Inspired by motorcycle speedway, young lads in post-war Britain scoured the bombsites for bicycle parts to put together their own racing bikes.

Runfold Hellcats at Milford Quarry, Godalming Bulldog's captain Arthur Bird is in second place. Courtesy of Godalming Museum

Runfold Hellcats at Milford Quarry, Godalming
Bulldog’s captain Arthur Bird is in second place.
Courtesy of Godalming Museum

By 1950 almost every town and village in Surrey had its own team – the Chobham Rockets, Byfleet Broadsiders, Woking Jets, Aaron’s Hill Tigers, Elstead Vampires. The riders built the tracks, organised the teams, made the uniforms (papier mache helmets, hand painted tabards and army surplus boots) and pedalled to meetings on their racing bikes (which had no brakes).

Godalming Bulldogs first team in 1950. Courtesy of Godalming Museum

Godalming Bulldogs first team in 1950.
Courtesy of Godalming Museum

Race meetings attracted coach loads of supporters and coverage in the local press. The sport became more professional, with fixtures organised into a league and club managers appointed. Cycle manufacturers offered specialist bikes such as the Phillips “Speed-track” and the “Wally Green Special”.

But as the riders who had started it all were called up for their National Service, cycle speedway went into decline. There are still teams racing today but nothing on the scale of the glory days of the early ’50s.

 

Useful Links

Surrey’s towns and villages

Godalming Museum

20th Century Surrey

Competitive Cycling – from secret races to the Olympics

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