Copenhagen House Grounds
Type: Cinder (no longer exists - built over), 1/3 mile, lanes, lane straight
Ceremonial County: Greater London
NUTS Name: London (Isl)
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OS National Grid Reference: TQ 302847
National Grid Reference: 530200, 184700
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For four glorious years (1850-53) the Copenhagen House running grounds, also known as the Old Cope, became the main track in London. The first championship belt races were run there and records were set at each distance from 1 to 10 miles.
Copenhagen Fields, Islington, was an open area on the hill between Maiden Lane and Holloway popular for mass meetings. The house, a part seventeenth-century gabled building, may have got its name through being built as a hostelry for Danish visitors when the King of Denmark came to James Iís court in 1606. By the 1750s the grounds of the house were a tea-garden, and later in the century it was used for skittles, fives, dog-fighting and bear-baiting. A cricket ground was opened in 1835. Athletics was occasionally practised there in the 1840s in the form of highland games and occasional sports meetings.
John Garratt was the owner in 1850, when legislation was introduced to ban professional running from the roads, where it had traditionally taken place. On a section of the cricket ground he built a 200yd sprint track, opened 24th September 1850. Over the winter he built an eight-foot fence around the ground and laid a track of fine gravel around the boundary of the cricket ground. It opened on 17th March 1851 and was believed to be one third of a mile. His innovation of racing for championship belts was a huge success. On 22nd March 1852, as many as 16,000 paid to watch the 10 mile championship between Frost and Levett, and a further 9000 were estimated to have watched from vantage points outside. On 26th July 1852, Charles Westhall ran the mile there in 4:28.0, the first sub-four-thirty mile on a track.
The Old Cope closed on 21st March 1853, after damage from a severe storm in December. Soon afterwards it was taken over for the Metropolitan Cattle Market, in order to close Smithfield hence the present-day road called Market Road. The house was demolished. The Market clock tower, built approximately on its site, still stands in Caledonian Park which now occupies the site.
John Garratt went on to manage the Copenhagen Running Grounds in Wandsworth. Many thanks to Peter Lovesey for the above history.
Last update: 22/05/2000
Please send any amendments to Tim Grose
UK Running Track Directory
© Copyright Tim Grose 2003