11 Jul 2020
Victoria Running Ground, Elswick
This is a
Current status is
Site is now occupied by a group of Helicopter landing pads
'Probably the first running ground in Tyne and Wear. It opened in 1858. It was designed to host professional running. The Victoria Ground had a 444 yard track and a grandstand. In 1861 the half mile race between James Rowan and Jack White attracted at least 5000 people. The Victoria Ground was bought by the North Eastern Railway Company in 1863.' - Sitelines
Adjacent to the running ground was a Wrestling Ground, though there is not as much information on this.
The ground is referenced in various Victorian songs. For example, the first verse of Hogg and Foster's Race to the tune of Kiss Me Quick, written by Stephen Ridley:
'`T`uther Seturday neet aw saw a grand foot race alang at the Victoria grund,
Between Tout Foster an` Joe Hogg an` the stake was fifty pund;
Thor was lots o` cheps getting` on their bets, thor was little odds on Tout,
The cabs wor standin` at the gate, aw saw Joe Hogg luik oot.`
And also another ballad written by Ridley:
' Aw`m gawn te tell ye aboot a race
That cum off som time back,
Tween Summers an` Bob Bullerwell
This Summers was all the crack,
The race was at the Victoria Grund,
An` Summers was gaun te flee,
Says Bob `Aw cum fra` Blaydon,
An` ye`ll not get ower me.’'
There is a full feature on playingpasts.co.uk about foot racing and Tyneside here: https://www.playingpasts.co.uk/articles/athletics/nineteenth-century-foot-racing-the-tyneside-connection/
The two maps above illustrate the site of the running ground in the late 19th century. The first map, published 1864, shows the site close to the Forth Banks Good Station and Elswick lead works. The site opened only a decade earlier likely on unused land and was reputedly the first dedicated athletics track in Newcastle. This was around the time sports became a professional pastime as per the growth of football and athletics soon after, so was likely the zeitgeist at the time.
The running ground however was short lived and only survived up until the end of the century, as the North Eastern Railway bought the site to extend the swathes of sidings and works already adjacent. The second edition illustrates this, and already the North Eastern Railway constructed an extension to the sidings along with some related buildings.
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