Hastings Saxons Speedway
Welcome to the history of Hastings Speedway club, covering 1948 – 1949.
Along with a large number images from the era, scroll down for a historic overview and a comprehensive list of meetings and race results. All image and copy credits: Ken Burnett
Hasting Speedway Images.
Click to enlarge
HASTINGS SPEEDWAY 1930’s
Grass speedway racing took place during the late 1930’s, just outside Hastings at a village called Three Oaks, just up the road where The Eagles former club sponsors Cinque Port are located.
HASTINGS SAXONS SPEEDWAY 1948
The Speedway Control Board granted licences to Hastings, Yarmouth and Poole to run Speedway Teams and Speedway meetings.
The establishing of a speedway team in Hastings was brought about through the “adverse effects” of the basic petrol ban on Arlington stadium near Hailsham, which was the home of the Eastbourne Eagles.
The Eastbourne management were proposing to make the Pilot Field in Elphinstone Road Hastings, their headquarters.
The Pilot Field was a long-established sports stadium with football as its main sport. It was carved out of a hill to the North but built up on the South and East side in order to form a very level playing area.
A large stand had been built in 1928 on the South side of the stadium and it is in front of this stand that the starting gate was established. The entrance was at the South West corner.
The hill and banking formed from carving out the playing surface made excellent natural terrace areas on the West and North sides of the stadium with a wooded area to the East and rising from the entrance on the West side of the stadium. The Pits were located in the North East corner of the stadium with a track to the North giving access from Elphinstone Road.
The track was formed of cinders and the barriers were constructed of thick steel panels, not unlike Exeter!
Agreement was reached and completed between the Hastings Town Clerk, Mr.N.P.Lester and Hastings Speedway Ltd. for the letting of the Pilot Field for the 1948 summer season for a term of 7 years to enable them to establish a speedway team.
Terms of the let were agreed between Hastings Speedway Ltd., Hastings Corporation and Hastings Football Club.
The team would be formed of the 1947 Eastbourne Eagles team who had won the National Speedway League Division 3 title during that year.
The name was not settled but three names had been proposed;- The Hastings Warriors, The Hastings Lions and The Hastings Pirates. In the end, none of these proposals were taken up and the team became known as The Hastings Saxons.
The team would compete in Division 3 of the National Speedway League under the management of ex-Wimbledon rider Charles Dugard and well-known track specialist Mr.”Spud” Murphy. The speedway track was built by Rutherford’s of Battle, East Sussex. (The author’s father of the excellent “Hastings Saxon website” being one of those who worked for the company and was employed shovelling cinders)
The Opening night 24th April 1948
Hastings Speedway was opened by the mayor of Hastings Alderman F.W.Chambers. The conditions were perfect and around 5,000 people turned up to watch Hastings Saxons beat Stoke by 44 points to 39.
Among those watching this first meeting was Cllr. George Steele, a director of Hastings Speedway Ltd., who had done so much towards the introduction of the sport to Hastings.
Summary of the first meeting.
Main Meeting Result : Hastings 44 (Jock Grierson, Wally Green both Maximum 12 – Ken Tidbury 9) Stoke 33 (Dave Anderson 9, Gill Blake 7)
Fastest heat : Wally Green (79.6 secs.)
Other Results following main meeting :
“Future Stars” scratch race :
Heat 1 – 1.Dug Smith 2.Pete Mold 3.Matt Leonard (89.4 secs)
Heat 2 – 1.Ken Smith 2. Harry Collins 3.Ken Middleditch (88.2 secs)
St.Leonards Scurry : 1. Wally Green 2.Gill Blake 3.Jock Grierson (82.2 secs)
The officials of Hastings Speedway on the opening night were;- Promoter : Mr C.Dugard – Manager and Clerk to the course : Mr.G.Sellens – A.C.U Steward : Mr.A.G.Pickering – A.C.U. Judge-Timekeeper : Mr.A.A.Jempson – Track Superintendent : Mr.S.Murphy – Chief Pit Marshal : Mr.W.Thorne – Announcer : Mr.C.Long – Machine Examiner : Mr.E.Barnard – Medical Officer : Dr.F.W.Bedford Turner
The Eagles were no more as although league champions in 1947, they took the opportunity to transfer lock stock and barrel, 18 miles east, along the coast to Hastings.
The Pilot field stadium in Elphinstone Road, was equipped with a large main grand stand, which still stands today, huge terrace banking on turns one and two and down the back straight and could easily hold an estimated 15,000 spectators, although crowds averaged 8,000.
The track was 388 yards long, but quite narrow, it had a concrete starting grid, again that is still there today as is much of the cinder track including the turns.
The colours were a White race jacket with a red “H” on it, considering they were nicknamed the Saxons, this was quite a tame design.
From the 1947 Eagles team, the Saxons lost loaned Wimbledon riders Basil Harris, Harry Saunders and Jimmy Coy. Coy turned out for Cradley Heath and both Harris and Saunders to Tamworth in Staffordshire.
Despite the fact this weakened the side, the Saxons more than held their own, particularly at home.
With the likes of Wally Green and Jock Grierson, who consistently ran up big scores, away from Sussex too!
Ken Tidbury and the fast improved Ron Clark provided some good support too, it was only the lack of experience from the reserves and second strings that stopped the championship coming back to Sussex.
Bill Osborne’s arrival on loan from Bradford helped as he quickly found a fast way around most tracks and all of a sudden the Saxons found themselves picking up some good points both home and away.
Nice wins at Hanley (Stoke) and at Poole set them up for a title challenge and then South African Champion, Buddy Fuller joined the club and the team became a real force.
By the end of June, Hastings hopes were high, by mid-August they had disappeared.
Wally Green broke his collar bone Osborne was recalled permanently by parent club Bradford and Fuller had to return to South Africa after being injured after a bright start.
Green made a comeback only to break the other collar bone, putting him out for the rest of the season.
Skipper Ken Tidbury and Dan English were also injury casualties too.
However, it wasn’t all gloom for the team as other people’s misfortune gave Ken Middleditch (Neil’s father), Pete Mold and Ken Smith a chance to make the grade.
All in all, it wasn’t the best of season’s for the Saxons though, at one time they had a team, second to none, but never once were they in a position to use all of their stars at the same time in a single league match.
Fastest man around the Pilot Field was Wally Green who set a track record of 71.0
The Speedway Control Board had stated that in their opinion, it was one of the finest tracks in the country.
Despite this, the directors of Hastings Speedway stated that they were by no means satisfied with facilities and that they were already looking at the acquisition of floodlights and proper terracing on the grass banks, other track improvements saw the track bends eased and floodlights installed by controller Charlie Dugard
HASTINGS SAXONS SPEEDWAY 1949
When the Saxons returned in 1949, it was without Wally Green, who had returned to his parent club West Ham, But Buddy Fuller, Ron Clark, Jock Grierson and Ken Middleditch, the latter two who had wintered in South Africa with Buddy Fuller.
Middleditch’s sojourn out in south Africa had done him the world of good and he certainly showed in the first few matches at the Pilot Field that he had improved beyond all recognition and, for the remainder of the season, he was vying with Grierson for the number one position.
Without Green, however the team seemed to have little chance on improving on their sixth spot in the third division, let alone winning it.
However, they started off well enough, recording a number of big victories at home, 50-28 against Leicester, 52-31 v Plymouth, 58-25 against Halifax and a massive 65-16 against the Rayleigh Rockets. This though was all to prove a false dawn as they lost their next home match to Hanley (Stoke) 40-44.
By the end of the season, they had won 18 matches at home, but lost 5 and drawn 1, whilst away from home they had managed to win just 3 losing 21.
The Saxons dropped two places in the league to eighth place. Part of the reason for the drop in form after a good start was the horrific injury to Fuller, who fractured his skull in a crash and had to return home to South Africa.
As it was Grierson and Middleditch were responsible for more than one third of the team’s points between them, and it was the lack of support that did the damage for Hastings.
In the end Grierson just topped Middleditch average with 8.66 to 8.36, but it was Middleditch who took the track record with a time of 70.4 seconds, a record that of course still stands to this day as there was to be no more speedway at the Pilot Filed after the end of the 1949 season.
Rumblings of discontent amongst the local community had been heard as far back as 1948 when thirteen local ratepayers, under the chairmanship of Mr Arthur Parsons, formed an organisation called “Kill Hastings Speedway” and complained to the council about the noise.
Eventually the residents took their objections to court, indicting Charlie Dugard on eleven charges, ten of the charges were thrown out and residents ordered to pay the cost on them.
However, the one remaining charge was upheld, and this meant the end of speedway at the Sussex venue. In other words, the Saxons lost the battle of Hastings.
The last ever meeting at the Pilot Field was on the 5th October 1949 when Hastings lost to Tamworth 44 1/2 – 39 ½.
One of Dugard’s main reasons for moving the Eastbourne operation to Hastings was to be nearer to a centre of population, it was to prove a costly mistake.
Riders who rode for the Saxons
Matches Points Average
Wally Green 23 244 10.61
Jock Grierson 42 402 9.57
Bill Osborn 18 142 7.89
Frank Bettis 12 67 5.58
Buddy Fuller 8 42 5.25
Ken Middleditch 38 166 4.37
Ken Tidbury 39 170 4.36
Ron Clark 44 188 4.20
Eric Dunn 12 67 3.25
Dan English 35 108 3.09
Ken Smith 22 67 3.05
Pete Mold 32 91 2.84
Jock Grierson 42 364 8.66
Ken Middleditch 47 393 8.36
Buddy Fuller 26 181 6.96
Ron Clark 18 107 5.94
Norman Street 43 188 4.37
Ken Smith 47 203 4.31
George Butler 31 126 4.06
Harold McNaughton 26 98 3.76
Dan English 37 110 2.97
Harold Tapscott 31 92 2.96
Ken Tidbury 18 52 2.88
Pete Mold 7 17 2.42
Bob Sivyer 7 3 0.42
Click here to view a comprehensive list of Hastings Speedway Results.