Cycle Racing in the 1950s

Oldest cycle track in the country

Preston Park Velodrome is the oldest cycle track in the country. The Velodrome was dug out by the British Army in the late nineteenth century. It was used for annual competitions right up until the start of the First World War.

Whit Monday 1951

Relaid in with tarmac in 1936

When the track re-opened at the end of the WWI, the surface was made of cinders, riders who had crashed were often badly injured and had to have the cinders removed with hot water and a scrubbing brush. A tarmac surface was laid in 1936, with the first and last corners also being raised for safety reasons.

10,000 spectators in the 1950s

During the 1950’s, Bank Holiday races would attract up to 10,000 spectators who would watch cycling legends such as Reg Harris take on the Velodrome. Spectators were treated to races that were as fast as they were dangerous.

Comments about this page

  • Reg Harris! There’s a name to conjour with from cycling’s past. Bit of a playboy compared to the abstemious and modest Bradley Wiggins, I gather. I see Harris promoted Raleigh, which I used to ride, although my bike was just a humble (though sturdy) roadster. Amazing that you could make a living out of cycling even in the 50s, and I never even knew there was a track in the Brighton area!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (04/01/2013)
  • I used to go up there in the 50s & 60s. I seem to remember it was right up the top, a fair walk. I only lived at Preston Circus so went to the park quite a lot when I was a kid.

    By Anne Newman (04/01/2013)
  • Remember it well. I and pals used to play all sorts of silly games chasing each other along the terraces on the east side. Never saw any organised cycle races but locals often used to use the track unofficially for training. And of course during the summer the central oval was used as a cricket ground – I believe it still is.

    By Len Liechti (13/01/2013)
  • My parents were both cyclists – my mum (Bunty Walker) was a talented track racer and my dad (Cliff) was a road racer. It was only natural that I’d end up, bombing round the cycle track. I remember them advising me that it was better to buy a second-hand “proper” racing bike than a new, flash one. My tatty old Claude Butler served me well. I never raced, but did go and watch the racing – probably around 1965-1968. Oh, the excitement of “Devil Take The Hindmost”.

    By Marc Turner (28/03/2013)
  • Terry, many thanks for up loading these photographs of the Cycle Track in its heyday. Do you have any exact dates for these?

    By Chris Young (24/01/2014)
  • Sorry Chris, I do not know the exact dates of the pics – they are about 1951.  They belong to Mick Deacon who is on the roller machine and is in some of the other pics. He kindly gave me permission to post them. I can only guess that the pic showing the café bend was Whit Monday because of the flags on the café.  The big man on the left with sunglasses is Mick Morton who rode on the track. 

    By Terry Hyde (28/01/2014)
  • My father was George Woodham and he used to organise race meetings at the track and one of them was called the Sash Race on August Bank Holiday Monday. There was Van Vleet, Reg Harris and many others who used to compete. My sister Valerie and brother Ronald with my Mum (Gwen) and myself Pauline would always attend. My Dad was a member of Brighton Stanley Wanderers and I am sure had a close friend named Tom Howell. I have wonderful memories of those days.

    By Pauline Woodham (24/04/2014)
  • It is lovely for me to find so many items about Preston Park and all around Brighton .( I lived in Kemp Town until we were ‘bombed out ‘ during the war . We then lived in Preston Drove.
    I have lived in Western Australia since 1970 but Brighton is still in my heart & mind. Happy memories.

    By John Starley (13/06/2021)

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