Wimbledon Stadium

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Wimbledon Stadium
Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium - geograph-2551660-by-Bill-Boaden.jpg
Full name Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium
Location Plough Lane, Wimbledon, London, England
Coordinates 51°25′52.91″N 0°11′12.01″W / 51.4313639°N 0.1866694°W / 51.4313639; -0.1866694Coordinates: 51°25′52.91″N 0°11′12.01″W / 51.4313639°N 0.1866694°W / 51.4313639; -0.1866694
Owner Galliard Homes Limited
Operator Greyhound Racing Association
Construction
Opened 19 May 1928
Renovated 1950s
Closed 25 March 2017
Tenants
Greyhound racing

Wimbledon Stadium, also known as Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, was a greyhound racing track located in Wimbledon in southwest London, England.[1]

It also hosted stock car and other small circuit motor racing events and until 2005 hosted motorcycle speedway,[2] the stadium hosted the English Greyhound Derby every year between 1985 and 2016.

The stadium closed in March 2017[3][4] with owners Galliard Homes Limited set to build more than 600 flats on the site; there will also be an 11,000 seater football stadium built on the site which will be the new home of AFC Wimbledon, with capacity to increase it to a 20,000 seater stadium at a later date.[5][6] The club is planning to play at the new stadium from the start of the 2019–20 season.[7]

Stadium[edit]

The facilities included a brick fronted grandstand seating 8,000, executive suites, several bars and catering facilities, including a large waiter-service restaurant, the stadium was surrounded by a large open-air car park.

Greyhound racing[edit]

Origins[edit]

The greyhound stadium was constructed east of the River Wandle on a section of land that was difficult to build on due to the fact that it was marsh land and was prone to flooding, the only buildings near this plot of land were a chamois leather mills, a large sewage works and the Plough public house. Slightly to the east was Summerstown Road which held the only housing in the immediate area.[8]

The difficult plot did not deter South London Greyhound Racecourses Ltd who went ahead with plans to build a large stadium ready for 1928, however financial difficulties halted the project until a consortium headed by Bill 'WJ' Cearns whose firm had been responsible for the construction of the stadium stepped in with a sufficient funds to save the project.[9]

Opening[edit]

The opening night was on 19 May 1928 with the first race being won by a greyhound called Ballindura trained by Harry Leader, the Burhill kennels in Walton-on-Thames would become renowned within the industry housing the hounds for Wimbledon and were initially used by trainers Stanley Biss, Harry Leader and Ken Appleton. Paddy McEllistrim, a Norfolk farmer and breeder of greyhounds, and Sidney Orton would soon join the training kennels soon after.[9]

1928–1939[edit]

Wimbledon was the first track to introduce weighing scales in 1929 at their kennels so that the racing public could be issued with the greyhounds weights before racing, the same year Harry Leader returned to Ireland and was replaced by Sidney Orton. New events called the Puppy Derby, International, Wimbledon Gold Cup and Wimbledon Spring Stakes were all inaugurated.[10]

In December 1929 Arundel Kempton purchased Mick the Miller for £2,000 as a present for his wife placing him with Sidney Orton, the track had already been associated with Mick the Miller because the champion took up residence at the kennels of Paddy McEllistrim during the duration of the 1929 English Greyhound Derby. Con Stevens was the first Racing Manager and was instrumental in bringing the first classic race to Wimbledon in the form of the Laurels in 1930. Mick the Miller claimed his second Derby crown in 1930 propelling himself, the sport and Wimbledon into national fame.[11]

Trainer Joe Harmon arrived from White City in 1934 and Paddy Fortune another new trainer at Wimbledon claimed a second Derby victory for the track in 1939 after the greyhound Highland Rum won the race, the 'Two Year Old Produce Stakes' was introduced in 1935 and another event called 'The Key' started in 1936.[12]

1940s[edit]

During World War II the stadium suffered bomb damage but continued to race, the well known Irish dog Tanist was put with Paddy McEllistrim but found it hard to cope with the sharp turns at Wimbledon and failed to win a single race by the end of June 1940. In contrast Ballynennan Moon became a Wimbledon greyhound after Billy Quinn negotiated a sale to Mrs Cearns, wife of the managing director of Wimbledon Stadium and the greyhound became a household name during the war years; in 1942 after a winter rest he won the Walthamstow Stakes and Wimbledon Spring Cup before embarking on forty wins and seven second places from 48 starts. After finishing first fourteen times in succession he was beaten a neck by Laughing Lackey failing to beat Mick the Miller's 19 straight wins record.[13]

A new puppy called Ballyhennessy Seal first came to the scene in 1943 after moving from Catford Stadium to Wimbledon and was placed in the care of Stan Martin. Martin had joined the Wimbledon training ranks following the death of Joe Harmon in 1942. Martin guided Ballyhennessy Seal to a third Derby success for the track in 1945.[14]

1950s[edit]

After the war the Wimbledon management constructed a new grandstand in place of the war damaged section of the stadium, they also introduced new perforated tote tickets following continual losses on forged tote tickets every Saturday to the tune of £1,000. Ballymac Ball was the next greyhound to win the Derby for Wimbledon, the brindle dog won the 1950 event for Stan Martin; in 1950 the Instaprint photo timer that was tested at Wimbledon and given the seal of approval to use throughout Britain.[15]

Con Stevens continued to manage the stadium throughout the 1950s overseeing the success of the track and a fifth Derby success came in 1957 after the Dennis Hannafin (brother of Jerry) trained Ford Spartan took the title;[16] in 1958 Paddy Fortune died and his kennels would be taken over by George Waterman. Within a few months Sidney Orton retired and his son Clare Orton took up his position at Wimbledon. Clare had been a trainer in his own right for nearly ten years.[17]

1960s[edit]

Phil Rees Sr. joined the track as a trainer in the 1960s following the retirement of Dennis Hannafin and the Greyhound Express Merit Puppy Championship was renamed the Juvenile in 1963. George Waterman died and his Burhill kennel range was given to new trainer Nora Gleeson, the three times Derby winning trainer Paddy McEvoy also joined the track in the late 1960s. Towards the end of 1969 the possibility of the stadium being redeveloped was a possibility but the Greyhound Racing Association bought a major part of Wimbledon after a prolonged battle against developers.

1970s[edit]

The redevelopment issue could still not be discounted because the GRA Property Trust was buying and selling stadiums but the GRA invested into the stadium and raised the winning prize money levels of the Laurels to £2,000 in 1970 and £5,000 one year later; in 1972 the GRA sealed a deal to buy Wimbledon outright and bring the track fully under the GRA banner.[18] Paddy McEllistrim and Stan Martin both retired in 1974 replaced by Paddy's daughter Norah and Sam Sykes a former head lad to Clare Orton. Con Stevens resigned from the board of directors at Wimbledon bringing to an end his 46 years of association with the track.[17]

Wimbledon introduced new technology in 1976 after using a sectional timing mechanism and they were one of the first tracks to use the system of grading (selecting greyhounds in classes on ability); in the same year Mutts Silver won the Derby when trained by Phil Rees Snr; Rees would hand his kennels to his son Philip Rees Jnr just two years later after retiring.[19]

1980s[edit]

In 1985 Wimbledon was chosen to host the sport's premier event, the Greyhound Derby, following the closure of White City. Industry support for Wembley to be given the premier race was inconsequential because GRA owned the rights to the competition and would not allow a non-GRA track to have the race. Bob Rowe the Chief Racing Manager for the GRA was also the Racing Manager at Wimbledon when the track was handed the Derby and trainers Tom Foster and David Kinchett both joined from White City, the first Derby at Wimbledon was held over a new distance of 480 metres (520 yd) and ended with a seventh success for the track, Pagan Swallow won the competition and the Rees family became the second father and son to each win the Derby.[20] Arthur Hitch joined the tack in 1987 when Slough Stadium closed and then following the closure of Harringay the prestigious Oaks for bitches was switched to Wimbledon.

1990s[edit]

In 1990 a greyhound called Druids Johno was given to Prince Edward, the half share of the black dog had been given to the Prince by Patsy Byrne during a charity meeting at Kingsmead Stadium, Canterbury. Byrne would join Wimbledon as a trainer in 1991 and sponsor the long running International in the process, this appointment brought about the last ever Derby triumph for the track. Ballinderry Ash took the 1991 title bringing the total to eight just one behind Wembley.[21]

In 1992 GRA parent company Wembley plc announced losses of £8 million despite a £13 million profit in its UK operation. Simon Harris became Racing Manager arriving from Hall Green, Bob Rowe remained based at Wimbledon in his role of Chief Racing Manager of the GRA;[22] in 1996 the Intertrack betting service was introduced for the first time enabling race-goers at other tracks around the country to view the racing and place bets direct into the Wimbledon tote. In 1998 the Laurels switched to sister track Belle Vue Stadium and one year later Sky Sports screened their first greyhound meeting at Wimbledon which included the Springbok final, the GRA switched the Grand National to Wimbledon from Hall Green in 1999.

2000–2017[edit]

Rapid Ranger completed two Derby successes in 2001 emulating Mick the Miller and Patricias Hope before both Seamus Cahill and Bernie Doyle joined Wimbledon from Catford and Reading Stadium respectively in 2002. Catford closed in 2003 resulting in three new trainers, John Simpson, Tony Taylor and John Walsh. Catford Racing Manager Derek Hope took over from the departing Simon Harris who left for Coventry; in 2003 Wimbledon underwent £70,000 track improvements following criticism received during the 2002 Derby, consequently the 680 m (740 yd) trip changed to 688 m (752 yd) and the 868 m (949 yd) changed to 872 m (954 yd). In 2004 trainer Tommy Foster retired.[23]

Westmead Hawk won the 2005 & 2006 Greyhound Derby becoming the fourth greyhound to complete two wins and in 2007 trainer Ray Peacock died. Racing Manager Derek Hope left to join William Hill and was replaced by Gary Matthews and in 2008 Richard Rees, son of Philip Rees Jnr, became a third generation trainer at Wimbledon; Philip Rees Jnr retired due to ill health. Tony Morris who stood as a track bookmaker also retired after a long career at Wimbledon; in 2010 Wimbledon underwent major changes in time for the Derby, the grandstand was switched to the far side of the stadium and the physical makeup of the track altered meaning new track records would be set.[24]

The GRA allowed the Grand National to go to Central Park Stadium in Sittingbourne in 2012 and leading trainer Norah McEllistrim left for Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium. Bob Rowe switched to Belle Vue as the Racing Manager along with the Oaks.

Competitions[edit]

Track records[edit]

Track records[25]
Distance Greyhound Time (s) Date Note
252 m Slipaway Jaydee 14.95 16 Mar 1994
256 m Fifis Rocket 15.14 2 Mar 2010
272 m Dynamic Fair 16.11 28 Jun 1997
273 m Skate On 15.82 31 May 2014
276 m Lunar Vacation 16.26 7 Jul 2007
412 m Spiral Manor 24.89 25 Jun 1987
460 m Yahoo Jamie 27.29 15 Dec 2009
460 m Ardbeg Kate 27.29 15 Dec 2009
480 m Greenane Squire 28.21 12 Jul 1994 Old course
480 m Eden The Kid 27.95 30 May 2015
660 m First Defence 40.12 8 Mar 1994
668 m Dazzle Special 40.45 15 Dec 2009
680 m Geinis Champion 41.73 24 Jun 1995
687 m Millwards Teddy 41.13 27 Jun 2015
688 m Caloona Striker 41.77 25 Jun 2006
820 m Chestnut Beauty 51.16 21 Apr 1993
868 m Sandy Lane 54.11 6 May 1983
872 m Spiridon Louis 54.22 7 Jun 2007
892 m Zenas Angel 56.19 14 Nov 2009
894 m Roxholme Magic 54.78 4 Jun 2016
1,068 m Shropshire Lass 68.55 8 Feb 1990
1,080 m Somer Lovin 69.64 7 Jul 2007
412 m hurdles Pantile 25.38 5 Aug 1989
460 m hurdles Arfur Daley 27.80 20 Mar 1993
480 m hurdles Razldazl Raidio 28.89 25 Feb 2016
660 m hurdles Gold Splash 41.15 2 Aug 1994
668 m hurdles Sizzlers Bossman 41.68 2 Jul 2005

Speedway[edit]

Until 2005, the stadium was also home for over 50 years to the now defunct Wimbledon Dons speedway team and was famous for hosting the Internationale meeting every season.[26] from 1962 until 1981. though they did hold a qualifying round of this competition in 1961. Speedway arrived at Wimbledon in the 1928 pioneer season and a team was entered in the league competitions from 1929 to 1939, the team was re-formed after the war and the Dons raced in the top flight National League Division One from 1946 to 1964. The Dons were multiple winners of the league in the 1950s, the Dons were founder members of the British League in 1965. Upon their reopening after the war, in 1946, average weekly attendances were in excess of 30,000, until the early 1950s, when the sport declined rapidly in popularity. Still Wimbledon were one of the top teams with healthy crowd figures, and upon the closure of Wembley in 1956 remained the only team in London (apart from sporadic appearances by New Cross in 1959/1960 and 1963) until 1963 when Hackney entered the Provincial League, and 1964 when West Ham reopened in the National League (now known as the 1st Division Elite League).

Wimbledon's tenure in the top flight came to an end in the 1980s and the Greyhound Racing Association (the owners of the stadium at the time) decreed that speedway would end at the end of the 1986 season. However, a London stockbroker, David Pickles, gathered together a consortium in the 1986/87 close season who ensured that the famous Dons would continue to run, they employed the ex-England team manager John Berry and enjoyed reasonable success on and off the track in their first season. After a disagreement with Berry and the other members of the board, Pickles dramatically resigned as chairman of the club during the match with Exeter in September 1987, selling his shares back to the other members, with a few reshuffles at board level and the leaving of Berry, the remaining members eventually took Wimbledon back to the British League Division One in 1991, but the move proved disastrous and with only a couple of months of the season having been ridden, the financial losses proved to be so great that they were forced to disband the team. In June 1991 Wimbledon rode their final meeting, which was eventually curtailed due to the weather, although there was no longer any league racing at the Plough Lane stadium the team continued their league fixtures for the 1991 season moving to Eastbourne and were known as the Eastbourne Dons.

Having been defunct for eleven years, the team were then reopened again in 2002 but were finally disbanded completely in 2005 as a result of the dispute between the team's promoters and the owners of the stadium, the Greyhound Racing Association, over a proposed large rent increase.[26]

Stock car racing[edit]

A Stock Car meeting at Wimbledon Stadium

Plough Lane also hosted Motor Racing events promoted by Spedeworth International, including Superstox, Stock Cars, Hot Rods and Bangers. The first stock car meeting at Wimbledon was on 29 September 1962 (the Superstox World Championship) and the circuit quickly became Spedeworth's flagship venue with the World Final being held there every year up to and including 1974, the World Championship, along with other key race meetings such as Carnival Night, became very popular and were often 'ticket only' events filled to capacity. The stadium also boasted its own stock car racing teams in 1966 (London Sparrows) and 1971–72 (Canaries/Dons), the 1966 team shared its base with New Cross Stadium. The Unlimited engine capacity Banger racing World Championship also used to take place at Wimbledon until the event moved to Ipswich Stadium in 2008, this was due to the introduction of the London low emission zone which made it too expensive for the transporters to travel to the venue.

Other notable events[edit]

Wimbledon Stadium was the scene for part of the music video for the Queen song "Bicycle Race", in which 65 professional female models, all nude, rode on bikes around the stadium.

Banger racing at the stadium was featured in the ITV police series The Sweeney, the story was entitled "Contact Breaker".

Closure[edit]

In 2007 the stadium was purchased by development company Galliard Homes Limited when the Greyhound Racing Association was put up for sale (along with all of its assets) by parent company Wembley PLC.[27] Following this, professional football team AFC Wimbledon expressed interest in building their new football stadium on the site of the greyhound track in collaboration with Galliard Homes. A joint planning application made by Galliard Homes and AFC Wimbledon to build the new football stadium together with 600 residences on the site of the greyhound stadium was approved by the London Borough of Merton in December 2015.[28][29] Attempts to prevent the closure of the stadium; including a £20 million rival plan submitted by Irish businessman Paschal Taggart, the owner of Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium, and a bid by pressure group 'Save Wimbledon Stadium Action Group' to have the stadium granted listed status by Historic England; ultimately failed,[30][31] and the stadium was closed on 25 March 2017.[3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Track Search". Greyhound Board of Great Britain. Retrieved 24 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Bamford, R & Jarvis J.(2001). Homes of British Speedway. ISBN 0-7524-2210-3
  3. ^ a b "A farewell to Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, London's last dog track". London Evening Standard. 24 March 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Greyhound racing in London on its last legs with Wimbledon dog track to close this weekend after 90 years". The Sun. 24 March 2017. 
  5. ^ "AFC Wimbledon stadium will be 'the end of greyhound racing', but the sport will fight Plough Lane plans". Wimbledon Guardian. 
  6. ^ "Underdog eat underdog: the victims of football's greatest fairytale". The Guardian. 27 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "Wimbledon Stadium demolition ‘to start in April’". 11 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "OS County Series Surrey (partial) 1920". old-maps.co.uk. 
  9. ^ a b Genders, Roy (1981). The Encyclopedia of Greyhound Racing, page 90. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 07207-1106-1. 
  10. ^ Genders, Roy (1975). The Greyhound and Racing Greyhound, page 86. Page Brothers (Norwich). ISBN 0-85020-0474. 
  11. ^ Genders, Roy (1990). NGRC book of Greyhound Racing, page 40. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7207-1804-X. 
  12. ^ Genders, Roy (1981). The Encyclopedia of Greyhound Racing, page 93. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 07207-1106-1. 
  13. ^ Genders, Roy (1981). The Encyclopedia of Greyhound Racing, pages 90-91. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 07207-1106-1. 
  14. ^ Dack, Barrie (1990). Greyhound Derby, the first 60 years, pages 80-81. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-36-8. 
  15. ^ Dack, Barrie (1990). Greyhound Derby, the first 60 years, pages 90-92. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-36-8. 
  16. ^ Dack, Barrie (1990). Greyhound Derby, the first 60 years, pages 101-104. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-36-8. 
  17. ^ a b Genders, Roy (1990). NGRC book of Greyhound Racing, page 41. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7207-1804-X. 
  18. ^ Genders, Roy (1981). The Encyclopedia of Greyhound Racing, page 92. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 07207-1106-1. 
  19. ^ Dack, Barrie (1990). Greyhound Derby, the first 60 years, pages 154-157. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-36-8. 
  20. ^ Dack, Barrie (1990). Greyhound Derby, the first 60 years, pages 185-188. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-36-8. 
  21. ^ Barnes/Sellers, Julia/John (1992). Ladbrokes Greyhound Fact File, pages 142-143. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-22-8. 
  22. ^ Fry, Paul (1995). The Official NGRC Greyhound Racing Yearbook, pages 271-277. Ringpress Books. ISBN 186054-010-4. 
  23. ^ Hobbs, Jonathan (2002). Greyhound Annual 2003, page 62. Raceform. ISBN 1-904317-07-3. 
  24. ^ "Greyhound Racing's biggest sponsors sign again". Greyhound Star. 
  25. ^ "Track records". Greyhound Data. 
  26. ^ a b Jacobs, Norman (2001). Speedway in London. ISBN 0-7524-2221-9
  27. ^ "Are AFC Wimbledon going back to the dogs?". Betting.betfair.com. 13 September 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  28. ^ "AFC Wimbledon stadium will be 'the end of greyhound racing', but the sport will fight Plough Lane plans". Wimbledon Guardian. 
  29. ^ "Greyhound racing in peril as Khan backs AFC Wimbledon plans". The Guardian. 
  30. ^ "Irish businessman bidding to save London's last greyhound racing track". Irish Post. 
  31. ^ http://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/afc-wimbledon-overcome-major-hurdle-in-their-quest-to-return-to-plough-lane-a3570231.html

External links[edit]