Monday, October 02, 2023

Cycle speedway: the sport that flourished on bombsites

Back to the bombsites. Thanks to Talking Pictures TV, who showed this film the other day, I have discovered a sport that was invented on them in the years after the war. It's cycle speedway.

The Cycle Speedway History says:

The sport of Motor Cycle Speedway was allegedly introduced to this Country in 1928, and it is from these humble beginnings that the sport of Cycle Speedway emerged, with a form of racing taking place before the second World War. However, it was not until the end of this war that the sport emerged in a controlled and recorded manner, and the "Skid Kids" were truly born. 

In 1946 Control Boards and Local Leagues were formed throughout the Country, these being run by interested adults, many of whom had their own sons and daughters in the teams. The tracks themselves were built on cleared bomb sites, where previous devastation and despair were replaced by the sounds of enjoyment and laughter. Bricks and timber from the bombed houses were used to mark the inner and outer perimeter of the tracks, whilst mother's knicker elastic was used as the starting tape, this being pulled across the start line to the outside of the track, so as not to give the inner gates that extra advantage. 

Once the sport got on it's feet, a number of go-ahead Councils began to donate corners of recreation grounds on which tracks could be built, some even financing this venture, from the building of the track, to the supply of all the equipment required.

One of the early Cycle Speedway Control Boards was that of London, and when the National Association of Boys Clubs joined forces, their numbers topped the three thousand mark.

A very early magazine for the sport was called "Cycle Speedway Monthly", which covered the whole Country, and sold well over 4,000 copies per edition.

In 1950 a national association was established for the sport, and by 1958 there was a British Cycle Speedway Federation. The two bodies proved to be rivals until they merged to form the Cycle Speedway Council in 1971.

I can't recall coming across the sport before, but the British Cycling site assures us that:

Cycle speedway is accessible, affordable, family-oriented and taking place in clubs throughout the country.


Anonymous said...

There was a speedway track next to the gasometers in Poole for many years. Not sure where the Poole Pirates race now, but they’re still around according to their Facebook page.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thanks, but aren't they a motorcycle speedway team?

Anonymous said...

‘My bad’ as the young people say

Jonathan Calder said...

It's interesting how motorcycle speedway has declined in popularity too. In 1966, the year England won the football World Cup, Bobby Moore won BBC Sports Personality of the Year and Geoff Hurst came third. In second place was a speedway rider, Barry Briggs (even though he was a New Zealander).