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The First League Meeting in London
By Robert J. Rogers

The Stratford Express on Saturday the 4th May 1929, carried an report on the Speedway Meeting at Custom House Stadium on Thursday 2nd May.

"West Ham's team certainly justified their selections when they beat Coventry City 31 points to 11 in their inter-track race on Thursday night. Each of the six heats was keenly contested. The Coventry team rode very consistently but their efforts however were unavailing against the Superior riding and Track craft of the home team".

"The match race between the fastest rider from each team was won by Jack Adams against his opponent Wilmot Evens, and in both heats he led from the start."

The item then goes on to talk about the second half events.

What it does not note was the fact that this match was second only to the first meeting at High Beech in February 1928 as being the most important match in the History of Speedway (Dirt track) in London.

The meeting which was described, as an 'Inter-track event' was in fact the first ever league match between two teams in London.

In 1929 it had been decided to introduce team racing and to create a league system.

The Northern clubs raced in the Northern league, whilst 12 teams from the South, which included the Midlands, took part in the Southern league, which was sponsored by the News of the World Newspaper.

West Ham was one of six London teams to take part. The others were Stamford Bridge, who won the league and rode at what is now Chelsea football club's ground andwhich was described as one of the tightest tracks in Speedway, Crystal Palace, Wembley, White City, Harringay, Lea Bridge and Wimbledon, who came 11th and last as Hall Green (Birmingham) withdraw from the league half way through the season.

West Ham ended up sixth in the league.

John 'Taffy' Williams led the team on that first night. The rest of the team were Roger May, Jack Adams, Les Maguire (Australia), Godfrey 'Buzz' Hibbard (Australia, some history books name him as the captain on the night) and Harold 'Tiger' Stevenson (again some history books name him as the captain on that night).

Other members of the West Ham team that season were, Reg Bounds, Maurice Bradshaw, Frank Duckett, Don Durant, Bruce McCullum, Col Stewert, Don Taylor, Wally Trumble, Bluey Wilkinson and Ivor Creek, the first man to win a speedway race at West Ham.

The famous Red and Blue with White crossed Hammers race jacket had yet to develop, and West Ham rode that night with a plain white jacket to identify the home team riders, whilst Coventry wore Red and Green. This white jacket soon changed to Red and Blue half's as team racing become to catch on in the Hearts of Dirt Track Fans.

What was also not noted in the match report was a certain young Australian rider who rode in a couple of the second half events; his name was Arthur George Wilkinson. He was better known as 'Bluey', and become West Ham Speedway's first Superstar and the 1938 World Speedway Champion. Again some history books disagree he rode that night, claiming he was still in Australia up to June 1929.

One final thing, there never was a Coventry 'City' Speedway team, the Coventry team rode at Brandon, and continue to today, another connection with the area is their manager is Colin Pratt, who was the skipper of the Hackney team in the 1960's, and was a member of the party of riders on the ill fated tour of Holland that ended up with the Lokeren disaster in 1970.

 

This article was first published on 18th June 2009


 

  • Colin Taylor:

    "Coventry Bees rode out of the Lythalls Lane stadium from 1929-1930."

  • Jean Reavey:

    "I was 14 after the war and the friday night at the Harringay was my one night out and what a night it was sad when it closed "

  • Daniel:

    "Maurice Bradshaw was a cousin of mine, thrice removed (I've just discovered him while doing my family tree!)."

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