Herne Hill Velodrome, London
Herne Hill Velodrome is a historic site. It’s been described as the equivalent of; Wembley for Football, Lords for Cricket and Wimbledon for tennis. For many it is the true home of track cycling in the UK. It is one of the oldest track cycling venues in the world and has an illustrious history. Find out more about corporate cycling days at Herne Hill Velodrome by clicking here.
The track was constructed in 1891 as the brainchild of celebrated amateur racing cyclist, George Lacey Hillier.
Unlike a modern Olympic velodrome (which will have an inner circumference of 250m, and banking of about 45°), Herne Hill is a shallower concrete bowl measuring approximately 450m with the banking at its steepest being 30°.
Track cycle racing was probably at the peak of its popularity in this country in the 20s and 30s when the Velodrome frequently attracted massive crowds. Attendance at the legendary annual Good Friday Track meeting often exceeded 10,000 people. We’re pleased to say that despite the freezing cold weather numbers were approaching this figure when the event took place in 2013. A clear demonstration of the resurgence in popularity of the sport over the last decade if one were needed.
Herne Hill has a unique place in cycling history as a venue that helped stage the 1948 Summer Olympic Games that were held in war damaged London. At the beginning of 1948, having been used as a wartime barrage balloon site, the Velodrome was cracked and covered with weeds. Fortunately thanks to funding from a private donation a new surface was constructed.
At these games, all hopes were pinned on Britain’s four times world sprint champion Reg Harris but unfortunately the Italian rider Mario Ghella beat him to second place.
There was good news for the home fans as the late great Tommy Godwin won two bronze medals – in the 1km time trial and team pursuit.
Incredibly Herne Hill Velodrome is the last remaining venue from the 1948 Summer Olympics. For that and many other reasons a large number of volunteers give up their time for free and work tirelessly for the charity The Herne Hill Velodrome Trust in order to secure the future of this historic site future generations of track cycling fans. Please visit the Friends of Herne Hill Velodrome stand to learn how you can help support them. They have a great range of stylish cycling merchandise. All profits go towards their fund raising campaign for a new pavilion that is so vital to ensuring the venue is able to sustain itself in the years to come.
The proposed new pavilion would house changing facilities, a gym and a café and provide crucial revenue that would enable the Trust to secure a long term lease from the site’s landlords.
The existing derelict grandstand was also closed off in the early 2000s after years of neglect by various operators.
In 2005 the venue was closed following the expiry of the lease & unsuccessful attempts to take over the running of the it. However, following discussions between the landlords, a short lease was negotiated & VC Londres took responsibility for the day to day management of the venue on a voluntary basis on behalf of British Cycling.
Due to a deteriorating track and an annual rolling lease that prevented significant investment the threat of closure reared its head again in 2011. Fortunately in August 2012 British Cycling, were able to secure a 15 year lease for the track, and it was resurfaced in the near-all weather, grippier, faster tarmac we see before us.
Herne Hill Velodrome doesn’t just breed track cyclists. To the rear of the site there is a terrific off-road circuit that is used by thousands of children each year for mountain biking and cyclocross.
Herne Hill Velodrome is home to the longest running track meeting in the U.K. The legendary Good Friday Meeting first took place in 1903.
Over the years World class riders have travelled from the continent to take part like Michael Hubner, Florian Rousseau and Arnaud Tournant as well as the British and Irish stars Graeme Obree, Bradley Wiggins, Stuart O’Grady, Rob Hayles, Jamie Staff, Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Queally to Herne Hill to ensure the continuity of this great international meeting.
Multi Olympic Champion and Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins refers to himself as a son of Herne Hill Velodrome having learnt to track cycle here.
The centre of the Velodrome was home of Crystal Palace F.C. from 1914 until 1918, when the club had been forced to hand over their own home to the war effort.