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Opening Nights: West Ham

Robert J. Rogers dug into his local newspaper's archives to uncover this report on the very first meeting staged at West Ham.



Dirt track Thrills

Activities at the new West Ham Stadium at Custom House commenced on Saturday (28th July 1928) by holding a Dirt-track Motor Cycle meeting, organised by the Dirt-track Speedways Ltd.

A large and enthusiastic crowd were treated to an excellent display of racing by some of the leading British, Australian and American Speedway riders.

Part of the stadium was still under construction and when completed, it will be undoubtedly be one of the finest in the Country. It is estimated that there will be accommodation for over 100,000 spectators and nearly half this number can be housed in the main double-deck stand.

There is a second stand on the opposite side of the ground, which can accommodate 20,000 people.

In the centre of the arena is a full size football ground which the new professional team, Thames Association will open in the southern league against Brighton on Thursday evening, August 30th.

Surrounding this is the Dirt Speedway track of 440yards, while beyond this runs a turf Greyhound racing track of 562 yards.

Two hundred dogs will be kennelled at the stadium in four blocks, each holding 50 dogs. Each block will have a paddock area of 850 square yards with Stores, Kitchen and Bedroom for Attendant with gas, water & electricity. In the vicinity of the stadium there will be a car park of five acres capable of accommodating 2400 cars.

There are 70x 750-watt lamps around the Greyhound Course, and a special type of Monorail train has been erected weighing only 500lb. This lightness will enable the Driver to retard or accelerate so easily that he will be able to keep the Hare with-in one yard of the Dogs.

Prior to the commencement of Saturdays speedway meeting, Alderman Jones M.P declared the stadium open, and there was present a number of members of West Ham Council, with Sir Louis Dane Chairman of the directors and Lady Dane.

Among the Aldermen and Councillors present were Alderman Thorn M.P, Alderman Godbold, and Councillors Torrington, Bush, Sturgess, Parker, Vincent, Scoulding, Mrs Cook and Mrs Parsons.

Alderman Jones, whose speech was broadcast around the Stadium through the Loud Speaker System, said that as Member of the Division in which that the Stadium and Sports ground had been erected, he hoped that it would add to the enjoyment and happiness of the people of the Neighbourhood.

They were not killjoys or spoilt sports in that area. There had been plenty of ups and downs and the trials and troubles of industrial difficulties, but they had lived through them all, and they could say without fear of contradiction that West Ham was one of the finest sporting Centres in Great Britain.

He was pleased to be called on to perform the opening ceremony at the Stadium, which was not to be confined to one Sport, but which would cater for various forms of amusement, and he hoped that when the final result was declared the Stadium would be recognised as one of the finest Sporting grounds in the country, and that good and clean sportsmen would be around them.

He had much pleasure in declaring the grounds open for the enjoyment of the public.

Dirt Track Speedway

Most of the riders in the events which were decided had no opportunity for a practice spin, and for the first lap or so had to ride carefully, but once they had tried out the track, some thrilling racing was witnessed.

All the Star riders present included Paddy Dean (Australia), Lloyd `Sprouts` Elder (U.S.A), Irvine Jones (Australia), Billy Galloway (Australia), Ivor Creek (England), Art Pechar (U.S.A), Geoffrey `Buzz` Hibbard (Australia) and Gus Khun (England) took part in the West Ham Invitation Handicap, which followed the parade of riders.

There were some close finishes in the Heats and Semi-final before Paddy Dean beat Buzz Hibbard in the Final, completing the mile and a half in 2.30 min, equalising 36 Miles Per Hour. The West Ham Golden Gauntlet mile event however produced the most exciting racing as all riders started from Scratch.

Unfortunately Pechar and Kuhn had to retire from this after winning their heats owing to Machine Trouble, and the event was finally won by Elder in 1.31 min at 39.56 MPH, which was the fastest time of the day.

In a special match race, Ivor Creek won from Billy Galloway, his time being 1.38 min at 36.44 MPH over a mile

The results were;
West Ham Golden Gauntlet (1 Mile) Final,
1st Elder, 2nd Dean, 3rd Creek, time 1.31.

West Ham Invitation Handicap (1.5 Miles)
1st Dean, 2nd Hibbard, 3rd Creek, time 2.30.

One Mile Match Race Ivor Creek beat Billy Galloway by four lengths, time 1.38min.


"It is a stadium in the fullest sense of the word, and we hope will provide a find opportunity for the people of this densely populated area to enjoy healthy sports and low charges"

Sir Louis Dane, Chairman of the Directors of the West Ham Greyhound Racing, Co, Ltd, made these observations in the course of a speech at the Luncheon given to the representatives of the Press at the Nottingham Arms on Wednesday.

"Primarily", he said, "we are a Greyhound Racing Company and the Dogs are the most important and our first interest, but we do not propose to limit ourselves to that".

On the site of the stadium there had been for many years a football ground and Whippet Racing Course. The company was particularly keen to keep the football going and the whippet racers were anxious to continue their sport.

They had also been meet by applications for Bowling Greens and Tennis Courts.

Fortunately there were ample opportunities for providing all of these pastimes and possibly Hockey, also if that caught on in the district.

There was also Dirt-track (Racing) and he though that as the interest grew, it would prove very successful.

Altogether they had a comprehensive programme, and a wonderful stadium, and he hoped they would be able to live up to it.

At a future date they might be able to arrange for Boxing Contest, as that was a sport very much in favour in West Ham.

He considered that Alderman Jones who had opened the stadium was a `good sport`.

The Building is not yet quite completed, but despite difficulties, they were barely three months behind schedule.

The local Authority had treated them very well, and they seemed to be welcomed into the neighbourhood.

Mr Cundy, one of the Directors, expressed the view that the stadium would do a lot of good for a greatly neglected part of London.

Afterwards the Pressmen were given a private view of the stadium.

It was a hive of industry; a large number of workmen doing their best to prepare the stadium for Saturday opening meeting. There is still a good deal to be done, but completion is in site. Every thing is in readiness for the actual racing.

The dogs all appear to be in an excellent form and are eager for the fray. Barring hold-ups, the public should witness some fine sport during the holiday weekend.

Sir Louis Dane in conversation with our representative expressed great pleasure at the smartness of the Stadium, which was being erected. He considered that it was one of the finest in the Country, and was a credit to all concerned.

There will be a `closed` season in January and February.


Report from the Stratford Express on the 1st August 1928.

With thanks for the great help from Jenni Munroe-Collins of Newham Heritage Library Services at Stratford.


This article was first published on 24th July 2008

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