Race of the Year, 1977

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Chasewater Stadium was never salubrious. Down at heel, scruffy, it never really took off. Image from ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

Here’s a curious piece of ephemera, found by local history ferret [Howmuch?]. I’m not sure of the source, but it was probably a charity or secondhand shop, as he can often be found ferreting around the darker corners for history oddities. He’s certainly turned up trumps here.

What we have is a PDF scan of a programme – costing 20p at the time – for a full afternoon’s racing at Chasewater Stadium, Brownhills, on Sunday, 17th April 1977.

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The track looking south just after construction. Note the stables, bottom right. Whitehorse Road is on the left, and Pool Road on the right. In 1977, the site would echo to the roar of motorbike engines. Image from ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

At the outset, I don’t understand much of what this is about – I’m not into motorbike racing (although the spectacle is great), so I don’t really know how significant this was. However, the adverts, names and feel of the programme gives a real hint of the atmosphere at the time. Whoever purchased it was clearly an avid fan, and noted race winners, points won, etc.

What is significant is [Howmuch?], who knows about these things, thinks this was the only such race held at the doomed Chasewater Stadium. Built as a trotting track, it was never really successful, and the operators experimented with various other sports the track could adapt to – including motorbike racing, and I believe banger racing. None succeeded.

The stadium can be seen in the background to The Stymaster’s Chasewater home movie.

The stadium fell derelict in the 1980s and was demolished to make way for the M6 Toll in  the late 1990s. South of Chasewater dam and the M6 Toll, the outline of the track can still be seen to the east of Pool Road.

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The ghost of the track is still witnessed in the landscape – local kids often use it for impromptu bicycle races.

I get lots of searches for this stadium, but know little about it, so this great find sheds some light on a quite dim corner of Brownhills history.

If you have any memories of this, pictures or anything else to contribute, do comment here please, or mail me at BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

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An interesting event, with results carefully hand documented. Click on the image to download the PDF file – it’s about 5 meg, so may take a while.

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62 Responses to Race of the Year, 1977

  1. fred butler says:

    Hey Bob,
    I remember going to this meeting, it was a long track meeting , similar to the more fashionable speedway , but as the name suggests run on a much longer track which did not give the thrills and spills of the shorter sport, some very famous riders from the day were riding then.
    The problem also was the opposition from the locals who felt taht the noise and dust created was to much for them on Sunday afternoons as some of the back gardens in Whitehorse Rd were right by the back straight.I was a regular at the trotting meetings there, when first built the stadium was the ‘ wembley’ of harness racing in the UK, The first purpose bulit track with floodlights to allow evening races, when the sport was mostly run on grasstracks in Wales, Scotland and in the North West and the London areas, the main event of the year for the sport the National Pacing Derby was always run at Chasewater.and horses from al over the country would come to run there. Some locals too ran there , Ken Banister from the Chase Inn had a horse, also The Platts from Norton ( In these PC days best not to put Stans nickname on here !!!!) The Lees family from the Walsall area also , one of the family Steve went on to become a pro driver both here and for a time I believe in the US and Canada where it is realy big time. The best horse we ever saw over there was a Trotter named TED TROT , owned by a scrap man from Wolvo named Joe Watton and trained and ridden by the Lester Piggot of trotting, Johnny Blisset. The sport still goes on today, with a major track at York and is on TV Wales SC4 every week once the summer comes from the grass tracks of Tregaron and Aberystwyth, and Tir Prince near Prestatyn.

  2. Mom worked there for a couple of years in the 70s. In the offices. Wish I could ask her

    • fred butler says:

      I also did some work there back in time, the one lady in the ‘ office’ that I remeber, she did the programmes, I will never forget her name because it was so unusual, it was Freda D’eath .

  3. Martin says:

    If the trotting track had been a success, or the motor bike racing for that matter,perhap’s the land scape may have look a little different then it does now, there may have not been a M6 toll road, we shall never know, just a thought

  4. emell says:

    Good find,the programme brings back some memories of bike shops i used when i was a kid.The ads from the Yammie shop (JP Motorcycle Generation in the High Street and the Honda shop in Silver Court in particular.I also recall going to a bike show at the stadium with my Dad and brother.

  5. Clive says:

    I can also remember going to a Motorcycle show at the Trotting track, and to see for the first time the SUZUKI RE5 (Rotary engine design) bike.
    J P Motorcycle Generation, now was that Brian and Jean?
    I can remember Jean riding a Ariel 3 wheeler, the one that was articulated in the middle.

    • Paul Locker says:

      Jim and Jean Pearson…worked for them when I left school in 1979.

      • Stuart yates says:

        Jim and Jean owners of the lightweight shop Hednesford rd and the moved to j p motorcycle high St
        Jim and Jean were like a mom and dad to me
        they are no longer with us miss the so much
        got my first motor bike from them and still ride a yamaha

  6. emell says:

    I think his name was Jim Patrick ????? they used to have the lightweight shop on Hednesford Rd opposite Rose Villa ( correct me if i’m wrong ) and then moved onto the High Street.I don’t know if this is an urban myth,but there was a girl in our year( 75-77) at the Comp,her last name was Mauger and she was supposed to be Ivan Maugers daughter ?????

  7. Clive says:

    Thats right emell, it could well be Jim, and they did have that little shop opposite the Rose Villa (The Goat) then they move to the High st Brownhills, then we had the Honda shop in Silver Courts at about the same time. Which was run by Brian Crighton.

    • stuart yates says:

      Hi my name is stuart yates i lived in brownhills for some years,Jim and Jean where very good friends of mine for years. i got my first bike off them from the lightweight shop honda 125xl then helped jim in shop when they move to the high st,we stayed friends after i moved to blackpool jim and jean came up and stayed with us they were my sons godparents sadly they both past away . Its good to know there are still thought off
      thanks stu

  8. emell says:

    Clive, do you remember the Honda shop when it was in two connecting shop units on Silver Court and then they moved into the old Jaygor shop,which was huge ( where the council offices are/were) It was an impressive shop as i recall and a big move forward.This was in the era when people came to Brownhills, the then shopping mecca.

  9. I was told by my brother that he helped to build the stadium. Thats probably why if fell into disrepair, ha ha . His name was Roy Phillips, nickname Podgy.

  10. Clive says:

    Hello emell. Yes i do remember the Honda Shop when it expanded into the double room shop. I used to purchase my bits from there as i was a Honda fan, i also purchased a CB500T from there.
    Brian Crighton use to race at Darly Moor, seen him there many times in the 70s. and as you may already know he managed the the Norton rotory engine team at Shenstone for quite some time.

  11. emell says:

    Hi Clive, i recall BC having a tuning business at the rear of Silver Court,after the Honda Shop closed down.He still works for Norton at Castle Donnington.

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  13. Clive says:

    Hi emell. Nice chap Brian, and a very clever bloke aswell, he made some very intresting bikes up, including drafting engine together to make up some classic hondas from modern bike engines of the time.

  14. Clive says:

    Drafting sorry i should say Grafting, these keys keep on moving on my keyboard!

  15. emell says:

    Hi Clive, there used to be a bike shop on the Wilkin estate around the late 70’s,more of a fixer/repairs place than a dealer.Me and my mates used to go to Waiklin and Ward at Aston near the Villa ground,Hyland Crowe at Erdington and there was the emporium of Vale Onslow in Brum which was a hike from the bus stop.Hyland Crowe was know as the Greeves Centre ( MX ) and what a let down when we got there,we all had visions of this bike shop full of MX bikes and it wasn’t…… nice Greeves sign above the door,on what was essentially a corner shop.

    • Malcolm Palmer says:

      I used to have lunch during the week at Hyland Crow when I worked in that area….a few of us would take in Pork Pies with ridiculous amounts of Mustard and discuss the weekend racing…..usually who fell off the most!!

      • Steven Jolly says:

        Hi Steve jolly here I remember a Malcolm palmer I believe lived on white horse road and a Warwick mc Ray Anglesey road Paul Chapman John Bennett Philip lane kev Blundell to name a few ha the old days wander where they are now regard Steve

  16. Clive says:

    Hello emell. Dont remember the bike shop on the Wilkin, do remember joining the que at Vale onslows in Brum, when i finaley got to the counter they had`nt got the bits i wanted, so i purchased a can of spray paint (i had no need for it) i just was`nt going to walk out with nothing…lol

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  18. George says:

    The Motorcycle Generation in Brownhills High Street was owned and run by Jim and Jean Pearson, very good friends of mine.
    The problem with the Trotting Track was that it was built without proper planning permission,
    and the local community understandably objected. At the public meeting held to discuss this
    the owner promised that it would never be used for Motorcycle or Car racing and planning was eventually granted with this as a condition.

    • stuart yates says:

      Hi George
      Jim and Jean were like a mom and dad to me miss them,i pop down now and again to see my mom she lives on the wilkin est. go to jim an jeans grave in brownhills to pop flowers there will never for ger them

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  20. Sara Alldritt says:

    Is this the track connected with my Great-Granddad Oscar?? I can remember going to the race’s but never knew where it was?

    • fred butler says:

      Sara,I take it your grat bGrandad was Oscar Johnson or Oscar Johnson JR is so then yes this was where they used to race, I saw them win many races there.

      • Sara Alldritt says:

        Yes, my great Grandad was Oscar SR, Oscar JR my great uncle, and Tom my Grandad. I’ve seen some pictures of them racing, my lovely Grandad kept all sorts of stuff from the horses (bridles and the like), and cups they had won. Nice to speak to someone who saw them … All of them sadly gone now.

        • leah braidman says:

          sarajoan johnson is still alive,,shes in portland street,,,shes toms sister who sadley passed away before xmas,,an oscar johnson is her dad,,add me on facebook u will see then Leah Braidman,,,i no all the history,,xx

          • Sara Alldritt says:

            Hi Leah, i’m not on facebook. How do you know them? Joan is my Auntie, Tom was my Grandad & Oscar was my Great-Grandad, i knew him well. Tom died last August. He told me lots of stories, i spent many hours with him over the years. I miss him very much. xx

            • leah braidman says:

              hi sara,,ive helped joan these past 3 yrs,,i no all about tom,,she still goes on about him,,bless her shes not been well latley,,shame ur not on facebook,,we could of nagged in private,,,she has actually mentioned ur name before,,,il ask her tmorrow about u,,,thanks for replying,,i dont usally look at the comments on here,,its just luck i did tnite,,xxx

  21. Spike says:

    I lived in Hednesford Road the Honda shop was in the old chip shop. The Platts including Stan,Ken and their Father all lived there so were not from Norton. The trotting track was a white elephant.

  22. lesley jones(was Bailes) says:

    forgive me if I’m wrong but I don’t see any mention of the grehound racing that went on there in the 1980’s….my dad John Bailes used to run them there and we as a family helped out to try and keep the place running…I used to type the racing sheets up. didn’t last too long though. the place needed so much work doing at that point.

    • Hi Lesley

      To be fair, I have no information about that, so can’t relate it. Open to offers, though, if you fancy jotting down your memories?

      Cheers
      Bob

  23. Dave Hughes says:

    another thing tried there in the early/mid eighties as I recall was greyhound racing, I don’t know for how long, but I do remember going on a couple of occaisions, and that the grandstand was by this time was as good as derelict

    • I’m after any info or memories people have! I certainly didn’t know it had taken place… fascinating. Cheers to you both!

      Bob

      • Dave Hughes says:

        My memories of it are vague, as I say, I only went on a couple of occasions, however, at least one bookmaker would be in attendance, which I think was Emerys of Norton, and entry was via the embankment at the A5 end of the grandstand.
        The dogs kennels would be the back seats of the owners cars, and the racecard was a simple, printed paper sheet

  24. linda may says:

    I used to live in whitehorse road up the small gully in the last house, my kids used to watch the trotters and the motor bikes when the trotters stopped out of their bedroom window , when the motor bikes were roaring around that track there was an awfull smell of petrol kept the kids busy on a friday or saturday night for a long time could even have been a tuesday cant remember what night linda may

  25. Pedro says:

    Went on a couple of occasions to the “dogs””

    I think the problem was that there were so many established tracks at the time, such as Hall Green, Perry Barr, Willenhall, Monmore and Cradley.

  26. Rob says:

    I am glad i have found this programme, it does bring back great memories for me, i was 15 at the time and was in Brownhills high street with my mates just wondering what we could do when we heard the sound of motorbikes, we did not know there was a race on at the track so we walked towards the sound which took us to the track, we all had a great day there which has always stayed in my memories, thank you for putting this on the web, it was good to go over it again.
    From Rob who used to live in Brownhills.

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  28. Martin says:

    Not sure if anyone remembers, but my dad used to run Chasewater Trotting and dogs in the early 80’s, anyone remember Bob Burks perchance? I might have some old photo’s of the place from around that era, plus Norton Canes. Anyone remember the grand re-opening with Eddie Kid??

    • Hi Martin

      I remember the posters and the fuss!

      Anything you’ve got would be ace, please!

      Thanks
      Bob

      • Martin says:

        Give me a month, I work abroad and won;t be home for a while, when I get home I’ll have a root through some old pictures for you.
        We used to live in Walsall Wood and my dad went into partnership with a chap called Dave Charlseworth, both ran newsagents at the time and were into greyhound racing, so they rented Chasewater Stadium and tried to make a go of it with the greyhounds and trotting, didn;t pan out unfortunately.

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  30. Judi says:

    My brother was Bill Howe. My first paid work at age of 13 was working for Oscar Johnson in his stables at Walsall for a week in the summer. Johnny Blissett was most amazing driver. I knew the Wattons and the Hughes family. Bill Howe sadly died in 2010.

  31. Thomas Johnson says:

    Hi Bob
    My name is Thomas Johnson I am the son of Thomas Anthony Johnson and the grandson of Oscar Johnson.
    I am looking for any information on my dad and grandad from their racing days any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Regards Thomas Johnson

    • FRED BUTLER says:

      Thomas, I have got loads of racecards from Chasewater, give me some time and I will see what I can find. Also there is a Harness Race website,have a look at that and put a request for info on there and I am sure you will get some more info.

    • FRED BUTLER says:

      Harness Racing Debates UK/IRE
      On Facebook.

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