(Written by Edward Garvey, press officer at Belle Vue speedway, along with the Aces general manager Mr. Terence Vernon)
The origins of our sport can be traced back to 28th, July 1928 when the late Johnnie Hoskins introduced a sport known as Dirt track racing to these shores from West Maitland, Australia. From that date forward the city of Manchester has established itself as the Mecca for Speedway riders the world over.
Belle Vue Speedway has the proud distinction of being the only track to race on through the war years, not even the damage inflicted by the Luftwalfe in their bombing of the City could force them off track.
Throughout its history Belle Vue have produced more Champions, be it individual or team, than any other club. They are further credited with Speedway's equivalent of the Busby Babes, a magnificent collection of riders which annexed four consecutive League Championship titles, five National Trophies and four ACU Cups between 1933 and 1937. That particular team boasted the combined talents of Langton, Varey, Abbott, Charles, Kitchen, Grosskreutz, Harrison, Gregory and Dixon, every one an international.
Manchester's very first Speedway meeting was held at Kirkmanshulme Lane on 28th, July 1928. This event involved the top five Australian riders of the time against five leading British riders. As the first official fixture, this meeting produced the initial track record of 87.0 sec. The current best stands at 59.2 seconds and was set by Joseph Screen in heat seven of the Aces fixture against Arena Essex on July, 23rd. 1993.
As their fame spread, the Aces were invited to compete, as the first British club, behind the Iron Curtain. The invitation, offered on behalf of the Polish and Russian Authorities, was reciprocated with a visit of Auto Club Leningrad to Manchester for the festival of Sport in 1972.
A very real threat to the existence of the club emerged in the winter of 1987. Fearing for the future,and taking in mind the history and tradition of the club, the current promoter John Perrin, alongside one of the club's most famous sons, Peter Collins, matched the determination of the Manchester sporting public and together with the help of Manchester City Council prevented the Belle Vue Aces from becoming another memory of an older generation.
As the wooden stands of their famous old Hyde road circuit were leveled once and for all, the Belle Vue Aces returned once again to their former home on Kirkmanshulme Lane for the 1998 season.
Historians looking back on the origins of speedway in Manchester, will see 1967 as one of the most significant in the History of Belle Vue, and Speedway in general, it was this year that ex-rider Dent Oliver returned to the Hyde Road Stadium as Speedway Manager. Oliver brought a complete change in policy and approach with the introduction of Monday night training schools, not only did this bring established stars but youngsters from all over the North of England and Midlands. These weekly training schools would provide for Belle Vue's future.
The labors of Dent Oliver brought almost immediate
reward with a constant stream of talent forcing its way
In 1968 the much revered Belle Vue Colts raced for the first time, competing in the newly formed 2nd Division. During that maiden season of operation the Colts were crowned Champions completing a unique double with knockout cup success. This was followed a year later with a successful Championship defense. During this period several Colts found their way into the Aces senior Team.
Despite their success speedway's internal politics decreed the demise of the Belle Vue Colts as a full strength side, thus Belle Vue Speedway were instrumental in the formation of the Rochdale Hornet as the club's new nursery
The Belle Vue Aces original home was situated on the site of the current Belle Vue Greyhound stadium, less than a mile from their legendary home on Hyde road. At that time nobody could have foreseen the impact that speedway racing would have throughout the country, the culmination of which, was that the Aces would race weekly at a venue widely regarded as the World's most famous Speedway track.
The Hyde Road Stadium was one of Manchester's main assets. Situated within the long demolished,but not forgotten Zoological Gardens, and surrounded by a highly populated area the stadium and its grounds provided opportunities and employment for the people of Gorton, a working class suburb to the north of the city centre.
The largely wooden stadium offered a complete speedway and motorized sports arena which was augmented by a number of facilities such as workshops and training schools. These would soon become the backbone of British speedway.
The Stadium was not solely used for Speedway and Stockcars, schools Athletics, Football and American Football also benefited from its presence and history, regrettably since its demise these so called minority sports have been lost or relocated to other areas.
The Hyde Road Stadium not only played host to the Belle Vue Aces but, for a long period, it was the traditional home of the British League Riders Championship. Furthermore the sweeping bends played host to numerous FIM inscribed World Team and Individual championship Meetings.
The Belle Vue Zoological Gardens is now widely acknowledged as a fore runner of today's multi-national theme parks, indeed visitors flocked down Hyde road from all over the North West. By Car,by Coach and Special Train they came in great numbers for the events which included the Zoo, Wrestling in the Kings Hall, the world famous Bobs, Speedway, Stockcars, Concerts and the famous Elizabethan Ballrooms, where many a romance began.
Belle Vue rivaled the top resorts of the northwest for patronage and popularity. Blackpool, North Wales and Southport were amongst those venues in competition such was the drawing power of the site established by the Jenison family dynasty. Belle Vue lasted as one of the North's major attractions well into the 1960'.
Suffering from an inability to expand and replace old equipment a sad decline set in, and one of the North's greatest attractions passed into History a memory for older generations. The final death toll rang in 1987 with the closure of the Speedway Stadium to provide a site for redevelopment.
For countless years, the Hyde Road stadium was the envy of others and it is somewhat ironic that since the closure of the Stadium and with it the training schools, speedway's youth policy and Arena Motor Sports in general have suffered through a lack of suitable training venues.
Marc Farmer was extremely generous in allowing me to reproduce here a number of speedway images. Please visit his excellent Speedway and Grasstrack web site.
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