Somerset County Cricket Ground, St James’s Street, Taunton, Somerset.
LOCATED————————————Less than half a mile north east of Taunton town centre.
ORIGINAL SITE—————————–Track laid around a cricket ground.
DATE CONSTRUCTED——————-Originally as athletics track in 1881.
DATE VENUE OPENED——————1882 for cricket.
Meaning other sports may have taken place prior to the arrival of Greyhound Racing.
FIRST MEETING—————————-December 8th 1961.
Greyhound Racing only.
LICENSED OR INDEPENDENT———-Independent
All venues covered would have to be licensed with the government, licensed suggested in this section would refer to tracks operating under NGRC Rules.
INSIDE OR OUTSIDE HARE TYPE——Outside McKee.
Please note that the Electric Hare suggested is only a guidance and would have been in operation for a certain amount of time at this venue. Although it is not necessarily guaranteed that it was operational all the time, as other types of lure may have been used and updated as time progressed.
DISTANCES———————————–275, 400, 500, 525, 750 and 900 yards.
Please note that most racing venues distances had become varied throughout the years, the ones given above were at once point set and offers only a guidance to the track size.
Please note that alterations at most racing venues throughout its existence would see that the circumference of the track would vary, the one shown above offers only a guidance to the track size.
BIG RACE NAMES—————————West of England Derby.
STADIUM SHARED WITH—————–County cricket.
LAST MEETING——————————-May 3rd 1979.
Greyhound Racing only.
STADIUM CLOSURE DATE—————-N/A
Meaning other sports may have taken place after Greyhound Racing had ceased.
STADIUM DEMOLITION——————–Cricket ground still there.
BUILT ON SITE——————————–Track now grassed over reverting totally to a cricket pitch.
In some cases, structure’s that originally covered the venue after the stadium had been demolished, may have been themselves demolished too, so the one described is more likely to be the one which now presently covers the site.
EVIDENCE LEFT TODAY———————None known of.
The Somerset town of Taunton may be best described for its links with the cider industry, yet became another town that would witness greyhound racing at two different venues. The first one existed for a brief spell during the post war years of the Second World War before spiralling debts forced the proprietor into liquidation. But it is this one described in this section which operated around the town’s cricket ground that contributed in keeping the cricket club afloat for almost twenty years.
It was known as the Priory Greyhound Track, named after an earlier track that operated around the town’s rugby club during the late 1940’s. Incidentally, over the years the partnership between Cricket sharing with Greyhound Racing has become few and far between, with possibly Halifax and during its early years Oldham becoming the best known ones. One advantage of the sport taking off was its close proximity to the town centre, which lay just half a mile south west of the ground. Somerset County Cricket Club had played their matches there since 1882, yet the late 1950’s had seen debts at the cricket club escalating, and the thought of greyhound racing being introduced would hope to generate extra income.
It was during the turn of the 1960’s that discussions took place regarding the introduction of the sport, and by the end of the 1961 cricket season, the installation of the track and its fittings were well under way. Kennels had been constructed at the ground, along with track lighting, so evening meetings could take place. The track was a pear shaped affair, with a 485 yard circumference which would create distances in time of 275,400, 500, 525, 750 and 900 yards.
The Priory’s first meeting came on the 8th of December 1961 with 2,000 patrons in attendance, yet problems with constantly blowing fuses hindered the meeting. It ran six dog races with the hounds chasing an outside McKee type hare. Its main event was the West Of England Derby run in May over the 525 yard trip. But its demise came after new plans had been submitted for the redevelopment of the cricket ground, and with the lease due to expire the greyhounds featured for the final time on the 3rd of May 1979.
Eventually the greyhound track along with its fitments were removed, leaving behind just the wear and tear of were it once lay, and over the following years that evidence too disappeared with time. Today, the cricket still continues at county level, and with a stadium that has been totally transformed, there is no doubt that all memories have been erased of a sport that possibly saved the club from going bust.