Stamford Bridge Speedway
Page updated 16-Apr-2011
On the evening of 5 May 1928 Stamford Bridge became the first major London stadium to open its doors to the new sport of dirt-track racing. The track itself was 440 yards in length, banked and somewhat narrow and elliptical in shape, laid as it was on a running track. The stadium could hold 80,000 spectators, including a covered stand for 8,000, and benefited from flood lighting.

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In the final of the senior race R Frogley beat G Kuhn by half a length, thanks to a spectacular skid on the banking immediately preceding the finish. But the highlight of the evening was Sprouts Elder, the American, giving exhibition rides with Stewie St. George. Four days later, Stamford Bridge echoed to the roar of speedway bikes again. This time Sprouts Elder took part in the racing. In this first full season of speedway racing in Britain there was no league structure, tracks operating a system of individual races.

Gus Kuhn leads the way!

Gus Kuhn leads Bert Bolt, Wal Phillips and Art Pechar at Stamford Bridge

Click here for a short film of midget car racing at Stamford Bridge


Popular as Elder was with the Stamford Bridge faithful, it was another American who was to prove to be their idol. At his first appearance Art Pechar was to make an attempt on the four lap record, but it looked like his first ride at Stamford Bridge might be his last as he crashed badly into the safety fence coming out of the first turn. But Art slowly and painfully rose to his feat, remounted his machine and flew off from the start. This time his ride was faultless and he broke the track record. From that moment on the Stamford Bridge crowd took him to their hearts and Art Pechar could do no wrong.

The 1929 Stamford Bridge team with the Southern League trophy

Art Pechar's last 1928 appearance at Stamford Bridge came on 22 August when he was presented with a silver cup. On that same night, Stamford Bridge took on Crystal Palace in an inter-track match. In the first race Gus Kuhn defeated Triss Sharp, while in the second Les Blakebrough beat Bill Delaney. With Sprouts Elder also heading back home at the end of August, the season continued mainly with British riders, such as Stamford Bridge regulars Roger Frogley, Gus Kuhn, Les Blakebrough and Fred Ralph.

Over the close season, a Southern Promoters' Association was formed. Together with the ACU, they tried to regularise the rules for competitions. The most important reform was the institution of league speedway. Twelve teams, including Stamford Bridge, entered the Southern League. As star riders were excluded, Stamford Bridge's team consisted of Gus Kuhn (captain), Bill Bragg, Wal Phillips, Les Blakebrough, Fred Ralph, Colin Ford, Bert Bolt, Alan Day and L O Bellamy. The team colours were blue and white and their nickname was the Pensioners.

1928 Stars of Stamford Bridge: Blakebrough, Kuhn, Stratton, Gill, Pechar, Bragg & Norchi.

Skipper Gus Kuhn was the star of the side, scoring 188 points from 80 rides, with able backing from Wal Phillips and Les Blakebrough. So strong were these three, that Stamford Bridge reeled off ten straight victories in their first ten matches and were only defeated three times in the entire season, winning the championship by two points from Southampton.

A bitter controversy sprang up, however, over the manner of Stamford Bridge's triumph. At all other tracks, races were got underway by rolling starts. The races were started by the four riders coming up to the line together at about 15 mph as the flag fell. At Stamford Bridge, however, this was considered to be too dangerous as the track was very narrow and it was felt that a rolling start would lead to too many first bend pile-ups. Consequently, Stamford Bridge employed a system of push starts, where the bikes were pushed off by the track staff as the flag fell. It was rumoured that the staff, while pushing off their own team promptly, were inclined to hold back the opposing riders. This was, of course, denied by the Stamford Bridge management, who pointed to the fact that the Pensioners had won seven out of ten matches away from home as well. It is, however, probably true that the team had a distinct advantage at their own track as it was so narrow and therefore different to what other riders would have been used to.

Gus Kuhn's starting device
Fox Photos 1932
"A number of attempts have been made to introduce a satisfactory starting device for speedway racing without success. Gus Kuhn, the well known Stamford Bridge rider, has now introduced a scheme which he claims is workable and this is to be officially tested."

Cyril May explained that a car pushed the machines by means of a roller to start the engines: they were then kept on the leash until the starting line was reached, then the car driver operated a release mechanism!


Stamford Bridge were fortunate in securing the services of the Overseas Star champion, Frank Arthur, who loved the narrow confines of the Stamford Bridge track and was appointed captain of the 1930 league campaign. Gus Kuhn, Les Blakebrough, Wal Phillips, Bert Bolt and Colin Ford continued with the team and were joined by newcomers Nick Nicol, Ernie Mayne and Arthur Warwick. A supporters club was formed and for two shillings you got a badge plus discounted tickets, as well as club dances and socials. The Pensioners were not quite so successful this year and had to be content with third place behind Wembley and Southampton, the latter even managing the seemingly impossible task of beating Stamford Bridge at home.

The London Cup, run on a home and away knockout basis, was instituted in 1930 and Stamford Bridge got through to the final, having beaten West Ham and Harringay on the way. Unfortunately, they met a very strong Wembley side in the final and were beaten 105-86 on aggregate.

Some personalities
of Stamford Bridge Speedway
Colin Ford
Colin Ford

Bill Stanley

Ted Bravery

Click here to read more of Sprouts Elder

Click here to read more of Les Blakebrough

Click here to read more about Wal Phillips

Click here to read more of Frank Arthur 'The Wizard'

Click here to read more of Fay Taylour 'The Queen of Speedway'

More changes came in 1931 when, for the first time, a national competition was introduced. Stamford Bridge reached the final, but once again Wembley proved superior, winning convincingly by 120 points to 69. In the Southern League, Stamford Bridge went one better than in the previous year, finishing as runners-up to Wembley. The team had stayed much the same as in 1930, with the addition of Charlie Blacklock and Dick Wise.

'Stamford Sally' was the nickname of the Model T Ford car used to rake the loose track surface between each race.


1932 was a bitter sweet year for Stamford Bridge. It was the year when the Northern and Southern leagues were amalgamated to form the National League. As a precursor to this, the National Speedway Association Trophy was held, also along league lines. With a team consisting of Frank Arthur, Wal Phillips, Gus Kuhn, Jack Chapman, Arthur Warwick, Bill Stanley, Dick Wise, Dicky Smythe and Ted Bravery, Stamford Bridge romped home to victory. In the National League itself, Stamford Bridge suffered a setback, and with Dicky Smythe, Dick Wise and Ted Bravery all injured for part of the season, they could only manage fourth place.

With a successful team and attendances up, it seemed that Stamford Bridge was assured of a long run in the sport, but then came the bombshell. The stadium owners announced that they no longer wished to have speedway and wanted to convert it to a greyhound track. And so, at the end of the 1932 season, speedway disappeared from Stamford Bridge, never to return.

Edited from 'Speedway in London' by Norman Jacobs ISBN 0752422219
A highly recommended book, available on Amazon and from many other suppliers

Art Pechar, the American star
Spencer Stratton
Gordon Norchi
Stanley Gill
Art Pechar

Bert Bolt
O E Sykes
Bert Bolt
Stewie St George
Arthur Warwick
O. E. Sykes

A W Day Nick Nicol Bill Bragg Dick Bellamy
A. W. Day
Nick Nicol
Bill Bragg
Dick Bellamy

Jack Chapman
Roger Frogley

Many thanks to Bob Hughes for this and other pictures.