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Newcastle Speedway

  “2004 - Diamond Jubilee”

 

        

 

The “Diamonds”

1929 – 2004

(75 Years of Dirt Track Racing on Tyneside)

Above: Brough Park Stadium, The Fossway, Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne. The “Jewel” in the North, home to both Newcastle teams, the Diamonds and the Gems

  Below: Newcastle’s other Speedway venue, Gosforth Park, Great North Road., before its redevelopment as a shopping centre. There is now an Asda Superstore on this site. Come on Asda! for the sake of local history sponsor Newcastle speedway at its Brough Park, Byker base.


History Of Dirt Track Racing (Speedway)

The 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. 

In 1923, 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.


UK Dirt Track Racing

Arguments now rage amongst speedway’s historians, although most agree that “Dirt Track Racing” first took place in England in the following order; Camberley, Droylsden and at High Beech.

Camberley      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.

Droylsden       near 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.

High Beech     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 British Speedway.


History Of Dirt Track Racing (Speedway

On Tyneside

 

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 recently built horseracing venue at, 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.

  1. First up was Whitley Bay they staged their first Dirt Track racing on 20th April 1929.
  1. The first ever Dirt Track meeting at Newcastle's Brough Park took place on 17th May 1929.
  1. Then Newcastle's Gosforth Park opened it’s doors for Dirt Bikes on 1st June 1929.

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 by then had done its part in establishing Newcastle as a Dirt Track center. It was left to Brough Park in Byker to entertain the Geordie speedway fans and Brough remains as the city’s only Speedway Track to this day.

               

Early programme cover pages from all 3 Tyneside tracks.  All very collectible items, Whitley Bay's Programme shows more imagination than the other 2.  At three pence in “old money” they may have been more affordable than any of today’s programme (priced at Ł1.50) are? Here are a few more fine examples of old programmes courtesy of www.speedwayswapshop.com 

   

Many Tyneside families have been formed by young people meeting at the speedway.  Now it is common to see grand parents, parents and young children at Brough Park,all enjoying a truly family orientated day out at the Speedway so ask your family if they have any old programmes, photographs, badges etc., that granddad just might have stashed away in the attic.  An old programme 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 down 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 known as the "Barford Foxes" 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 to Brough Park (38 miles away down the A19) .  TheBears like the "Diamonds" have been around since 1928/29 although both clubs have closed down and re-opened on a number of occasions. Rivalry is fierce between the 2 sets of fans, but speedway fans are not football hooligans. The Bears are expected to make a return to speedway in 2005.

           

 


Speedway bikes are very much alike now but this wasn’t the case in the early days.  Basically any road going bike could be stripped down, tuned up & altered for racing on a dirt track.  It was common to see any of the great British bike marks, in dirt track form.  Famous names (BSA, Royal Enfield, Rudge and Douglas) 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!

Above: a BSA 500cc Speedway Bike (The poor mans speedway machine!)

Above: The Rudge 500... Top riders Speedway Bike looking very potent even by modern bike standards.  
(Four valve technology is not modern apparently?)
This bike was considered the best of the early machines.  

A 500cc Douglas Dirt Bike. Alex Kynoch shows how it was done in 1929. No he is not falling off! These bikes had a very low centre of gravity


Please Note:

I began this web page simply to advertise Newcastle’s Jubilee celebration match later this year, 2004.  I have now decided that I will manage and maintain the site and add further historical features concerning speedway in the Tyneside region.  Or any interesting items from further afield.  I need the help of fans like myself to continue this work.  So if you are interested in history and have any memorabilia from any era of  any of the North East's sides past then please get in touch.  

E-mail me on dantodan@btopenworld.com  

If you want to make money out of what you have then please don't bother contacting me.  I am just a fan of speedway and I pay enough already to support my "obsession".


Modern Speedway bikes are powered by 500cc single cylinder engines, using a fixed gear. They have acceleration to match a Formula 1 racing car, have NO brakes and virtually NO suspension! It takes a very brave man to broadside them, 4 abreast, at top speed around the narrow Brough Park track.

Pictures courtesy of Mike Patrick


THE REST OF THIS SITE IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION BEGINNING WITH THE 1930'S. SO DIG OUT YOUR OLD PROGRAMMES, BADGES AND STORIES I NEED YOUR HELP!