The ‘Athletic Grounds’ of Loughborough

27 January 2015

Loughborough is known world-wide as a centre of sporting excellence through the University and its ability to produce sporting greats such as Robbie Brightwell, Dave Moorcroft, John Cooper, Andy Robinson, Bob Wilson, Tony Waiters, Sir Clive Woodward, Dario Gradi, Sir Sebastian Coe, Steve Backley and Paula Radcliffe.

However, a book by local resident Barry Wilford reveals that the town was active in the sporting world long before the University – previously Loughborough College – was established.

‘The Athletic Grounds of Loughborough’, published by Panda Eyes Press, documents the history of Loughborough’s sporting past and in particular of the Athletic Grounds on Nottingham Road, Leicestershire’s first enclosed sporting arena.

Opened in 1862 behind the Greyhound Hotel, the grounds hosted athletics meets, cycling, cricket, rifle shooting, musical concerts, an in-famous pig hunt and, most famously, football. It became the home of Loughborough Town Football Club and, later, Loughborough Corinthians, with matches staged there against many existing major league teams. The grounds closed in 1908 when the site was sold for development.

‘I became interested in the Athletic Grounds whilst looking through my late brother’s collection of postcards,’ Barry says. ‘I came across a photograph of Barrow Rising Star Football Team taken in 1904 and was intrigued to know where it was taken.’ A volunteer in Loughborough Library’s local studies room, Barry’s research kept growing until he realised he’d gathered enough material for a book. This was launched at last week’s Great War commemoration event in Queen’s Park.

With its insight into social life in Loughborough during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Barry’s informative and amusing book has plenty to interest even those who don’t like sport. The two world wars get a mention, as does the brewery which once stood off Derby Road, the origins of Loughborough Library and Charnwood Museum, and the duties and benevolence of the town’s first mayor, Alderman Joseph Griggs.

Not to mention the story of how Loughborough Town FC beat Arsenal 8-0 in Loughborough!


You can read an article in the Leicester Mercury about Barry Wilford’s book here.  Copies of ‘‘The Athletic Grounds of Loughborough’ are available from Waterstones, Loughborough, or by contacting Barry Wilford on 0784 953 8051.