Staying in the West Country, Bristol is another city where speedway has an eventful yet patchy history. Originally opened as – you guessed it – a greyhound stadium in 1927, Knowle Stadium held its first speedway meeting the following year. Racing took a six-year holiday starting in 1930, before starting again in 1936. Its longest run at Knowle Stadium came after the war, with unbroken racing from 1946 to 1960.
These were the peak years in terms of the sport’s public popularity, with an average of 7,000 spectators every session, sometimes even as high as 20,000. In 1947, Laurel and Hardy, who were touring the UK at the time, visited the stadium. Bristol’s team, the Bulldogs, found some success during the 50s, reaching division one of the National League in 1950, before being demoted to division two in 1954. By 1960, attendance figures were falling, and speedway at Knowle finished at the end of the season. The following year greyhound racing ended too, and before long the stadium had been demolished. A housing estate was built on the site.
It wasn’t until 1977 that speedway returned to Bristol, taking place at Eastville Stadium, which was also the home of Bristol Rovers. Famous for having flowerbeds behind the goals, speedway only lasted two seasons there before stopping. Financial difficulties forced Bristol Rovers to move out in the mid-80s, while greyhound racing continued until 1997, but Eastville was then demolished and an Ikea built in its place.
The dream of speedway in Bristol isn’t completely dead though. In recent years there have been attempts to find a new site for a track. Sadly nothing has come of it yet, with council worries about noise pollution being the stated reason for the delay in securing a decision. The fact that Bristol still has active speedway fans trying to bring it back to their city nearly 40 years after the last regular race there speaks volumes to the strength of feeling the sport provokes.