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The National Speedway Museum

The sport of Speedway came to Hackney in 1935. It opened in April of that year at the Hackney Wick Stadium, by Fred Whitehead, who was the Managing Director of Hackney Wick Stadium Limited. The stadium address was Wick Lane E.9 The track was 340 yards long, had 18" depth of clinker, with a cinder surface. The track was built inside the Greyhound racing track, which was another very popular sport in this part of east London, with greyhound racing also held at Walthamstow and West Ham.

The team now racing at Hackney had the previous year raced at Walthamstow and had the nickname `The Wolves’. The team colours were Black and White Horizontal strips, and they rode in the 1st Division of the National League. Amongst the riders for the Hackney Wick Wolves, was their Captain, Australian Dicky Case, Denmark's Morian Hansen, plus Cyril Burton, known to all as `Squibb` and Dusty Haigh, who was to sadly lose his life in 1936 in a Crash at Hackney in a Match against West Ham. Captain Case was capped four times for Australia in Test Matches against England in 1935.

The team rode on a Friday Night.

In 1936, Cordy Milne of America joined the team. In this year the Hawks won their first Trophy, becoming the London Cup Winners.

In 1937, the team continued to ride well, with Case and Hansen being capped for the `Overseas` team against England. Cordy Milne came 3rd in the First Ever World Championship which had taken over from the Star Championship at Wembley. His brother Jack won the title and to complete what is still quite a rare event in the sport, the top three being from one country, Wilber Lamoreaux, came second, creating a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, for the United States of America.

In 1938, the Hackney Wick Management decided to drop the team to the newly created 2nd Division of the National League. They went on to become the League Champions that year.

In 1939, the Wolves were challenging for the League title again when the sport was brought to an abrupt end by the start of World War Two. After WW11 the sport did not return to Hackney and it was 1963 before Speedway was again seen at Hackney. By now the word `Wick` had been dropped, and the Stadiums name was now Hackney Stadium, with the address being Waterden Road, E.15 The team also had a new name, the Hawks with racing colours of Red and Blue quarters with a broad Yellow strip. The track was 345 yards with a shale covering, and the team rode on a Wednesday night.

The first match was against London Rivals, New Cross. Amongst the riders at the first match was Norman Hunter who went on to become their Captain and to win the newly restored London Riders Championship.

A youngster at the match was Malcolm Simmons who was later to join the main team. Both riders went on to become England internationals and members of the all conquering 1965 Triple Crown Champions, West Ham.

1964 saw the Hawks having another successful season with them being unbeatable at Home.

1965 saw the forming of the British League, and Local Derbies against West Ham, the first time these teams had clashed since 1937. The team now changed it racing night back to the original Friday night. East London Local Derbies continued up till when West Ham closed as a 1st Division Track in 1971. These Local derbies were in fact so famous, the Speedway Museum at Broxbouren, has created a section of the Museum to represent the Pits during one of these matches. The Hawks came eight in the league out of eighteen in 1965, and their Captain, Colin Pratt held the Silver Sash Match Race Championship.

In 1966, they changed their racing colours to smaller Red and Blue Checks, with a Yellow Hawk.

1967, saw a rider who is considered by many to be the greatest rider ever to ride for Hackney, Bengt Jansson of Sweden, joined the Team. Colin Pratt won the London Riders Championship.

1968, saw another change of Colours with a break away from the clash of Red and Blue with West Ham, with new colours of Blue and White Squares and a Yellow Hawk. Colin Pratt won his 2nd London Riders Championship. The biggest event of 68 was the fact it was the 40th Anniversary of Speedway in this country, and as Hackney was the nearest track to High Beech in Essex where the sport had first arrived, a special Veterans event was held, called the Veterans Invitation Challenge Cup, which was won by ex-West Ham rider, Benny King. There was also a special challenge Match, and for one night only, the Hackney Wick Wolves returned against Lea Bridge, with modern riders recreating the old style `Leg Trailing` which the sport was famous for in the 20` & 30`s

In 1971, Hackney won the K/O Cup, speedways answer to the FA Cup. Hackney continued to race right through the 70`s & 80`s.

In 1984, the track was reduced to 320 yards and the team re-named the Kestrels, with brand new racing colours.

1990, saw the end of racing at Hackney.

The team was one of the most successful clubs in London wining the London Cup in 1936, 73, 79,81,86,87 & 89. There riders were also successful in the Solo London Riders Championship,

Norman Hunter 1963

Colin Pratt 1967 & 68

Bengt Jansson 1971

Barry Thomas 1973 &74

Keith White 1979

Finn Thompson 1980

Bo Peterson 1983

Andy Galvin 1988

Speedway had a revival at Hackney when in 1995, the stadium, which had been completely revamped and now called the London Stadium, held the 1995 British Grand Prix, which was an event which taken over from the traditional World Speedway Championship and run on the lines of the Formula One Grand Prix series.

Team racing had one last fling in 1996. The track had been re-measured at 301M, and a team called the` London Lions` took to the track. The last ever speedway race at Hackney was held in October 1996.

The team would march out at the start of the meeting to the Tune `Magnificent Seven`. (There were seven riders in the team), and were often called the `Magnificent Seven`.

There had been attempts to bring the sport back, but with-out success, although a team rode in 2011 called the `Hackney Hawks` and wearing the Hawks racing colours in the National League. The team share its `Home Track` between Lakeside in Essex, the home of the modern day Speedway Hammers, and Rye House in Hertfordshire.

The stadium itself which was also famous for it's Greyhound racing in now covered by the 2012 Olympic Stadium Complex and the Olympic Park.

R.J.Rogers, August 2011.

Hackney Speedway

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