Tyneside Speedway
 

The History Of Dirt Track Racing 
On Tyneside

 

 
 

Whitley Bay

 
 

View from the top of the old water chute in the Spanish City Amusements at Whitley Bay

 

 
Tyneside Speedways Ltd introduced Dirt Track Racing to the Tyneside public when they laid a 440 yard dirt track around the Rockcliffe Rugby Club's pitch in the Hillheads ground on the outskirts of the then very popular seaside resort of Whitley Bay.  This was the 20th April 1929 and pre-dates the first speedway at Brough Park by a month. Whitley saw speedway on 12 occasions from 20 April 1929 to 26 June 1929. Unfortunately racing at Whitley Bay came to an end in June 1929 and never recommenced at the Hillheads track. The company who started it all, Tyneside Speedways Ltd., then went into voluntary liquidation to concentrate their efforts at their other venture Newcastle's Gosforth Park
 
I am advised by Bob Grainger that, "It was rumoured that George Formby rode at Whitley Bay in one event." Quite likely Bob, I have read somewhere that George was a keen motorcyclist and owned a JAP engined Brough Superior.  Anyone care to browse the George Formby websites to see if it is mentioned? "It's turned out nice again, oh me, oh my!" .............
 
 
An early speedway fan George Formby
 
Colin Greenwell of Middlesborough informs us that George Formby was interested in speedway. He visited Preston speedway a few times and in either the late 1920's or early 1930's he had a race against Frank Chiswell a Preston rider. George was given a lap start and won by a few yards! In later years he used to support Fleetwood Speedway.
 

 
 
A Whitley Bay programme cover number 6 dated 18th May 1929 which was the day after Newcastle's Brough Park staged their first meeting.  Whitley's cover art has a touch of the Art Decor about it.
 

 
Racing at Hillheads did not have the benefit of track lights so meetings were arranged for afternoons only on Saturday and Wednesday at 3.00pm.  The opening meeting attracted a crowd of 4,000 but the second meeting on a bitter cold day, was poorly supported and the Wednesday afternoon meetings were soon done away with.  The largest crowd that I know of was around 8,000 over the 1929 Whitsun holiday weekend.  However, the same promoters intended making a go of the Gosforth venue and the close proximity of the two tracks signalled the end for Whitely Bay.  The company voluntarily liquidated their assets at Whitley Bay to concentrate on their Gosforth venture.
 
I believe Hillheads is now the home of Whitley Bay FC who unfortunately, were unable to supply me with a hoped for picture old enough to show us a glimpse of the track around their football pitch. 
I have been advised by Bruce Haagensen of the following: -
Bruce says: Whilst you are correct about the location you are incorrect about the current situation. Whitley Bay FC is in a different place and never had a speedway track round the pitch. However the rugby club is still there and particularly in the summer when the weather has been hot and dry you can still see the outline of where the track used to be.  This is particularly clear when standing on the banking which surrounds the first team pitch.
Thank's Bruce, maybe someday I will get to Hillheads Rugby Ground on a hot dry day and take a picture of the area around the pitch or maybe you can get one to put on this page?
 
 
I've been trying to locate the track at Whitley Bay on Google Maps.  This photo shows the Rugby pitches at Rockcliffe Park.  If you look at the bottom right corner of the bottom pitch, you can see my mouse pointer pointing at what looks like a bend or banking. The question is, could this be part of the original speedway track? There is also a dark line running along the bottom edge of the pitch, could this be one of the straights? Perhaps I'm just clutching at straws. What do you think.
 

 
 
Newcastle's Castle!
 
 
This is the Newcastle "Keep."  The remaining part of the Newcastle Castle which gave the city it's name.  There was a surrounding "castle" and walls but the Victorians demolished the castle to accommodate railway lines in and out of Newcastle Central Station so we have to make do with the Keep.
 
 
Newcastle's Other Speedway Track
 
In the beginning (1929) Newcastle had two speedway stadiums.  Newcastle Gosforth and Newcastle Brough Park.  I believe Gosforth Park was slightly more successful than Brough Park as Gosforth lasted a little longer than Brough did, but both had closed down by 1931.  Gosforth never again staged speedway but the Newcastle east end venue at Brough Park eventually reopened but not until 1938 and has been the cities speedway track ever since.
 

 
 

Newcastle Gosforth Park

 
 
This fine stadium was later demolished.  The site is now an ASDA store on Gosforth High Street.  This photo is of the greyhound track which I believe was laid over the earlier speedway track.  If you have any photos of speedway at Gosforth please get in touch John
 
Tyneside Speedways Ltd laid a 440 yard speedway track around Newcastle's Rugby Union teams pitch. The track had steeply banked bends and the stadium could cater for thousands of spectators.  The bikes first roared around Gosforth's steeply banked bends on 1st June 1929. 
 
 
This poor picture is the only one of action un-earthed so far, of racing at Gosforth. It is from The Evening Chronicle Junior Speedway Trophy.  Held in June 1929. The winner of the trophy was Ron Dirkin.
I have heard from Ian Huntly the son of a rider at Gosforth.  Ian's father Harry Huntly was a well known rider and character at Gosforth.  Harry is reported as being the tallest speedway rider ever famously 6ft 8inches but other sources say he was 6ft 6inches.  Whatever! he was way taller than most riders who have rode speedway.
 
 

Newcastle Gosforth Rider
Harry Huntly

 
 

This is Gosforth rider Harry Huntly, taken at Gosforth Park between 1929 and 1931, the track was 440 yards and very steeply banked.  Harry was from Chester le Street in Co Durham.

 
 
The Big Guy (6ft 8inches tall)
At Gosforth In 1929
 
 
 
Early Photographs Of Action
At Newcastle Gosforth
 
 
These photos feature Harry racing around Gosforth Park in 1929.  The pictures give an impression of the very steep banking at the Gosforth circuit.  Gosforth competed in the Northern League throughout 1930 but the promotion was in financial difficulties and wound up at the end of the 1930 season.  There was a one off meeting in 1931 but the stadium never staged speedway again and became a greyhound track the following year. The stadium closed down and was bulldozed.  The site now has an Asda store in place of the speedway!
 
 
Wembley v Newcastle Gosforth
15th August 1929
 
 
15th August 1929 Wembley Programme when Newcastle Gosforth along with High Beech and Crystal Palace were the visitors.  It shows Wal Huntley which was a typing error the Gosforth riders correct name was Harry Huntly
 
John says:  If you have photos or information about Gosforth Speedway please email me John
 

 
 
The Demise Of Newcastle's
Gosforth Stadium
 
 
 
 
 

These 4 pictures were taken by Phil Small and show the stadium just before it was demolished and the site redeveloped by Asda

 
To continue the history click here: Other North - East Venues
 

 
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