West Ham - Colour Memories
Pictures by John Rogers
After my recent article on West Ham's 1965 season I received an email from a lady who was also present at Cradley Heath on the night the title was decided. She said the article brought back great memories, but that her's were in colour.
This prompted me to look out these pictures taken by my late father John.
' Seen here walking across the bridge over the Dog track towards the 'new' pits is Barry Crowson of West Ham and Canterbury. Canterbury in it's early days was a sort of unofficial training team for both West Ham & Hackney as most of the Crusaders were 'juniors' of the East London teams.
The view shows across the stadium towards what was the 'old' pits. This part of the stadium become unstable and was knocked down in the mid 1960's. Also in the distance can be seen the cranes of the Royal docks, and the big building is the Millennium Mills.
This mill is about to become the centre piece of the Silvertown Quay development.
If this view existed today, you would see the Aircraft landing at the London City Airport.
Now imagine what sort of team the Hammers would be if today's riders only had to drive this far to get a flight back to European destinations, and their European teams.
(Might be a hint for anybody who would like reintroduce a team to London!)
It was never this sunny every Tuesday, but again over the bridge can be seen the main stadium on the other side of the track including the referee's box, the changing rooms and the bar.
In the background is Brian Leonard, then 'Mr West Ham' Stan Stevens. Stan rode for the Hammers right through the 1964-71 season, except for when the Speedway Control Board sent him off to ride for other teams, but like a good 'homing pigeon', our Stan kept returning, and finally ended up as the captain of the 1972 short lived West Ham Bombers.
Stan's other teams were New Cross and Southampton. The 1964 West Ham team was mainly made up of riders from both the, by then closed, Southampton and New Cross teams.
Sverre Harrfeldt can be seen talking to Tony Clark, cannot quite work out who the Hammer is who is praying!
At the start of the meeting, both teams would ride to the startline to be introduced on the back of a trailer linked to the track grader. Some of the 1967 Russian test team can be seen in this photograph.
This article was first published on 27th January 2006
"Like Bryn Williams, I first saw speedway at Custom House in 1965 - Wow! I went with my two brothers. Every tuesday we'd cross Woolwich Ferry or use the walking tunnel. If lucky we'd get the North Woolwich train to Silvertown or walk (yes, there and back). The Hammers won everything that season - first of the British League. The amazing Ken Mckinlay and Svere Hardveldt. Over the years: Simmo, Tony Clarke, match winner - Stan Stevens, 15 year old Dave Jessup, gentleman George Barclay, Dave Lanning firing everyone up! The fairest track of all - even the poles had a chance!"
"As a little boy I sent a get well card to Sverre Harrfeldt whilst he was in hospital following his dreadful accident. I was pleased to receive a card in return from him thanking me. Proving what a lovely man he is, a few months later straight out of the blue I received a Christmas card from him. I still have both of them!"
"Sverre rode the outside at Custom House like no one else - it was his 'Home' if he gated send or third you would hear the crowd shouting 'Come on Sverre' Dad would say 'Wait till he gets to the outside - 'He'll win' - HE DID - Saw him once at The Shay in Halifax [Baking about 5-6ft from white line to fence - Sverre got 13 from 5 rides - just got straight to the fens THEN turn left and flew down the straits - could never understand how he did so well at Wimbledon -when he came to Custom House - he must have thought 'Wow' now I can show them - HE DID - his races were worth the admittance cost."
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