Newcastle Speedway  

 
 

The Tyne Bridge under construction 1927/1928

 

 
History Of Dirt Track Racing On Tyneside

Brough Park

 
 
 
Courtesy of www.newcastlespeedway.net
 

Longish fast straights and tight turns are what defines the Newcastle Track.  Riders have to shut off going into the turns and pick up the revs on the corners coming out at full throttle.  Easy eh? no not at all the front wheel lifts at full throttle.  A great track to watch skilled riders perform on but poorer riders do not usually entertain us.

 

 
Brough Park's Opening Meeting Programme
 
 

Scan of the first speedway programme at Brough Park

 
 
Inside the programme, the first ever race was won by Gordon Byers who appears on the Pre War years page on this site Pre - War Part 1
 
The last programme of the first period at Brough Park
 
 
The 4th July 1930 and the promotion pulls out of Brough Park. Tyneside fans could still watch the sport at Brough Park's rival track, Gosforth Super Speedway until 29th July 1931, when it closed down too.  Gosforth Speedway never reopened (its now an ASDA store) whereas Brough Park did make a comeback in 1938.
 

 
Newcastle Brough and Sheffield's Owlerton Circuits
 
 
Left: a shot of Brough Park from the air.  The speedway track is inside the greyhound track.  Brough has long fast straights and tight corners and although it has changed shape many times the tightness of the bends remains as it's chief characteristic.  The other shot is of Sheffield's Owlerton track to emphasise how tight Brough Park is.
 

 
Brough Park Stadium at Track Level
 
1947 Peter Lloyd
 
This shot from the pits bend shows a panoramic view of half of Brough Park.  The old wooden stands on the fourth bend, the greyhound tote board and the single story building on the far right, which was a bar and a sometimes location of our track shop.  All this is now gone and at Brough in 2005, viewing is from the home straight only.  This is 1947( Peter Lloyd is the rider), the stadium was packed all the way around and yet 4 years later Brough closed it's doors! Why?
 

 
Brough Park - 17th May 1929 to ?
 
 

Above : The “Jewel” in the North, home to both modern Newcastle teams, the "Diamonds" and the "Gems." Brough Park Stadium, The Fossway, Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne. The Gems have been withdrawn from The 2005 Conference League. 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 began in Victorian times in 1865.  Byker became famous for chemicals, high quality glass and pottery, the Maling pottery was close by. 

 
Almost the same age as Newcastle Diamonds
 
Local Tea Company Ringtons, probably supplied fans with a cuppa at Brough? Ringtons Tea Head office was built in Byker in 1926 and is still there, Ringtons is within ear-shot of the roar of the speedway. 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.
 
Mike Watkin's Apprentice Training School Picture 1960
 
Courtesy of Mike Watkin
 
This is Mike Watkin's apprentice training school group taken in 1960.  Because Parsons is so close to the speedway we think you may recognise some of the lads from Parsons. Let me know if you do John
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 "Wall Kiarr", means marsh or 'Kiarr' by the wall  So Byker got it's name from the Vikings. 
 
In 1929-2004 the word Biker refers to someone who rides a motorcycle, Byker has a very apt name for the home of Brough Park and a speedway track.
 
The stadium site was originally open parkland, then in 1910 a racetrack and grandstand was built to cater for Horseracing, christened "Brough Park".  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" was introduced on 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?
 

 
Earliest Picture of racing at Brough Park
 
 
This very early picture of the Brough Park Track was taken on 24th May 1929 (just 7 days after the opening of the track) the riders names are unknown to me (at present), they were competing for the Evening Chronicle Cup. Is there an older photograph of racing at Brough? i.e. from the opener on 17th May 1929 if you have one please email me John
 

 
Openings, Closures and Fatalities
 
Brough Park has opened and closed its doors to speedway many times since opening on 17th May 1929.  It closed down 4th July 1930 and no speedway took place until 1938 when Johnnie Hoskins came to the rescue.  It closed for the second time in September 1939 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.  Here are the sad accounts of their fatal crashes at Brough Park: -
 
 

 

Bike Transport 1948 style : John Hunter

 

Courtesy of John Hunter via Dave Rowland

 
1948: Making the short trip from home (Wallsend) to Brough Park for an evening's racing.  Local rider John Hunter on the combination with his mate on the back.  The guy on the left was another rider Stuart Robson.  The combination was a1923 Harley Davidson.  I don't know what the other road bike was.  The speedway machine in the sidecar was I am told a Rudge with a JAP engine.  The other speedway bike has it's chain removed so the back wheel could revolve freely on the road.  It was common to see speedway bikes transported in this fashion before car ownership did away with the motorcycle combination.
 
Courtesy of John Hunter via Dave Rowland
 
Another trip in 1948 this time back from the speedway to John's home in Wallsend.  This time John Hunter is on the back with his brother riding.  If you have any 1948 programmes have a look for John's name
 
The Long Sands, Tynemouth
 
Courtesy of John Hunter via Dave Rowland
 
In 1948 there was no petrol for pleasure purposes.  John Hunter would get up early for a day at the seaside, with a difference.  He would put his speedway bike on the local coast train at his home station, Wallsend and get it off again at Tynemouth.  He would then push the bike down to the Long Sands (Tynemouth Beach).  He got in some practise, but only if the tide was out!  These photos were taken at 7.00am.  He would wake everyone up and attract the attention of the local police.  The cops would stop John, warn him about the frivolous waste of petrol and tell him motorbikes were banned from the sands.  John would patiently explain that speedway bikes ran on wood alcohol, not petrol and produce a copy of the beach by-laws showing that there was no ban on bikes using the beach at  that time of year.  He would then continue his session on the beach.
 
John and Friends at Tynemouth
 

Courtesy of John Hunter via Dave Rowland

 
1948: John, his sister and two friends pose for this photo during one of the early morning sessions on the beach at Tynemouth.  The modern day Tynemouth inhabitants would have a fit if they were woken by speedway bikes at dawn.
 

 
1949 Diamonds Transferred To Ashfield &
Middlesbrough Transferred to Brough!
 
1949 saw the Johnnie Hoskins promotion move almost our entire team to Glasgow Ashfield and the Middlesbrough team 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", for the 1949 season only. 
 
 
The name "The Magpies" was by now the sole property of NUFC so the speedway team reverted back to "Diamonds" for 1950. So the excellent badge shown above had date bar loops on the bottom of the 1949 bar which were immediately "surplus to requirements". Various management changes took place and the track closed for the 3rd time at the end of the 1951 season.
 

 

Midget Car Racing

 
Speedway may have been missing from Brough Park during most of the 1950's but the stadium heard the roar of racing machines in 1952, at least. Midget cars came to our track.
 
 
Wilf Davis with his Midget Car
 
 

This is Wilf Davis with his Midget Car.  The picture (not taken at Brough) and programme from Brough Park come to us via David Kipling and are from Wilf's  grandson James Gould

 

 
The Mike Parker Era

Mike and Ivan
 
Speedway fans had to wait until Mike Parker (in partnership with Reg Fearman) came along in 1961 for the 4th opening of the track. Promoter Mike Parker and New Zealand rider Ivan Mauger steered Newcastle to the Provincial League title in 1964.  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 ex-Diamond Ole Olsen.
 

 
The Ian Thomas Years
 
 

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.

 

 
John Turner (1986) and Eric Stead (1987)
 
Promotional Messrs.' Turner and Stead both managed to run things for only one season!  Turner brought speedway back for the 6th time but by the end of 1987 the sport was lost for the 6th time.
The 6th opening in 1986, under John Turner's control saw the Diamonds become the Federation Specials.

 
Barry Wallace & Richard Bailey - Spectake Ltd 1989-
 
1988 and the doors were closed but Barry and Richard were at the helm for 1989's re-opening, the 7th spell since 1929, if I have counted correctly!  In 1991 the promotion team changed.  Richard Bailey and Bill Reay headed a large group, safety in numbers?
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 a fatal crash when Wayne Garratt became the 4th speedway rider to die after an accident at the track. 
 
 

 
Richard Bailey and Trevor Barnes (1994)
 
Trevor " Bunter" Barnes joined (the ever present in this period), Richard Bailey as promoter in 1994 then a consortium took over from Richard Bailey under the name Whiteload Ltd. Members were Dave Rowland, Brian Havelock, Bunter Barnes and George English jnr, but at the end of 1994 the Brough Park faithful were without their sport once again as the club closed for the 7th time as Stadium owner Kevin Wilde decided he did not want speedway at Brough Park.  At the end of 1994 the shutters went up for the 8th time.  Things are changing and each time a promoter applies to run at Brough Park there is an ever increasing risk that the application may be turned down.  So this trend of opening for 2 or 3 seasons and then closing has to be halted.  We could do with local men running things whose hearts were in Newcastle Speedway and they should be able to take the rough with the smooth and not close down after a bad year, if they could help it.
 
George English and Dave Rowland
1997 - Now (2014) at time of writing
 
 
Local men George and Dave are life long Newcastle Diamonds fans.  They were exactly what the doctor ordered for the ailing sport at Brough Park.

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.

Season 2009 was the clubs 80th birthday the management team is now Darryl Illingworth, George English, Joan English, Alan Hedley, Andrew Dalby and Richard Juul.  This the 8th session is also the longest spell of speedway at Brough (13 years without a break) Update... it is now 2014 and our longest unbroken spell is now 17 years!

 
I used to consider Ian Thomas to be our most successful promoter but Ian ran things for only 10 unbroken years whereas George English has been running the show for 17 years so I now regard George as the most successful.
Let's hope the club never closes again and there are no more fatalities at the track.
 

 
 
 
To continue the history click here: Whitley Bay and Gosforth
 
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