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The Boleyn…LS…here’s another iconic West Ham stadium


By CandH’s top blogger Allen Cummings


Much was made, and rightly so, of our final farewell to the Boleyn ground, our spiritual home since 1904.

When in 2016 we finally said goodbye to the old girl, on that never-to-be-forgotten evening in May, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. That grand old stadium, which had undergone numerous face lifts over time, was destined to disappear forever.

But it wasn’t the first time our particular part of the east end had given up an iconic stadium. The West Ham Stadium, as it was known, was a 100,000 capacity arena built at Custom House, in the very heart of east London’s docklands, not initially to stage football, but to accommodate greyhound racing and speedway racing, both massive spectator sports in the day.

Designed by the renowned architect Archibald Leitch, who in his time was also responsible for the construction of both Anfield and Highbury, the West Ham Stadium, when it was completed in 1928, closely resembled the old Wembley Stadium.

Huge crowds regularly flocked to the arena hopefully to win a few ‘bob’ on the dogs, or to support the speedway Hammers, who regularly competed at the highest level of the sport.

There was a football association with the stadium for a short time when Thames Association FC was founded. They played in the Southern Football League for two years before being promoted to the Third Division of the Football League. But after just two seasons at that level their support dwindled and the club were wound up in 1932.

Stock car racing found a home at the stadium in the 1950’s and 1960’s, drawing reasonable crowds for a time. But eventually maintaining the running of such a huge site became too much of a burden for Newham Council to continue with. The West Ham Stadium finally succumbed to the developer in the way that Upon Park did, in 1972.

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About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

8 comments on “The Boleyn…LS…here’s another iconic West Ham stadium

  1. I remember going to Custom House to watch West Ham v Leicester Lions;it was either Good Friday or Bank Holiday Monday 1969. I was 12 and Ray Wilson of Leicester went out in Heat 1 and smashed the track record.

    Although half the stadium had been demolished the place was majestic; sitting in the top tier gave you a fantastic view of the racing. I doubt if Speedway ever recovered from the loss of Custom House; soon to follow were Rayleigh (a brilliant racing track), and much later Hackney (another great racing track).

    If I park in the BT Car Park on match days I walk directly over the site of the old Hackney Wick Stadium. I had many a happy Friday night at Hackney Speedway. Speedway is still a great sport but somewhat in the doldrums.

  2. Another little snippet; the one and only Steve Bacon was the photographer for Hackney Speedway and I believe West Ham Speedway. He also raced Cycle Speedway for Whipps Cross. The track was at the rear of the White Hart Hotel at the end of Temple Mills Lane E15; which was sited just to the East of the River Lea and West of the Velodrome. There is a photo of him on this link http://cyclespeedwayhistory.org.uk/32.shtml it’s titled “Whipps Cross B Team 1969”.

    This lock-down is a nightmare for all the boring geeks!

    • Some fantastic facts and personal recollections Legin. Thanks for sharing. I believe speedway ‘test matches’ v Australia were also held at West Ham. Having been born just 10 minutes walk away, I remember it well! Happy days!

  3. great memories legin free bus from plastow station and a nights speedway my hero was
    sveer hartfeld and ken mc kinley I also saw tiger stephenson and eric chitty leg trail at a 50 th
    aniversey meet
    Then saterday night stock car raceing johney piper and trevor frost where heros
    we even saw ellis ford win the world title 2 other things i rember was the south and east
    stands where derilic in 1965 and 1 foot long hot dogs and the place stank of stale beer (dont
    mind that so much now )
    Happy days a Legin

  4. I believe that club more than once looked out the possibility of moving there but ultimately ruled because of the poor transport links in the area compared to Upton Park

    • I think you’re right Keith. Transport was a huge problem. Only one small station, Custom House, nearby. Buses the only other option. When you compare the superb transport links at Stratford today – which some still don’t appreciate – a very different world.

    • It was a pain even in 1969! I guess when it was built there was no TV so the majority of spectators were probably local going for their evenings entertainment. They probably walked, cycled or bussed to the stadium.

      We forget that it is only since TV that people started being “true” supporters of clubs 300 miles away that they couldn’t find their way to, or identify on a map 🙂

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