chronicle in May 1895 advertising a forthcoming twelve hour cycle race at Gosforth.
The idea of using the grounds as an ice rink in winter seems to have taken hold and an advertisement was printed in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle on Christmas Day 1897 offering Ice Skating at the Gosforth Cycling Grounds.
Rugby Football comes to the Gosforth Asda Site
The history of the Asda Site in Gosforth headed in a new direction when Rugby Football came to the County Ground in the late 1890’s . The Gosforth Football Club had been formed in 1877 but in 1883 it had joined forces with Northumberland R.F.C. subsequently absorbing Gosforth Rovers in to their club. Disbanded in 1894 Gosforth Nomads was started up. In the early days the club had led a rather nomadic existence hence they called themselves Gosforth Nomads through the early 1900’s .
The County athletics grounds became the home of Gosforth Nomads and the headquarters of the Northumberland Rugby Union sharing with Northern Rugby Club until 1951 when Gosforth got their own grounds with land that was purchased next to the Great North Road.
The Northumberland Rugby Football Union took out a 15-year lease on the Gosforth Cycling Tracks at a cost of £80 per annum in 1912 (the County finally purchased the ground in 1923).
The New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team arrived in 1924 to play a NORTHUMBERLAND & DURHAM versus NEW ZEALAND match.
Speedway Arrives 1929
At first Newcastle had two speedway tracks, one at Gosforth and one at Brough Park.
In 1929 the perimeter of the athletics field and rugby pitch at Gosforth where the cycle track had been was replaced with a wider cinder track to accommodate Speedway racing which was very much in vogue through the 1920’s.
The Gosforth Track was operated by Tyneside Speedways Limited.
The track suitable for Dirt Track Racing (Speedway) was built by Tyneside Speedways Limited and was well banked on the bends. The site had stands able to accommodate up to 3,000 spectators with an additional 15,000 on terraces.
The first meeting took place on the 1 June 1929
Newcastle Gosforth Speedway only rode for a total of nine meetings completed their final league meeting on October third. Tyneside Speedways Ltd. went into voluntarily liquidation but did ultimately pay their creditors in full. The speedway at Gosforth hadn’t lasted for very long and was disbanded, along with the sister track at Brough Park in 1930. Gosforth was deemed a little more successful than Brough Park but both stadia closed , although Brough park was to reopen some 8 years later with rather more success.
A further attempt at speedway was made the following year in 1931 when a ‘trial’ meeting was held with no appearance money being paid, no times given, no lights, no stars engaged and nothing of special interest presented, but despite this lack of expenditure and the fact that 2,500 people paid to enter and watch, the management announced that they made only a very small profit.
The ‘trial’ was deemed a failure, so that meeting that took place on the 29 July 1931 was the last at that venue and the only one held that year. © David Wardell
Watch out for the next article on the History of the Asda site in Gosforth – In Come The Greyhounds!
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