Originally owned by the Duke of Devonshire, the field on which the Arlington Stadium is built. Sold by auction and purchased by a smallholder who, in 1928, sold an area of this land to Eastbourne Motorcycle Club for £100, the land was known, at the time, as the Hyde. Members of the Motorcycle club voluntary developed the site with a huge amount of help from Mr T T Henley, Secretary of the Arlington Motorcycle Sports Club. It was opened by the wife of the Clubs President Major Bird on the 5th August 1929, following this, the first meet, there were two more, one on the 29th of August and the second the 14th September all took place on a track surface described as being compacted combination of ash and clinker.
1934 and Charlie Dugard and Phil ‘Tiger’ Hart acquired a part of the enterprise – the Dugard family was to be closely associated with the track for years to come. In the early history of the track few full speedway meetings were held but the track was put to good use by local riders who were pleased to use it for practice and training. One of the meetings that was held on a regular basis was the Championship of Sussex the title being won in 1933 by Stan Lemon and in 1934, 1935 and again in 1937 by Jack Riddle, in 1936 it was won by George Newton, riding under the name of Bill Bennett – the use of a pseudonym seems to have been relatively common during the early years of the sport.
The Eastbourne team formed and used the nickname ‘Eagles’ from the very start, their first year 1937 they seem to have ridden just one meeting, a challenge match against Dagenham who they overwhelmed winning 57-
1939, the start of World War II and the Arlington venue was taken over by the Army to train despatch riders and by the close of hostilities the venue resembled a bomb site itself, the terraces damaged and overgrown, the track little more than a mud bath. At this point Charlie Dugard bought out the others with interest in the venue and as sole owner set about restoring the track to a condition suitable for racing.
The venue was used for open meetings during 1946 and a team was entered in the National League Division Three in 1947 and went on to win, but being league champions did not seem to endear the team to Arlington as the following year they moved to Hastings leaving the Arlington venue free to run open meetings which they did. Sadly at the opening meeting in 1948 the Championship of Sussex, the rider Eric Dunn was fatally injured when he fell and was hit by another rider, he died two days later in hospital. As you will see from the listing on the ‘E’ track index the venue was unused for two years before open meetings were resumed in 1950 it was then closed again until an open licence was used again for one year in 1953.
Southern Area League racing returned to the track in 1954 and continued up to and including 1957, this league was not run in 1958 and the venue returned to an Open licence for that year but back to league racing the following one the Eastbourne Eagles once again finishing the season as league champions; this was the last year that the Southern Area league ran. Once again the Arlington venue returned to open licence racing for the seasons 1960 – 1963 joining in the Metropolitan League for 1964. Bob Dugard ran training there in 1965 but then the sound and smell of speedway was missing from the arena for four years.
A change of management in 1969 it being undertaken by Arlington Promotion with Dave Lanning as track manager and the Eastbourne Eagles entered into the British League Division Two, this renaissance began on the 6th April when the Eagles beat the Kings Lynn Starlets 39-
1975 and Dave Lanning was back in the managerial saddle and the Eastbourne team became founder members of the newly established New National League finishing fourth from the top in that first year when the championship was won by Birmingham. 1976 and Bob Dugard became the promoter at Arlington Arena with his father Charlie joining him in 1979 the same year that the Eagles joined the British league. Danny Dunton became an addition to the Dugard’s promotional team in 1981 continuing until in 1984 when under the management of Oxspeed Limited Bob Dugard was named as sole promoter.
Eastbourne team re-
In 1991 another change in management this time speedway was under the direction of Don Scarff and Peter Brown and the Eastbourne team took over the British League fixtures of Wimbledon who had to resign from the league when they left their Plough Lane home, understood to be because of financial problems – Eastbourne using the name ‘Dons’ for the rest of that season but returning to their long term name of Eagles for the following season when they were promoted by Peter Brown and Trevor Geer. More shuffling of management in 1993 – promoters now being Len Silver and Jon Cook changing to Jon Cook and Bob Dugard in 1995 when the Eastbourne team were entered in the newly formed Premier League (fashioned by amalgamating the two existing leagues – British Leagues One and Two) 1996 and Arlington had two teams entered in league racing the Eagles in the Premier League and the Starlets in the new Conference League.
By 1997 the Premier League had grown to 19 teams and was split again into two teams the top flight was to be called the Elite League and having been Champions of the Premier League in 1995 and third in 1996 unsurprisingly the Eagles joined the top league, the Premier League becoming the second league. 2002 and the promotion team became Jon Cook and Terry Russell but at the time of writing (2013) the promotion is now Bob Dugard, Trevor Geer and Mike Ballerby, the team are still in the top flight Elite League.
The Dugard family have over the years improved and developed that package of land bought originally for £100 into the impressive stadium it is now, the family have been associated with the Arlington Stadium since 1934 when Charlie bought into the concern having been associated ever since – a grand achievement, the Arlington Stadium becoming a Dugard family monument.
It is to the credit of the Arlington Stadium and its owners they have encouraged juniors over the years and hosted Schoolboy Speedway Club and junior competition since the start of the nineteen eighties, building a training track in the carpark adjacent to the pits, providing training, encouragement and competition was provided in the the form of Schoolboy Championships.
Thanks to John Somerville for permission to use the images and to John Jarvis and his book ‘Homes of British Speedway’ for the information and his kindly allowing us to use it as a reference.