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Rye House Origins
By John Hyam

There's quite a lot of research taking place at the moment in regard to the origins of Rye House. The general view is that it was opened by the Australian veteran Richard Case in 1937 when he also became landlord of the nearby pub of the same name. Case's links with Rye House continued in post-war years, and he is reputed to have discovered many famous riders - although another school of thought is that he had very little to do with rider training.

In fact, the Rye House speedway was very much the brainchild of High Beech pioneer and later Preston rider Jack Chiswell, who introduced speedway on a disused grass athletics track in 1934. Jack, who also rode in the first two meetings, was helped in the venture by his pals Ted Felstead and Percy Goman.

The first season of Rye House appears to have been short-lived, especially after the sport was popularised at East London venue Lea Bridge. Jack's brother Frank, another star of the Northern League in the late 1920s and early 1930s, was another Rye House regular. While Jack retired after riding at Lea Bridge in 1934, Frank made a brief speedway comeback for Belle Vue in 1938.

A copy of the Rye House programme for the meeting on Sunday, May 27, 1934, starting time 3pm, carries an advert for Chiswell's Garage, then in Brocket Rod, Hoddesdon. And to show how rare telephones were, it could be found on Hoddesdon 117.

This was probably the second meeting at the track - there was a printing error in the programme advertising a meeting for May 10, which had been amended to June 10. Costing twopence (old money), the programme also had Mrs H J Chiswell as the timekeeper.

There were 16 riders and one reserve booked for the meeting. Frank Chiswell is the only name I recognise. The other riders names just carried initials, but it's certain that T Hart was Phil 'Tiger' Hart, the old Birmingham favourite. K Brett was most likely Ken Brett, who was well known around West Ham and Wimbledon in the years either side of World War Two (1939-45). None of the others mean much - it may be that the meeting was not sanctioned by the then controlling ACU and that riders competed under assumed names.

For the record, the others listed were: W Blackman, R Bedwin, E Edwards, L Mason, J Pilkington, J Oxford, R Carter, S Wills, W Tinsley, V Houston, D Miller, G Rowney and R Bird (reserve).


This article was first published on 23rd April 2009

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