Defunct Speedway Tracks
Yarmouth Stadium, Caister Rd.,Caister-On-Sea, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk last speedway 1961
1948 Yarmouth Bloaters, candidates for the oddest nickname in speedway? Picture courtesy of Keith Farman who says: - This was the team photo sold at the track in 1948. They have the original race jacket of red and black squares. Left to right - Reg Morgan, Max Pearce, Dick Wise )Manager), Roy Duke, Paddy Hammond, Bill Carruthers, Sid Hipperson, Billy Bales. Bert & Ted Rawlinson. The programme gave the Rawlinson brothers the other way, but as Bert was in the team and Ted was not I think that I have them right.
Norman Jacobs says: Hi John I'm having difficulty
with this one! I think it's the 1948 team. The only riders I can really
identify are Bill Carruthers (with glasses), Billy Bales, on his right as
you look at them and I think that last on the right is Fred Rogers. I
guess if the photo is from Christine Hammond, then Paddy Hammond is there
and if forced to choose, I'd say he was third from the left. I'll try and
sort out the others as soon as I can. All the best Norman
Norman Jacobs says: Hi John, On your Yarmouth Defunct Speedway Tracks page you have a photograph of the 1950 Yarmouth team with the caption "can you tell me their names" Well, you'll be pleased to know I can! Left to right: Reg Morgan, Jack White, Bill Carruthers (capt), Fred Brand, Tip Mills, Bert Rawlinson, Wally Higgs. All the best
By Keith Farman
In 1932 Don Hannett who had started the Firs in 1930 promoted two meetings at Yarmouth Stadium; this was in the field south of the present Stadium. Although they were advertised as Speedway it was a grass track that had staged two Greyhound meetings on the Good Friday. Arthur Reynolds (Fred Leavis) was the top man in the first held on Thursday afternoon 14th July. The second was the on the following Sunday at 8 p.m. was a team meeting in which Yarmouth lost to Staines 22-28. Jack Smythe (Jack Sharpe) was not beaten in his four rides, but the rest of the riders had only three rides. That same year there had also been racing at the Waveney Speed Rack at Bradwell, a village south of the town.
. In the winter of 1947-48 Dick set up a training school at Norwich that was run by Paddy Hammond and Sid Hipperson and they also had some help from Paddy Hammond. The best of these riders and the 1947 Norwich team riders, Hammond, Roy Duke, Bluey Thorpe and Charlie Smith, competed in the first meeting at the track (20.4.48), an individual meeting for the East Coast Trophy.
The first race was won by Ted Rawlinson and it was his brother Bert who the meeting with 14 points. Hammond was disqualified for crossing the white line in his first race scored 12 points as did Reg Craven. The experienced Sid Hipperson, who had rode in 1939 for Norwich, did not ride in this meeting, but joined the team for the first League meeting at Hull.
The team name was suggested as Mariners or Seaside’s. The local football team was called the Bloaters as at that time the town had a large fishing industry and was famous for smoking Herrings (Bloaters). Any one from Yarmouth was always called Bloater, so this was the name the fans wanted and got. At first the team’s race jacket was red and black squares and it was not until the 15th meeting that they first rode with the famous red and black race jacket with a silver Bloater on.
. During the season the team was hit by injuries and two of them were fatal. In the first ever race at Poole at the first bend Reg Craven crashed and was hit by two riders, sadly 180 hours later, he died from his injuries. The other fatality took place in the second half of the 13th meeting at Yarmouth on the 13th July. Yarmouth had won the meeting and had 13 League points. The Australian, Max Pearce who had won his first race in the meeting struck the fourth bend fence and tried to keep going but was dragged half way down the straight in a horror crash. At the end of the season there were 13 riders who scored more points than Max and his match average was 1.3. Thankfully this was the only fatal crash at Yarmouth. Result wise in what was a bad season as the team lost all their official away meetings and 8 at home, only Wombwell had a worst record.
Because of all the injuries the team used 22 riders Only Roy Duke rode in all of the teams official meetings and he had lost form by the end of the season. When Norwich got hit by injuries the up-and-coming teenager Fred Rogers was transferred back to the Stars followed later by Hammond.
The highlight of the season was the form shown by Billy Bales who because of injuries was given a chance in the teams first home meeting against Poole. He topped scored with 10 points and only a collarbone injury stopped him becoming the teams captain. Reg Morgan was also a find as stared as a novic and ended the season as captain. While Bert Rawlinson and Bill Caruthers preformed well.
The team lined up for the 1949 season with Hipperson as captain, Bert Rawlinson, Bales, Bill Carruthers, and Morgan from last season. Johnny White had been signed from Hull. The reserves were Joe Rodwell and Harold Simms. After three matches Harold was injured and replaced by a young London lad, Stan Page.
From a team that could not win away in 1948 Yarmouth had the best away record in Division 3, in 1949. They did however lose two matches at home to Poole 41-42 and Plymouth 41-43. They reached the Division 3 Final of the National Trophy, losing out to Hanley 101-113. It was also Yarmouth and Hanley who fought it out for the Championship. Yarmouth’s last meeting was at Hanley where a crowd of 20,000 witnessed a great battle. Going into the last race Yarmouth led by a point 38-39. Bales and Brand shot away from the gate and the 5-1 had given Yarmouth the match 39-44 and it seemed the Championship.
Bales was near on unbeatable, as during the season he scored more maximums than any other rider in all three Leagues, 18 full and 6 paid in the League plus a 18 point maximum in the National Trophy. This gained him the Mr. Max title from the Speedway Echo He was also very fast breaking 9 track records. In one period of 20 days he rode at 7 tracks and took 6 track records. His explanation to this ‘was that he had his first new bike and just wanted to see how fast it would go’.
Billy and the bespectacled Bill Carruthers had proved to be one of the best pairings for the Bloaters Fred Brand had come on Tip Mills was matching Billy’s scoring at Yarmouth. Morgan proved a valuable captain after Hipperson departed to Leicester.
After the excellent 1949 season Yarmouth were promoted to the Second Division for the 1950 season. The team was expected to hold their own in the higher League with the riders that had performed so well for the team in Division 3. They had signed Wally Higgs, who was a top rider at the Claremont track in Australia.
Bales doing his military service with the RAF but he was still expected to be able to ride. He missed the team's first three matches and in his very first match in the higher League, away at Cradley he topped score with 11 points. After riding in just three Kemsley Shield matches Bales was posted to Egypt and the team had to compete in the higher league without its star rider.
Yarmouth came bottom of the Southern Shield, losing all the away meetings and two at home. In fact they had five away and two home defeats, before they managed to win their first match at home, against Walthamstow 48-35. Walthamstow gained revenge as they put the Bloaters out of the National Trophy. The team's form in the League was far better that the Shield, without Bales, on their tricky little track, the team held its own in the League, but they were woefully weak away.
Bill Maddern (an experienced Australian rider joined the team and at times both he and Higgs rode exceptional well, unfortunately both received leg injuries. Higgs had appeared very useful, but needed time to adjust to the smaller British tracks and time was something that Yarmouth did not have. Yarmouth also included several London junior riders, George Flower, Vic Ridgeon, Jim Purdey, and Johnny Fry
Bill Carruthers, who was having a really great season but he was involved in a very bad crash in the home match against Ashfield (7.9.50), with Johnny White and Bruce Semmens Bill was taken to hospital with a very bad compound fracture of his right leg. While the wild man, Semmens was excluded.
The track surface had been changed at the start of the season to brick dust mixed with crushed shingle but this was not a success as the riders complained because it penetrated the engines causing the riders considerable expense. So the management obtained a new type of shale and the improvements to the track was noticeable in the times. The track record was held by Billy Bales at 72.2 at the start of the season was shattered and ended up at 69.8. This time was first set up by Eddie Rigg in the World Championship round and was equalled by both Ken Le Breton and Phil Clarke. Both the latter two riders achieved this time in the scratch race final, the last race of the meeting, and Clarke's case it was the very last race of Yarmouth's 1950 season. Track records are very rarely broken in the last heat of a meeting and I believe that no other track could match this feat proving that the Yarmouth track was in excellent condition in 1950.
Wedon strengthen the team by signing Bob Baker, from New Cross for £750. This proved a great success as Bob, as over the next seasons only Brand would outscore him. Hipperson was resigned plus Cyril Quick was brought on loan for the remainder of the season and from then on the team just about held its own at Caister Road, they even managed to beat Norwich 44-40.
For the second season they failed to win away. After the disaster's Kemsley Shield meetings they did manage to keep an unbeaten home record on their own tricky track until the very last match of the seaon when Edinburgh, led by the World champion, Jack Young, won by ten points. Again the team ended up near the bottom of the League as they were eleventh out of sixteen.
After a bad start to the season Fred Brand became near invincible at Caister Road, in a 13-march period he dropped just two points. He had two 18-point maximums in the National Trophy won the World Championship Round with a classy maximum. In the Test match Britain beat Overseas 65-45 he dropped one point to Bob Leverenz
Brand had a League CMA of 9.57 and Baker (9.28) carried the team in most of the matches. For all official meetings Baker had 8.98 with Brand on 8.83, Morgan 6.39, Quick 5.78, and Mills 5.06. The ever popular but injury jinxed Hipperson (4.22) was forced to retire after 19 matches as the insurers refused to insure him again. Ridgeon 3.82, Johnny White 2.91, George Flower 1.33, Terry Courtnell 1.33, Alby Thomas, the only New Zealander to ride for Yarmouth and Jim Purdey failed to score.
It was the same story as last season, Yarmouth were an acceptable team at home, but were the reverse away. It was Brand and Baker scoring well, and the rest struggling for a few points. Terry Courtnell started to back them up and became the third heat leader.
The highlight, from the fans point of view, was the tiny (4 foot 9 inches) Johnny Chamberlain. Wedon had suggested that 'he would be the new Billy Bales'. Johnny was even smaller than Billy and he certainly seemed very frail. It was obvious that he had the nerve to be a racer, but the points, at first did not come. He took crash after crash and then a smaller bike was made for him and it was then the big scores started to come.
Not only did Johnny click with the fans but he forged a friendship with Terry Courtnell off the tack. Wedon paired the two kids together and how the crowd took to them. The team manager Ernie Wedon, got fed up with certain riders not scoring on the away tracks and both Morgan and Page were averaging over 7 at home, away it was a very different matter, Morgan was just over 2 whereas Page was under 2.
New blood had to be found and Reg Reeves was signed and he was soon scoring well. Apart from Reeves, Roy Bowers came on loan from Harringay. Peter Harris, an Australian who had rode at Wolverhampton as Gundy Harris, was another new rider and he too improved during the season.
A complete alteration to the track shape-to make it easier for the visitors and thus enable them to put up racing that really looks like the real thing. The alterations brought the tracks length to 325 yards for the remanding seasons and it was again a cinder track.
It was a fine season for Yarmouth in 1953, after two seasons in the Second Division they at last beat their away bogy by winning away, and they staged some fine meetings on the away tracks. They became serious challengers to Coventry and Poole for the Second Division title.
This was absolutely the best side that Yarmouth had in Division 2, and, as they were in the higher league, it was conceivably even better than the super Division 3 side of 1949. Brand, Chamberlain, Reeves, and Baker were heat leaders in their own rights. Brand and Chamberlain were both included in Stenner's top ten ranking for the Second Division. Brand, Chamberlain, and Reeves all featured in the Speedway Star's top six riders. The young riders in the side Courtnell, Ronnie Genz, Roy Bowers and George White all played their part, in what was an excellent team.
Yarmouth were handicapped for half the season by the absence of Chamberlain, who broke a leg in the Queens Cup fixture at Poole in June. I am sure that if Chamberlain had not got injured the crowds would have increased. Johnny, like Billy Bales before him, was extremely spectacular to watch, at the time of his injury he was starting to out-score Fred Brand. If Johnny had kept this scoring up and there was no reason to suspect that he would not, I believe that the team would have won the league title.
With Chamberlain injured, Reeves who had been riding well with Baker, was made heat leader and Genz was then moved from reserve to partner Baker, and this worked very well. With Chamberlain and the improved form of Genz, in would be fair to say that the team would have been able to win a few more away matches. Chamberlain had scored 9 at Coventry in the first mach in the second if he had scored the same it would have swung the match 44-40 to the Bloaters and perhaps that they would also have won at Edinburgh but they lost 39-45.
Brand was made captain and he well and truly beat the ‘captain’s hoodoo’. He again topped the scores and he had double points in every home meeting. Brand was ever present in the team from 1949. He was one of the few riders, who never missed a meeting in his entire career through injuries, as he was such a master of the bike that he never crashed.
Yarmouth wanted to open the 1954 season late and after some wrangling the Control Board did not issue them with a licence. The track remained closed until Percy Leighton, a local businessman, Alf Weedon, the ace cameraman, and Ted ‘Pop’ Courtnell, the father of Terry, who sadly had been killed in a car accident in South Africa, took over. The former manager Ernie Wedon was still involved as he wrote the programme notes.
The sport returned on the 2nd July with a star line up for the East Anglia Trophy, which was won by Ove Fundin after a run-off with Peter Craven.
After this four team matches were held, strangely the home team was called East Anglia, but they did ride in the Yarmouth race jackets.
The next meeting it was back to the Yarmouth Bloaters with Yarmouth beating Oxford 66-30 with Billy Bales and Peter Moore both scoring 15-point maximums. Fundin won the Five Star Speedway Annual Trophy with a maximum 15 points to end the short, but interesting season. In this meeting Peter Moore set up an all time track record of 69.2.
One of the crowd pleasers of the season was Albert Sparrey, who had the habit of spinning completely round on the second bend. This gained him the nickname of ‘Spinning Sparrey’. Albert could hold his own with the top riders at Yarmouth and at times looked world class.
The season opened with East Anglia losing to the Rest 37-59 with the local hero, Billy Bales, scoring a 15-point maximum for the Rest. The next meeting the home team was back to Yarmouth with Craven and Jack Young riding for the Bloaters who lost to Norwich 43-53. Fundin scored maximum 15 and Bales 12+1.
Jack Young won the Great Yarmouth Championship after a run-off with Ronnie Genz another one of the 1953 Yarmouth team. Barry Briggs was the star of this meeting and would have won the meeting but for getting excluded in one race. Barry clocked three times under 70 seconds 68.8, 69.6, and 69.8.
There is some confusion to who was the track record holder at Yarmouth. The programme for this meeting gave the shale record at 69.8 held by Eddie Rigg, Ken Le Breton, and Phil Clarke (the track measured 327 yards). Cinder record at 70 seconds to Peter Moore 16.7.57 (325 yards). But this was an error as it had been Barry Briggs who set up that time and Peter Moore had beaten that time in the last meeting of 1957 with a time of 69.2, both my programme and the Speedway Star agree on this. Briggs times were checked carefully but his time of 68.8 was not excepted as the all time record because the timekeeper was not an official. But nevertheless he was the fastest rider ever at Yarmouth.
When Norwich beat Yarmouth 50-40 it was the last time the top riders rode at Yarmouth. That night Yarmouth included 3 World Champions Young 11, Craven 15 point maximum, and Ronnie Moore 14. The other team members were Sparrey, Hankins, Maury Courtnell and Are Hendrickson. Fundin 13 was the fourth World Champion riding that night and for the last time the Bloater fans cheered on their favourites, Billy Bales 10 and Chamberlain 5.
The season ended with combined junior and midget car racing. The first one Ove Fundin and Aub Lawson appeared, with Ove winning his race and Aub not finishing.
Yarmouth also entered a team in the Junior League that both the Speedway Star and the Yarmouth programme called the Second Division. Yarmouth had just two away meetings in this League, and won them both, at Swindon 19½-40½ and Norwich 25-34. Strange that they never rode at home in this League.
This season there were no top rides as the team joined the five team Southern Area League. In the first League match away at Eastbourne the team lost 46-26, Clive Featherby, Derek Strutt, and Peter Atkins were missing and were replaced by Eastbourne juniors.
Away they won at Ipswich and Rye House. Beat Rye House and Aldershot at home got a draw with the eventual winners Eastbourne. But lost to the bottom team Ipswich, who that night included the Bloaters former star Johnny Chamberlain who was the match winner. He did drop a point to Fitzpatrick before he fell in the last race.
The popular Albert Sparrey captained the team with Johnny Fizpatrick, Ivor Brown, and Dave Hankins. In all 17 riders were used with the team using juniors from the home track in many of the away meetings. Ivor Brown won the Kings of Oxford Trophy in the first home meeting and. Dave Hankins won the Bosh Trophy
The Provincial League was born with Yarmouth as one of the founder members. It certainly looked a better League that the old S.A.L. Yarmouth were hit at the start by the retirement of Sparrey and although the management tried very hard they failed to tempt him back. They did however sign the veteran Geoff Pymar to strengthen the team.
Brown was the new captain; Fitzpatrick, Pymar, John Debbage, and the young Ron Bagley and Ken Last were the main scores. Again the team would ‘borrow’ a junior rider at the away tracks to become the reserve. This rider had no programmed rides and was only given rides if a team member could not take part.
It should have been the launch pad for better seasons, but it was not to be as it always seemed to rain on Tuesday nights that season. The matches against Liverpool, Poole, and Sheffield were postponed. The Sheffield match was never run at Yarmouth as the away meeting was rode for double points.
Rayleigh, with the ex-Bloater, Reg Reeves won the League with 34 points with Yarmouth with 14 points was in seventh out of ten teams.
After the disaster of 1960 the team was withdrawn from the Provincial League and they had a series of open meetings. They were also in an East Anglian League that included B teams from Norwich, Ipswich, and Rayleigh but this was never completed.
In the only away meeting a make shift team lost 48-30. The home meetings they beat Rayleigh B 44-34. Clive Featherby won the C.T.S. Trophy with a 15 point maximum from Harry Edwards 14 and Ron Bagley 12. One of the Yarmouth fans favourite riders ‘Cowboy’ Vic Ridgeon, so called because he would bounce his front wheel, had rejoined the team. Vic scored 4+2 and Brown and Pymar 5 each were the top scores, as a strong Ipswich B team won 26-52, Beat Cradley in a Challenge 45-33 and Norwich B 39-37.
The King’s of Oxford meeting was an interesting meeting with some good racing but as the fans left the stadium they did not know it was the last time Speedway meeting at Yarmouth. The management then run a sidecar and midget car meeting on the next Sunday that lost about £300 and so the track closed.
The last meeting was not reported in the local press or the Speedway Star. After two races Bagley and Brett were unbeaten. Heat 10 and Bagley rode hard into the first bend and was excluded and could not take his other rides. In the re-run Pete Jarman beat the shaken Edwards and both had 8 points. Brett had machine trouble when leading Edwards in heat 15. Jarman won heats 15 & 16 to finish with 14 having lost to Brett in his first ride. Edwards had to win the last race to force a run-off but was outgated by Goldfinch who had crashed in his first two rides. The result of that last ever race was Goldfinch, Edwards, Fitzpatrick and Peter Atkins
In had been an exciting meeting with Jarman the winner on 14 points Edwards and Trigg had 13. On 10 were Ridgeon and Pymar. Interestingly Pymar had been programmed to ride in the Yarmouth V Staines match in 1932 and was still going strong. He had been billed to ride in the team match in 1932 but although he had appeared at Norwich in the afternoon he did not ride in the evening meeting at Yarmouth. Geoff had rode successfully at the Bradwell track that same year.
The track now runs Greyhounds and Stock Cars plus a stunt show in the Summer. It is certainly a far better stadium that its local Speedway tracks at Ipswich and Kings Lynn. The track has been tarmaced over for the Stock Cars.
Maybe someone will one day bring the sport back to the third largest seaside town in England. I hope it could be me as I do the lottery each week. Last week I did get close as I only needed another 5 numbers.
Thanks Keith for the low down on Yarmouth. I have the same dream about winning the lottery and bringing back Speedway to one of our defunct tracks.
With Fred Brand they carried the team
Billy was the Fist of the Skid Kids to make the grade and was the hero of the Yarmouth crowd
4 foot 9 inches - Johnny Chamberlain
1950 team can you tell me their names John
1953 Team - Left to right - Terry Courtnell, Bob Baker, Peter Harris, Vic Ridgeon, Reg Reeves, Fred Brand, Roy Bowers, Ernie Weedon (Manager) Front - Stan Page, Reg Morgan (on bike) Johnny Chamberlain.
The following Photographs are from the camera of Phil Small, They were taken well after Yarmouth's last rides but as you can see the track could have been in use and the Bloaters history could have been extended come on Phil tell us about your visit to Yarmouth. John
Yarmouth, 6 pictures of the track, did you stumble down those uneven steps, let's here from you if you did John
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