(75 Years of Dirt Track Racing on Tyneside)
Brough Park Stadium, The Fossway, Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne.
“Jewel” in the North, home to both Newcastle teams, the Diamonds and the
redevelopment. There is now an Asda store on this site.
History Of Dirt Track Racing (Speedway)
Origins Of The Sport – UK, USA Or Australia?
The origins of the sport are not entirely crystal clear but it is generally accepted that Australian farmers started it all. They were racing their motorcycles around rough oval dirt tracks during the 1920’s. Early motorcycle owners in the USA can tell a similar story.
Johnnie Hoskins, the secretary of the West
Maitland (New South Wales) Agricultural Show
introduced racing on a dirt track under lights.
Speedway had just been born! And it
spread across Australia like wildfire. Hoskins
was so keen on the sport he had helped to invent that he soon had ambitions that
lay outside Australia.
By 1927 Johnnie had introduced
the spectacle of motorcycles racing on small oval dirt tracks to Great Britain.
in Surrey, staged racing on 7th May 1927, although it
bore little resemblance to speedway. The
“track” was mainly sand and so this does not really qualify as a Dirt Track.
Manchester was next 25th June 1927. This track was cinder covered
(Cinders were a by-product of the near-by power station).
Cinder tracks became the norm at this time in speedways history. The track suffered from council objections and never “took
off” as a venue.
in Epping Forest also attempted to
stage racing in 1927 but their application for a license was refused until 1928.
The opening meeting at High Beech was staged on 19 February 1928 before
an amazing crowd of 30,000 spectators. It
was a huge success and High Beech is considered by many to be the birthplace of
Of Dirt Track Racing (Speedway)
This totally novel form of entertainment immediately hooked a large section of the UK public. Dozens of tracks all over the UK opened during 1928 and 1929. The North East didn’t lag far behind, with not one, nor two, but three venues in the Newcastle area!
The Newcastle Motor Racing
Club Ltd applied to lay a track inside the horseracing venue, Brough Park,
Byker. A rival company called Tyneside Speedways Ltd., applied to use
Newcastle’s Rugby Union ground in Gosforth Park and the
Rockcliffe Rugby Ground at Whitley Bay for dirt track racing.
These ventures had to wait until 1929 to stage their first race meetings.
Whitley may have been the first
to open but unfortunately they were the first to close too although the stadium
survives to this day as a Rugby Club.
Gosforth lasted until 1931 but
had done its part in establishing Newcastle as a Dirt Track center. It was left
to Brough Park in Byker to entertain the speedway fans and “Brough” remains
as the city’s only Speedway Track.
Early programme covers from all 3
Tyneside tracks. All very
collectible items, Whitley Bays shows more imagination than the other 2.
At three pence “old money” each they may have been more affordable
than today’s programme is?
Here are a few more fine examples
of old programmes courtesy of www.speedwayswapshop.com
Many Tyneside families have been
formed by young couples meeting at the speedway. It is common to see grand parents, parents and young children
all enjoying a truly family orientated day out at the Speedway so ask your
family if they have any old programmes that granddad just might have stashed
away in the attic. It could be
worth far more than 3d now!
Cycle Speedway too is a national
interest, which had local involvement. Newcastle
had a track on Stotts Road at the bottom of the Fossway not far from Brough
Park. Newcastle’s cycle speedway
team competed in a national league. Competition
was fierce amongst the skid kids and just as competitive as the motorized sport.
There have been many other local
ventures but none with the fan base or longetivity of Newcastle’s Brough Park.
Sunderland had a team known as the Saints whom operated from the East Boldon
greyhound stadium in 1964. Ashington
Arrows too staged speedway at the towns Portland Park stadium in the early
1970’s. Felton near Amble in Northumberland, operated a behind closed doors
training school venture and also had some drag racing there too. Aycliffe
stadium near Darlington and Barford near Barnard Castle should have been other
homes to speedway but ventures into speedway at both venues never got off the
ground and instead they became stock car racing strongholds.
Middlesborough was the closet of
the successful teams. The
“Bears” like the Diamonds have been around since the late 1920’s although
both clubs have closed down and re-opened on a number of occasions.
Speedway bikes are all very much alike now but this wasn’t the case in the early days. Basically any road going bike could be stripped down and tuned up for racing on the dirt. It was common to see any of the British bikes in dirt track form. Famous names from our engineering factories the length and breadth of the country once graced the tracks but now speedway is dominated by Jawas from the Czech Republic. Other bikes have come and gone but the Jawa still remains as ideally suited to going sideways at speed!
Speedway Bike (looking very potent even by modern bike standards. Four valve technology is not modern apparently?)
500cc Douglas Dirt Bike. Alex Kynoch shows how it was done in 1929.
I began this webpage to advertise
Newcastle’s Jubilee celebration match later this year.
I will manage the site and add further historical features concerning
speedway in the region.
If any visitors to the site have
any memorabilia from any era in our local sides past then please get in touch.
E-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
bikes are powered by 500cc single cylinder engines, use fixed gears,
takes a very brave man to broadside them 4 abreast at top speed around the