Sunday, 27 February 2011

Barrow Speedway - A (very) brief illustrated history

The origins of speedway and dirt-track racing on the Furness peninsular can be traced back to he beach races organised by Barrow & District Motor Club in the 1920s. The club later held a grass track meeting at the Little Park Rugby Ground in Roose on May 26th 1928. The winner of the unlimited races at this meeting was local hero and future Belle Vue and Wembley star Frank Charles , who literally lived over the road from the stadium on North Row, Roose. In 1930, the Northern Motor Sports Club introduced Speedway racing to the Holker Street football stadium. A track made of rolled ashes from Vickers Shipyard was laid around the football pitch and a total of seven meetings were held before the Football club needed to re-turf their pitch in readiness for the new season. The winner of the opening meeting on 12th June 1930 was Eric Airey from Lancaster and over 7000 spectators watched the final meeting on July 28th.
Frank Charles and Eric Airey get ready for a match race at Holker Street in 1930
Not sure of the rider in the white jersey, but the other 2 riders are Roland Stobbart and Frank Burgess.
 A rare action shot from Holker Street in June 1930
During the 1950s, Cliff Hindle, a local motorcycle enthusiast, built his own private circuit where he and several other enthusiasts could practice prior to riding at Belle Vue and Sheffield, but it wasn't until 1972 that speedway racing returned to Barrow-In-Furness. A new track was constructed around the pitch at Holker Street and Barrow enjoyed three unsettled seasons of league racing at the football stadium, firstly with the Barrow "Happy Faces" who finished 9th in the 1972 second division, and then the Barrow "Bombers" who finished around mid-table in the 1973 and 74 seasons. The football and speedway clubs were uneasy partners though and talks broke down right on the eve of the 1975 season and Holker Street closed its doors to speedway again.
Mike Watkin - 1972
Bob Coles - 1972
Local rider Ian Hindle - 1972
Tom Owen - 1973
Terry Kelly - 1973/74
(Photos above all by R.Spencer-Oliver)
Sid Sheldrick in action at Holker Street 1974.
(Photo by Roy Dixon)
Chris Pusey of Belle Vue leads Chris Roynon at Holker Street in 1974
(Photo by Roy Dixon)
Cliff Hindle enters the scene again in 1977 by building a brand new track and stadium at Park Lane on the outskirts of Barrow. After a season of challenge matches, the "Furness Flyers" entered the 1978 National League, but a weak team finished bottom of the league with only 18 points to their credit and the track did not reopen in 1979. Speedway did make a brief return to Park Lane in 1981 when the temporarily homeless Berwick "Bandits" used the track for 5 league matches and 1 KO Cup match.
Chris Roynon and Andy Reid - 1978
(Photo by R.Spencer-Oliver)
Geoff Pusey - 1978
Chris Robins - 1978
 In 1983, Chris Roynon purchased the derelict stadium from Cliff Hindle and rebuilt it. Throughout the year he ran monthly stock car meetings and occasional speedway training sessions. A series of seven "open" meetings were then staged in 1984, four of the matches featured the Barrow "Blackhawks" racing in challenge matches and another featured the Barrow "Braves", a team comprised of junior riders. The "Blackhawks also competed in one away fixture at Edinburgh. The Barrow "Blackhawks" entered the 1985 National League, but this was possibly the weakest team ever seen in National League speedway and they were expelled from the league in May. Roynon continued to promote challenge matches and individual trophy meetings at an intermediate level, culminating in the Cumbrian Open Championship on Sept 24th 1985. The last ever speedway meeting to be held at the venue. Stock meetings continued until 1987 when the track was covered over with a greyhound track. Prior to demolition in 1994, local motorcycle dealer Martin Crooks and teenage prospect Grant McDonald used the old track for practice session, but the bikes have remained quiet ever since.
Rob Grant of Berwick leads Kevin Armitage and Gary O'Hare - Park Road 6th May 1985
Jim Mcmillan and Rob Grant lead Gary O'Hare and Paul Price - Park Road 1985
A Fabulous view out into Morecambe Bay too
Eric Broadbelt, Rob Grant, Bernie Collier, Bruce Cribb - Park Road 1985
(Park Road photos by Philip Haynes)

Update; February 2013: Due to the feverish enthusiasm of Barrovian John Earnshaw, Barrow "Bombers" will return to the track in 2013. On Sunday September 8th at 2pm, the new Barrow "Bombers" will take to the track in an amateur challenge match at Northside Speedway, Workington. John has designed a new bib for the grand occasion and the team has already booked Rob Shuttleworth from Askam to represent his local team.

The new race bib for the 2013 Barrow Bombers... 
This is the first step towards his ultimate goal of bringing speedway back to Barrow-In-Furness. Check out the Barrow Speedway website or take a look at the facebook page for more information and nostalgia.  


  1. In his book 'Speedway Panorama' Ron Hoare has a photo of Rol Stobart (and mechanic) at Barrow with a cup he seems to have just been presented with. In the background, as in the action shot of Rol above, there is what appears to be a low white fence that the author claims was made up of corrugated sheets with points on top! - and adds 'He (Rol) has a photograph to prove it!'

    Let me know if photo is of any interest and I'll try to get a copy to you.


  2. Hi Andy. Thanks for the offer but I do have a copy of that photo scanned from Mo Stobbart's scrapbook. The fence was indeed corrugated steel with points on the top. It was quite low too and according To Mo, "It would have sawn yer legs off if you hit it at speed"... Nice!

  3. It's a real shame that the attempts to re-establish speedway racing in this part of the Lakes did not work out. It's like the BSPA at that time were working against Barrow - how many northern clubs open their fixtures with matches against Exeter and Poole? It never happens but that's what the Blackhawks faced up against back in 1985. All that work Cliff Hindle put in to bring the sport back - its always so short sighted in many ways and the sport loses out because of it.

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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.