Brooklands Stadium, in pre-Speedway days
Brooklands Stadium, Romford, was the home of the town's football club. At the time that the Romford Bombers took up residence there, the football club competed in the Southern League. The stadium was located to the north of the town centre, with excellent transport links from the main railway station and close to the A12 eastern Avenue.
The football club were ambitious and sought election to the Football League. In support of this objective, the club invested heavily in the infrastructure at Brooklands. An impressive grandstand wad built and floodlighting to rival many a Football League club was installed. Romford were beaten by Oxford United in the vote for a club to join the Fourth Division in 1962 and another bid for election to the Football League was dashed after they won the Southern League Championship in 1967.
With no return on their investment in the facilities at Brooklands, Romford Football Club was heavily in debt and losing £5,000 a year when the proposal to stage speedway at the stadium was put forward. The income from speedway - some £6,000 a year - would go a long way towards easing their problems, but ultimately the Football Club were committed to selling Brooklands in order to pay off their debts and to relocate to a smaller site.
Brooklands was ideally suited to speedway, the football pitch being surrounded by an oval perimeter wall - the concrete construction of which tested the nerve of many a speedway rider! The pitch was wider than average and there was adequate scope to narrow the playing area in order to accommodate a speedway track. However, it is doubtful if such an arrangement would be acceptable today as, once constructed, the track cut off the corners of the football pitch. On matchdays, the corner flags were located several yards onto the speedway track and the touchlines were so close to the track that the linesmen ran on the racestrip!
The proximity of spectators to the speedway track was used as a marketing feature, there being no greyhound track between the speedway track and the crowd. Romford was advertised as providing the closest view of speedway racing in London! This was not without certain drawbacks, however, as many tonnes of shale would regularly be transferred from the track to the terracing at the corners during racing, especially when riders such as Phil Woodcock took the wide, "fence-scraping" line!
A curious feature of the grandstand was that those spectators who paid the extra shilling (5p) for a seat would be forced to stand up to watch the racing. This was because the construction of the stand and its closeness to the track made it impossible to see the home straight whilst seated unless you were lucky enough to be in the front row!
The view from the main grandstand at Brooklands.
To the east of the stadium was a large expanse of open land used as a car park. This was bordered by a small industrial estate. But it was what adjoined the other three sides of the stadium that was to cause the Speedway Club problems that it would ultimately not be able to overcome. For, to the north, west and south of Brooklands Stadium were the residential streets of Cedar Road, Willow Street, Drummond Road, Brooklands Road and Medora Road. With hindsight, it was probably inevitable that the staging of speedway so close to residential properties would result in conflict with home owners over the noise, dust and smell associated with speedway. Sadly for the Bombers, it was a problem that would ultimately bring about their demise.
A speedway riders' charity football match is in
progress in this photo of Brooklands taken from the pits footbridge, providing a
good view of second bend and a glimpse of the "Clockside"
terracing. The narrowness of the speedway track is also apparent
Photo: Steve Rushbrook
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