West Ham Stadium

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Template:Use dmy dates West Ham Stadium was a stadium that existed between 1928 and 1972 in Custom House, in east London (it was in the County Borough of West Ham, in the county of Essex, at the time of the stadium's construction). The stadium was built in 1928 on Prince Regent Lane, near the site of the present-day Prince Regent DLR station.

The stadium had no connection at all with West Ham United football club, who have played at the nearby Boleyn Ground, Upton Park since 1904.

Greyhound racing

At first the venue was used for greyhound racing and speedway on weekdays and was the only greyhound/speedway stadium designed by the famous Archibald Leitch. The stadium held a classic race, The Cesarewitch, and it was West Ham's highlight, originally run over 600 yards and won by some of the greats in its early years. The legendary Mick The Miller, who set a world record time in the heats, won the race in 1930 - he had earlier made his 600 yard debut at the track - while in 1931/2 Future Cutlet became the race's only dual winner. Later, in the fifties, both Pigalle Wonder (dead heat) and Mile Bush Pride were also successful.

When West Ham closed in May 1972 the event moved to Belle Vue Stadium.

Speedway

The Speedway Hammers were involved in the top flight leagues 1929 to 1939; 1946 to 1955 and 1964 to 1971. They won the inaugural British League in 1965. Romford Bombers moved to the stadium in 1972, taking the name West Ham Bombers (who used the RAF roundel insignia as their emblem) but lasting for only part of the season before being evicted with the stadium due for demolition and its site to be used for re-development.

The Lakeside Hammers speedway team, formerly known as the Arena-Essex Hammers, who race at Arena Essex Raceway next to Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex, are the closest team and took their name from the defunct West Ham Hammers outfit.

Those who rode for the West Ham Hammers included Australians Bluey Wilkinson, Jack Young and Aub Lawson, Swedish riders Björn Knutsson, Christer Löfqvist and Olle Nygren, Scotland's Ken McKinlay, American Sprouts Elder, and English riders Tiger Stevenson, Malcolm Craven, Eric Chitty, Tommy Croombs, John Louis, Dave Jessup and Malcolm Simmons. In 1966, ITV television commentator Dave Lanning, known as the "Voice of Speedway", became the promoter of the Hammers.

Football

To fill the stadium on weekends a football team, Thames Association FC, was founded. After two years in the Southern Football League, Thames were promoted to the Football League Third Division South in 1930, replacing Merthyr Town. The stadium could hold 120,000, but Thames shared a catchment area with Charlton Athletic, Clapton Orient, Millwall and West Ham United so it had trouble attracting crowds and created the lowest recorded attendance in Football League history when just 469 people turned up to watch Thames take on Luton Town on 6 December 1930. Thames only stayed two seasons in the football league, coming 20th and 22nd out of 22 teams during their brief stay. They resigned from the Football League in May 1932 after finishing bottom and were dissolved soon afterwards. They were replaced by Aldershot Town in 1933.

In his book 'One Day I'll Lose My Trousers', Pete Murray, 60s and 70s English Actor and Personality, recalls times he watched Thames A.F.C with his uncle Bill Reece, who had a small bus company and was one of the Directors of Thames. Pete states that he lived at the Nottingham Arms in Plaistow close to the Custom House Stadium (although the actual address of the Nottingham Arms was in London E16 while Plaistow is London E13.)

Baseball

The stadium also hosted local baseball sides' home games in the 1930s and 1940s.<ref name="baseball"> Template:Cite book</ref>

Stock car racing

BriSCA Formula 1 Stock Cars racing was held in the stadium in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1961 the BriSCA Formula 1 Stock Cars World Championship was held at West Ham and won by Jock Lloyd, it was held again in 1965 and won by Ellis Ford. In those decades many enthusiasts and garage owners throughout the London area built and raced cars, by the mid 1960s BriSCA F1 stock cars had evolved from modified road cars into purpose-built single-seater "specials" of great power and stout construction.

Closure

The stadium was sold to developers who evicted the speedway team and closed the stadium in 1972. It was subsequently demolished and housing was built on the cleared site, with some streets named after former speedway stars. These are Atkinson Road (Arthur Atkinson), Croombs Road (Tommy Croombs), Young Road (Jack Young), Wilkinson Road (Arthur 'Bluey' Wilkinson), Lawson Close (Aub Lawson) and Hoskins Close (Johnnie Hoskins).

See also

  • New West Ham Stadium

References

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External links

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