Peter Craven, born in Liverpool on the 21st June 1934, started with an interest in cycle speedway that turned to motorised speedway. At 16 years and 1 day in 1950 he visited the Stanley Park Stadium, home of the Liverpool Chads speedway team and took a few turns round the track on his brothers machine until he hit the fence and collected concussion. He was given another chance but this time only managed one circuit of the track before hitting the fence, never the less he was, shortly after, offered a place as a reserve when the Liverpool team were away visiting the Leicester Hunters.
During 1951 he rode eight times in Division II for the Liverpool Chads and he also rode for Fleetwood Flyers during the same year. The next year saw a change because this time he divided his riding between the Chads and Belle Vue Aces taking his first ride with Belle Vue on the 17th May 1952.
Becoming in 1953 a regular rider for the Belle Vue Aces and his scoring began to improve, it had looked as if that improvement would be curtailed because like the rest of the male youth of the UK he had his National Service to do. Peter was fortunate that his military service with the Army allowed him to continue to ride at least some matches for Belle Vue and with his increasing maturity came an improvement in his scoring.
In 1954 he managed 24 league matches for Belle Vue and was their top scorer that season, he also managed to qualify for his first Wembley World Final
1955 and although I do not know the date his National service finished I would think he would now be available to ride speedway full time and he remained with Belle Vue Aces to do so, again qualified for the World Final but this time instead of finishing a credible 15th he won. Staying with the Aces he again qualified for the World Final this time finishing 4th in 1956 and 3rd in 1957.
In 1958 he was called to ride for England as Captain in Sweden and in the test series in Australasia finishing top scorer in both contests.
Peter won the Golden Helmet Match Race in 1959 against Ove Fundin, the Northern Cup at Belle Vue, Internationale Derby at Ipswich, the pride of the East at Norwich, Champions or Champions Cup, Tom Farndon Memorial Trophy at New Cross and Pride of the Midlands at Leicester, finishing 9th this time in the World Finals.
His success continued, 1960 finishing 3rd in the World Championships and Winning again in 1962 – all this time he was a loyal and high scoring member of the Aces team.
1963 proved to be the end of this glittering career; at a match in Edinburgh Peter took avoiding action so as not to hit a rider that had fallen, because of engine failure, in front of him, Peter’s efforts to avoid the fallen rider caused him to be thrown into the fence where he sustained injuries that caused him to loose his life 4 days later on September the 24th. Sadly a great sportsman lost his life because he acted in a sportsman like manner, he was just 29.
21.6.1934 to 24.9.1963
A tribute to Peter Craven unveiled at the Museum on Sunday the 22nd September 2013
Photos by Maggie Radcliffe