One recurrent theme I get when discussing Chasewater’s recent history as a public amusement venue from the 1950 to it’s decline in the 80s and 90s is how wonderful it was. Well, there’s no doubt we’ve all got fine memories of the place – as kids we looked upon a day there as akin to visiting the seaside, and we all formed many lovely memories within the park and on the shores of the lake.
However, it wasn’t so lovely for the authorities, who quickly realised they had a huge, self made problem. Brownhills Urban District Council that invested in it with such lofty hopes of a high class amusement park in the 1950s was losing money hand over fist.
The park soon acquired all the gimcrack attractions that were originally pooh-poohed like funfairs, amusement arcades and bingo, and festivals and events held there made massive losses for what was then a tiny council and district.
Tied up with the attempts to breathe life into a clearly dead venture, Brownhills Council positively encouraged the creation of the ill-fated trotting track many of us remember just off Pool Road, demolished in the 1990s. The track was never a commercial success, and having tried its hand and failed with motorbike racing, fell into decline and abandonment without ever achieving the promised success.
I found this article from the September 2nd 1970 Birmingham Post in the news archives last week, discussing the creation of the trotting track. There are some interesting snippets in the piece, the first was that the park was sustaining losses of £20,000 a year – that was £2 for every borough citizen, which is actually a massive loss for the authority, positively eye-watering for the day. Secondly, what of the plan to build a zoo on the south shore? Never heard that before.
Council agrees to £250,000 trotting stadium
Birmingham Post Brownhills Staff
2nd September 1970
A North Wales business man is hoping to open a £250,000 trotting stadium with clubhouse, restaurant and bar facilities, on the east shore of Chasewater at Brownhills, early next year.
Aldridge-Brownhills Urban Council has approved plans by Mr. Albert Gubnay managing director of Prestatyn Raceways Ltd. for a 35 acre stadium with 400 horse boxes and a grandstand to seat 3,000 people.
Mr. Gubay, aged 44, who owns a North Wales supermarket chain, is expecting to receive final approval from Staffordshire County Council very soon.
He hopes work on the stadium will be able to start later this month, ready for an official opening next Easter.
His plans include a clubhouse to accommodate 500 people, a restaurant to seat 240 and three large bars.
Councillors at Aldridge-Brownhills have backed the proposal because they feel it will give a much needed boost to the lake as a recreation centre.
It is hoped that the stadium will help the council to cut its annual losses of £20,000 on Chaseswater.
Coun. Jonah Deakin, chairman of the Council’s Chasewater Committee, yesterday described the scheme as ‘a marvellous tourist attraction.’
He said the stadium would have added advantages for the area because it had been agreed that schools and local clubs would be able to use it for sporting events when it was not required for trotting races.
Mr. Gubay’s agent, Mr. Oscar Johnson, a Walsall businessman, said yesterday that Mr. Gubay had attempted to open a similar stadium at Wasall but the plans had fallen through.
He added: ‘A lease price for the Chasewater site has been settled with the District Valuer and the project looks like going ahead. We would hope to hold two events each week throughout the summer from next Easter onwards.’A marvellous tourist attraction
Mr. Gubay is the second developer to show an Interest in Chasewater in recent months. In June, a Scarborough businessman, Mr. Donald Robinson, applied to build a £250,000 zoo and adventure park on the lake’s southern shore.
Aldridge-Brownhilis councillors are waiting for him to outline his plans in detail betore they decide whether to support the scheme.
We’ve covered the trotting track a lot here over the years, and again, many folk have fond memories of working or visiting the trotting Stadium I had thought was a sole project of Oscar Johnson.
The BBC archive have previously published a short Nationwide TV clip from 1971 about the opening of the Chasewater Trotting Track which makes an odd claim about stadiium capacity but is actually local history gold. I feature it above.
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