Tyne Bridge under construction 1927/1928
History Of Dirt Track Racing (Speedway)
The “Jewel” in the North, home to both modern Newcastle teams, the "Diamonds" and the
Newcastle's only surviving speedway venue is in the east end of the city in the suburb of Byker. This eastern part of the city has undergone constant change since its urbanization in Victorian times in 1865. Byker became famous for chemicals high quality glass and pottery, the Maling pottery was close by. Later CA Parsons engineering works was built within sight of Brough Park and supplied the world with turbine generators, the fastest boat of the Victorian era, the Turbinia and even complete power stations.
The Romans settled here 2000 years ago. The Speedway stadium is fringed on two sides by "The Fossway" and "Roman Avenue", two Roman Roads and the ancient monument of Hadrian's Wall ended close by in Wallsend. The Romans and the Ancient Brits may even have staged chariot races around the site that is now Brough Park, weather permitting of course! Centuries later the Vikings invaded the north of England (please! the real Vikings, not the Hull variety). The Vikings gave the district it's name "Byker" No they didn't have a glimpse of the future of Bikers racing around Brough.
Byker gets it's name from "By Kiarr", A Viking village (a "By") near a "kiarr" (a Marsh). Kiarr was the Viking word for marsh, The nearby district of Walker means marsh or 'Kiarr' So Byker got it's name from the Vikings.
In 1929-2004 the word Biker refers to someone who rides a motorcycle, so Byker has a very apt name for the home of Brough Park and a speedway track.
The site was originally open parkland, then in 1910 a racetrack and grandstand was built to cater for
Horseracing, christened "Brough
The site was originally open parkland, then in 1910 a racetrack and grandstand was built to cater for Horseracing, christened "BroughPark". Brough Park is now 94 years old and has witnessed many changes. Greyhound racing was introduced there by 23rd June 1928 and then "Dirt Track Racing" 17th May 1929. Since then it has been been used for show jumping, stunt shows, rugby league, you name it, it has been tried at Brough Park but Speedway and Greyhounds are what "Brough" is noted for.
Above Picture: Shields Road, Byker 1929
The route for many fans to Brough in the early days of the 20th century, up Shields Road, Byker. In 1929 trams ran in the middle of the road. At stopping points a small flag would show to order all other traffic to stop, thus allowing the passengers safety whilst boarding and alighting. Did your grandparents travel to watch the Speedway this way?
This very early picture of the Brough Park Track was taken on 24th May 1929 the riders name are unknown to me (at present), they were competing for the Evening Chronicle Cup.
Is there an older photograph of racing at Brough? email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Brough Park has opened and closed its doors to speedway many times since opening on 17th May 1929. It closed in 1930 and no speedway took place until 1938 when Johnnie Hoskins came to the rescue. It closed for the second time due to Adolf Hitler not being a fan of speedway! The third opening after the war was thanks to Johnnie Hoskins again. 1946 saw highs and lows. Crowds were often massive by modern day standards and 20,000+ spectators has been reported on at least one occasion. Then double tragedy struck. Bill Nichol (April '46 ) and Charlie Appleby (October '46) died after crashing at Brough.
1949 saw the Johnnie Hoskins promotion move to Glasgow and Middlesborough move into Brough Park. The new promotion was made up of: Harry Whitfield, Arthur Atkinson and Stan Greatorex. They changed the nickname from "Diamonds" to "Magpies", various management changes took place and the track closed for the 3rd time at the end of the 1951 season.
Speedway fans had to wait until Mike Parker came along in 1961 for the 4th opening of the track. The name Magpies was by now the sole property of NUFC so the speedway team reverted back to "Diamonds". Mike Parker and Ivan Mauger steered Newcastle to the league title in 1965. Mike Parker moved on in 1969 and the name Hoskins was back in control. This time it was not Johnnie but his son Ian who promoted speedway at Newcastle in 1970. Newcastle wanted to drop to the second division in 1971 but the stadium owners did not like that idea and Brough closed for the 4th time at the end of 1970 with the staging of the Northumbrian Open Championship, won by Diamond Ole Olsen.
The fifth re-incarnation at Brough came in 1975 when Ian Thomas and George Graham gambled that they could make a success of speedway on Tyneside when others had failed. Brian Larner replaced George Graham in 1976 and the Diamonds embarked upon the most successful spell in Brough's open and shut history. They were league champions in 1976 thanks mainly to the riding of Tom and Joe Owen. The blackest spot in this period came in 1978 when young rider Chris Prime became the third rider to lose his life after crashing at Brough Park. The Diamonds continued to dominate and won back to back championships in 1982 and 1983.
Robin Stannard joined Ian and Brian as promoter for the ill-fated venture into the 1984 first division. Lower support and higher costs forced the 5th closure at the end of 1984.
The 6th opening in 1986, under John Turner's control saw the Diamonds become the Federation Specials. Eric Stead took over as Promoter in 1987 and lasted one season too, closing Brough down for the 6th time.
The doors were reopened (attempt no 7) in 1989 by Spectake ltd. Barry Wallace and Richard Bailey and then in 1991 Bill Reay and Richard Bailey became the heads of the speedway management committee. This, the 7th attempt to keep the sport going at Brough, was marred in 1992 by another fatal crash when Wayne Garratt became the 4th speedway rider to die after an accident at the track. Trevor Barnes joined (the ever present in this period), Richard Bailey as promoter in 1994 but at the end of 1994 the Brough Park faithful were without their sport once again as the club closed for the 7th time.
We then had to wait until 1997 for the reopening (8th time if I am counting correctly, probably not!). George English and Dave Rowland on behalf of Newspeed Ltd., brought the bikes back to Brough, they were later joined (2000) by local builder, Darryl Illingworth. Dave "retired" from the promotion team in 2003 and Barry Wallace replaced him for the 2004 season.
Let's hope the club never closes again and there are no more fatalities at the track.