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The National Speedway Museum

Leicester Hounds,  Hunters & Lions

1928 to 1983 with many gaps, stops & starts

The venue originally situated on high ground on the outskirts of Leicester commanding a view of the industrial chimneys on one side and wide open countryside on the other.

The stadium was opened for Greyhound racing at the end of May and on the 1st of September 1928, during a dog meeting, an exhibition of Broadsiding was given by Arthur Sherlock which was followed five days later by the first Dirt-track meeting at the venue promoted by the aptly named British Dirt Track Racing Association, this meeting was a joint meeting of both Greyhound and Dirt-track racing, the Dirt-track section’s senior scratch title being won by Skid Skinner.

Joining the English Dirt Track League in 1929 and the Southern League the following year 1930, sadly however by the end of the 1931 season there were financial problems causing the creditors of Leicester Stadium Limited to call a meeting to start liquidation proceedings and the Speedway Manager Norman Coates oversaw the last meeting on the 22nd April the remaining Southern League fixtures being taken over by Coventry.

The track foundations and surface were renovated by promoter Fred Mockford before he reinstated speedway in 1932 running on an open licence but only two meetings were held during the year and then the venue was lost to speedway until 1937 when it was reopened a team called the Hounds joined the Provincial League this time under the promotion of Midland Speedways Limited - unfortunately the manager Norman Trimnell had no option by to close the project down after just seven meetings the venue would not see speedway again until 1949.

Extract from the ‘Homes of British Speedway’ courtesy John Jarvis. “After the Second World War, a proposed reopening in 1948 was delayed for a year due to an appeal by local residents to the Town and Country Planning Committee over noise levels. The Leicester side did appear in at least one away challenge match that season though, going down to a 46-38 defeat at High Beech on 18 September. The protesters were to prove ultimately unsuccessful, although the club was advised by the police to discontinue the playing of records at meetings.

The sport returned to the stadium on 8 April 1949, when the renamed Leicester Hunters lost 54-30 to Yarmouth in a National League Division Three encounter. The running of the track was then under the control of Alan Sanderson, who employed Bob Peett as speedway manager, with Cyril ‘squib’ Burton replacing Mr Peett in the role a year later.

After two seasons of division three action, the Hunters were promoted to the next rung up the ladder, where they remained until the end of 1956.”  The Programme cover on the right is from an early season match in 1951 before the ‘Hunters’, newly promoted, launched into their first season in the National League Division Two

As can be seen from the photograph below there are residential building in very close proximity to the track, no doubt a continuing point of friction.

Numerous tracks were closing during the late 1950s which finally meant that there were only enough teams to run one league so it was then decided that in 1957 the one and only league would be called the National League and Leicester Hunters were members of this league.

There was a change in promotion for the 1962 season and the new man in charge Mike Parker entered a team in the Provincial League. It was not a good year on the track with the Hunters claiming the penultimate position in that league at the end of the season and reading between the lines it seems that the gate takings were not good either, the team was transferred to Long Eaton for the 1963 season. Despite the disappointing 1962 season Alan Sanderson decided to re-open the Leicester track and stage open-licence meeting there. Six meetings were run and top riders of the day were invited but the spectator numbers did not improve and the venue was closed for four years until 1968.

The track at Blackbird Road reopened in 1968 the management called Disofast Limited, the people, Reg Fearman and Ron Wilson being mainly responsible for the return of speedway to the track. The newly named Lions were to take over the Long Eaton team following their closure. The team riding in the British League made a good start to the season, at the first meeting on the 9th April they beat Kings Lynn by a massive eighteen points.

1977 saw a shuffle of management with Vic White replacing Ron Wilson and again in 1980 when Martin Rogers too over as the clubs sole promoter, three years later a shocking and unpredicted announcement was made that the stadium had been sold to Barretts for housing and the last speedway meeting was held on the 25th October 1983.

A selection of the programmes from the earlier period can be seen below, click to enlarge.




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With thanks to John Somerville for the images and John Javis for the track data and permission to reproduce.