Of Dirt Track Racing
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 Deco about it. The scan shows the address of the Whitley Bay promoters "The Tyneside Speedways" as 3 Cross Street off Westgate Road in central Newcastle.|
|The Cross Street
"The Kard Bar #5" 2015
The 1929 Speedway Company was next door at #3 Cross St.
|2015 Fire In Cross Street|
|Back to the Speedway: 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.|
|This is the Newcastle "Castle Keep."
The remaining part of the
Newcastle Castle which gave the city it's name. There was a
surrounding "castle" and Newcastle's ancient city 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
just the "Keep". Newcastle's actual castle would
have been a huge tourist attraction nowadays, but it was less important
to the victorian business men who put railways before the country's
heritage and so Newcastle is a place in name only our Norman built
NewCastle was torn down in the 19th Century.
|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 in 1929/30, 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 Newcastle's speedway track ever since.|
|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.|
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.
|Harry The Big Guy (6ft 8 inches tall)
At Gosforth In 1929
|Early Photographs Of Action At Newcastle Gosforth Speedway|
|These poor 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 "Tyneside Speedways" 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!|
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
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|
|The contents of the site are © and should not be reproduced elsewhere for financial gain. The contributors to this site gave the pictures and information on that understanding. If anyone has any issue or objections to any items on the site please e-mail and I will amend or remove the item. Where possible credit has been given to the owner of each item.|