Home About Us Events Museum News Displays Artefacts Machines Rider's Profiles Tracks Books Links & Much More

Originally the home of the Rochdale Hornets Rugby League Club who first used The Athletic Grounds in 1894 it was at the end of the century that a cycle and athletic track was installed at the venue. Inside the banked cycle track was the quarter mile track on which the Northern Counties AAA held their Olympic trials in 1924. In 1928 a Grass-track meeting was held, the venue was opened to yet more sports when a gymkhana was held in 2 August 1928 and followed at the end of August by a Dirt-track meeting.

Managed by Alec Dovener the opening Dirt-track meeting on the 18th August attracted 7,000 spectators to view what was called a Scratch Race event, it was won by Eric Langton. The advertising for this event stated that Sprouts Elder would be riding but in the event he did not appear. During this the very first season of the sport at this venue there was sadly a death in October when Cliff Mawson suffered a fatal accident on the track.

A team of riders was formed at Rochdale and were entered in the English Dirt-Track League in 1929 and the Northern League in 1930 although the lease for the stadium expired on the 11 August of that year. The lease was then taken up by the Manchester Motor Sports who as the new promotion decided to introduce betting for their first meeting that took place on the 11th August, it was a total failure, bookmakers complaining it was not worth their while. The riders who participated in this first meeting  were all from the Audenshaw track which was banned by the ACU as later were all the riders and officials. I am not sure if this was the reason for the abandoning of the next meeting that was due to take place on the 23rd August or if, as has been suggested, because of the low numbers of spectators prepared to pay to view the racing.

The venue continued to host sporting events with Greyhound racing first being held there in June 1932 continuing until 1969 when stock cars were first introduced. 1970 and Speedway returned with Dent Oliver in control and the successful Division Two team transferred to Rochdale Athletic track from Manchester's Belle Vue. The first meeting of this new era was held in March and was a challenge match against Crewe which the Rochdale team, now called the Hornets, won. Racing continued for that and the following year but was not successful in drawing a sufficient number of spectators to continue, it has to be said that tracks built around pitches are inclined to be narrow and more square shaped than oval and do not present the best type of racing, and so, speedway racing at Rochdale Athletic Track came to an end and the track licence was transferred to Ellesmere Port in 1972.

Sadly over the next few years all sports were ‘discouraged’ from continuing by complaints from local residents about noise etc, and by 1988 there was no more sport at the venue and in 1989  the local council gave planning consent for a supermarket to be built to replace the stadium.

Rochdale Speedway
The Athletic Ground

Return to the index for the 'R' tracks

The programme cover images were kindly supplied by John Somerville and the information and data is from the book ‘Homes of British Speedway’ with the generous permission of John Jarvis