Sunday, 23 January 2011

TOWNELEY SPEEDWAY - BURNLEY. A very short lived venue...

The speedway at Burnley opened to a huge 12,000 crowd on March 30th 1929, but faded away less than four months later... Despite the fact that the club had Frank Charles, Joe Abbott and "Ginger" Lees (three of the biggest names in the North) spearheading their team, a fabulous stadium and over 40 riders at their disposal, it just wasn't to be.

Only six speedway meetings were ever held at the Towneley track before it closed for good and although the Burnley team completed five of their English Dirt-track League matches, only one of them was at home. The home match on April 27th was cancelled due to "building work",the match against Leicester on June 29th had to be abandoned and the proposed match against Leeds on June 6th was cancelled due to a shortage of riders! They also had to change the team when the format and rules of the league were changed (some things never change in speedway!), and the original promotion went into liquidation by the end of May and sold out to Percy Platt from Rochdale speedway. Platt's first match in control was really the nail in the coffin of Towneley Speedway as it only lasted 3 heats before it was abandoned due to the excessive dust. The hot weather had brought water rationing to Burnley, so there was no water for the track. The league match against Leeds was quickly re-arranged as yet another Individual Trophy meeting and although it was another successful day for Golden Helmet winner Frank Charles, it was a financial disaster for the new promotion and speedway was never seen in Burnley again. The Towneley stadium continued to host greyhounds until 1933 before it closed down completely.
Newspaper Reports of the Towneley Speedway due to open at Easter 1929
Team photo l-r; Ernest Ingham, E.Thistlethwaite, Jack Lund, Joe Abbott, I.Sanders, J.Rushworth, and Les Martin.
Joe Abbott practising on the Burnley Track and Frank Charles poses with his Douglas
The Mayoress of Burnley cuts the tapes to open Towneley Speedway
The bottom photo shows Arthur Wilcock broadsiding around a fallen rider.
The Burnley Team who beat Salford Albion 41-22 at Towneley on May 11th 1929.
"Ginger" Lees, Arthur Wilcock, Cyril Wilcock, Billy Howard, Jack Lund, Frank Charles, Ernie Ingham and Joe Abbott 
Harold Riley "Ginger" Lees was the Captain of the Burnley team.
Ginger went on to find fame and fortune with Preston, Wembley and England
 He was also a big star at Hamburg.
Frank Charles won the Golden Gauntlets on April 13th, and the Golden Helmet on July 6th.
Frank Charles eventually became a huge star at Belle Vue and Wembley and finished 4th in the very first World Final. He was eventually killed in a gliding accident in 1939.
Joe Abbott was another local lad made good. apart from his free scoring for the Burnley team he went on to become a star for Preston and Belle Vue, and eventually lost his life on track riding for Odsal in 1950.
Burnley Speedway Team 1929
l-r Frank Charles (kneeling), Arthur Taylor (manager) , Arthur Wilcock, Ginger Lees, Jack Lund, Cyril Wilcock (on bike), Ernest Ingham, Joe Abbott and Percy Platt (promoter).
Programme for the EDL match against Leicester on June 29th.
The match was abandoned after heat 3 due to excessive dust. Burnley were leading 13-8.
1929 Map showing Towneley Stadium, the home of Burnley Speedway
...and this what the site looks like today.
The pits were just about where the white arrow is and the footpath running across the centre of the photo is  the same path that runs across the back of the pits wall in the 1929 map. The track is now under part of the municipal golf course.
The road running down the right hand side is the drive to Towneley Hall.

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Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Disenchanted City Boy who rode out of the fast lane and into the back lanes! Life on Two Wheels is so much fun.