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In 1930 it was a field but by the end of 1931 it had become the home of Norwich speedway thanks due to Don Hannent and a local contractor Harry Pointer because it was they along with the Eastern Speedways Motor Club Limited who organised two Grass-track meetings at the site in the late summer of 1930. The interest in this form of racing was such that it was necessary to erect a fence for the safe control of the crowds that attended. It is said that amongst those early crowds of supporters was one Geoff Pymar who watched the first meeting on the 17 August and rode in the other held on the 14 September.

Towards the end of the following year, 1931, cinders were laid down and the Grass-track became a Dirt-track and the first ‘speedway’ meeting took place on 13 September. I do not have an image of this the first meeting but we are able to show you an image of one from 11 October which I think is interesting because at the bottom of the front cover you will see that rider support was alive and kicking even in the early days of the sport in the UK. It reads: “During the Interval a Collection will be taken by the Riders for your old favourite George Francis, who unfortunately injured his shoulder whilst riding for your team. Our picture shows him in action” perhaps the beginnings of the Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund going off topic for a moment the charity must have been essential for all but the very few as although the riders earnings were high if they were successful, if injured they had to find all their medical as well as living expenses.

By the start of the 1932 season the track had acquired some banking and a new safety fence and a grandstand. In the October of this year a combined Greyhound/Speedway meeting was held and betting was allowed, this was not repeated following suggestions the the riders were having more to do with the results than that dictated by their riding skills. The first meeting held under an ACU permit was on 25 June 1933 and this, apart from being a milestone in the tracks history also bought to attention how riders at the time operated in order to make a satisfactory living. There is no question that from the Grass-track days and through the early Dirt-track years there was one rider who was consistently at the top of the pack at The Firs, his name was Arthur Reynolds however when the track received its ACU permit Arthur reverted to his birth name, Fred Leavis, he was not alone there was at the time any number of Joe Bloggs and John Smiths riding at unlicensed events and riding very successfully who seemed to disappear once most the meeting were ACU licensed. Open events continued at Norwich’s Firs Stadium through 1934 but the spectator’s interest was falling and with it the number of meetings staged with only one meeting during 1935 and the same in 1936.

1937 seemed to bring a new impetus to speedway at this Norwich stadium with Peter McMahon fronting for the Norwich Speedways Limited and taking over the running of the venue with Max Grosskreutz as speedway manager. A team was formed and called the Norwich Stars they were entered in the Provincial League with their first home meeting taking place on the 1 May a Trophy Tie against Liverpool. The Stars completed the 1937 season and joined the National League Division Two League the following year finishing in the runner up position and were offered the opportunity to ride in the top league for 1939, this was declined and they remained in N L Division Two until all league racing ceased at the beginnings of World War II hostilities.

1946 and the restarting of speedway at The Firs took place on the 20 April, now promoted by Ernie Howard with Dicky Wise support as Speedway Manager, the Stars took a place in the Northern League for this one year rejoining the National League Division Two the following year 1947. There followed a trio of untimely deaths caused directly by track accidents - 1947 Cyril Anderson lost his life during a Best Pairs meeting on the 16th August - 1948 and the Middlesbrough rider Billy Wilson was fatally injured at the Norwich track during a National Trophy meeting on the 3rd July and died two days later in hospital and in 1950 John ‘Jock’ Shead a Halifax rider received injuries during heat five of a National Trophy event from which he died shortly after his arrival in hospital. There were changes in the management teams during these few years as well with C.H. Sutton joining the incumbent Ernie Howard in a joint promotion and in 1950 Fred Evans took over from Dicky Wise as the Speedway Manager.

1951 and the Norwich Stars were winners of their section of the National League with this came the opportunity to participate in the top National League Division One and this time they accepted. However the joy of the win and the promotion was short lived as during a training session in November Bob Howes was killed. The team finished at the bottom of Division One in 1952 but remained in this league for 1953 and 1954 doing better and achieving a place mid way up the tables. Changes in ‘the management’ continued during the 50’s with in 1954 F. J. Andrews becoming promoter with Gordon Parkins taking over from the speedway manager Fred Evans in 1955 there was one last change in promotion with Harry Wharton fulfilling this office in 1956

The team remained in the top tier of speedway doing well and having good support from the spectators so one can imagine the shock of all concerned when it was announced in 1964 that the stadium was to be sold for housing development, the last meeting took place on 31 October of that year and apart from being used for a few training sessions in 1965 that was the last of speedway at The Firs.

Norwich
The Firs Stadium

Our grateful thanks to John Somerville and Richard Austin for the images and John Javis for the information

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