Memories of Fazeley, written by Joseph T. Hunter in August 2008 when he was 88 years old.

The Speedways of Fazeley

Around 1932 motor cycling became very popular and a speedway track was constructed along the Fazeley to Tamworth road. The riders competed against each other and never had actual matches against other teams.

The main riders I can remember were the Trimnel brothers who, until about 25 years ago, kept a greengrocery business in Erdington. They rode under the names of Crackerjack and Broadside Bow. There was also Smudger Smith, Pete Wainwright of the RAF and Jack Moulton who kept a greengrocery shop in Market Street.

Around the same time a Mr Butler donated an area of scrubland which lay beyond Lichfield Road lodge, to his three sons Eric, Maurice and Alan, who built a speedway.

When Sunday school was over at Fazeley Methodist Church, myself, and others in our Sunday best clothes, would make our way to Mile Oak and help clear blackberry bushes. As the speedway took shape more riders would appear, including Jack Moulton, the Butlers brother in law. Eric Butler, the eldest taught his brother Alan to ride. The brothers became very proficient and all three rode for Belle Vue in the first division of the speedway league. There was an article about them in a daily newspaper claiming a record of three brothers riding in the same team. Sadly Maurice met his death in a car accident.

Along came the war and after hostilities ceased in 1945, Mr Arthur Westwood, who lived at Bonehill House and had ridden along with Tiger Hart for Birmingham Speedway, bought the old Peels cricket ground with the idea of building a speedway.

Late winter and early spring, workers were busily building the track and were helped by Steve Langton, a veteran Australian rider, the first of many to ride for the Tamworth Hounds. Other Australians to ride were Bill Harris, Bluey Thorpe and later Arthur Payne and Cecil Hookham.

The riders rode in pairs and were:

  • Steve Langton and Peter Orpwood
  • Bill Harris and Ted Gibson
  • Bill Dalton and Jack Ladd
  • Charlie Oates and John Yates (reserves)

Peter Orpwood was from the Swadlincote area and was a grass track rider who moved on to speedway.

Jack Ladd was a jovial Cockney, very popular with the spectators, but met his death while riding on the continent.

Bill Harris, a quietly spoken Australian who married Rema Sayce, daughter of a Tamworth butcher.

Bill Dalton, very popular with the crowd.

Ted Gibson, also very popular and often did a 'wheelie' approaching the finishing line.

Steve Langton, captain and consistent scorer who was nearly always there when extra monies and trophies were to be won.

Later came Basil Harris from Eastbourne and Arthur Payne a novice from Australia who was destined to break and hold the track record. It was a revelation to see him come through on the last bend from third position to win.

Cyril Page joined from stoke and then they had a team who were all capable of maximum points.

Other Australians in the first season were Reg Challenger and Bluey Thorpe.

The only local rider was a schoolmate of mine, Howard Chipman, who had been a dispatch rider in the army.

After a few seasons an umemployed Australian, Cecil Hookham arrived. It was said he spent his time on Bondi beach and he could not ride a motor bike. Arthur Payne took him under his wing and provided a bike. He put oil drums on the corners of the car park which was made of ashes, to assimilate a dirt track . In no time at all Hookham, modelled on the style of Arthur Payne, held the track record.

Eventually Birmingham Speedway bought the rights to the track, the Greyhound logo disappeared from the kit , to be replaced by a huge 'T' for Tammies.

Arthur Payne went on to ride for Birmingham who also acquired Alan Hunt from Cradley Heath, but the Tamworth team was never the same. Attendances dropped and eventually the Speedway went into liquidation, being replaced by Greyhound Racing for a number of years.

A few Stock Car meetings were held, but the sport never took on. After several owners and applications for building, houses were eventually built on the site.