Wimbledon Stadium

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Wimbledon Stadium
Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium - geograph-2551660-by-Bill-Boaden.jpg
Full nameWimbledon Greyhound Stadium
LocationPlough Lane, Wimbledon, London, England
Coordinates51°25′52.91″N 0°11′12.01″W / 51.4313639°N 0.1866694°W / 51.4313639; -0.1866694Coordinates: 51°25′52.91″N 0°11′12.01″W / 51.4313639°N 0.1866694°W / 51.4313639; -0.1866694
Opened19 May 1928
Closed25 March 2017
Demolished16 March 2018

Wimbledon Stadium, also known as Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, was a greyhound racing track located in Wimbledon in southwest London, England.[1]

It also hosted stock car and other small circuit motor racing events and until 2005 hosted motorcycle speedway.[2] The stadium hosted the English Greyhound Derby every year between 1985 and 2016.

The stadium was closed in March 2017 and subsequently demolished [3][4] by the owners (Galliard Homes Limited) in order to build 600 flats and a new 10,000 seater football stadium called New Plough Lane.[5][6]


The facilities included a brick fronted grandstand seating 8,000, executive suites, several bars and catering facilities, including a large waiter-service restaurant. The stadium was surrounded by a large open-air car park.

Greyhound racing[edit]


The greyhound stadium was constructed east of the River Wandle on a section of land that was difficult to build on due to the fact that it was marsh land and was prone to flooding. The only buildings near this plot of land were a chamois leather mills, a large sewage works and the Plough public house. Slightly to the east was Summerstown Road which held the only housing in the immediate area.[7]

The difficult plot did not deter South London Greyhound Racecourses Ltd who went ahead with plans to build a large stadium ready for 1928. However financial difficulties halted the project until a consortium headed by Bill 'WJ' Cearns whose firm had been responsible for the construction of the stadium stepped in with a sufficient funds to save the project.[8]


The opening night was on 19 May 1928 with the first race being won by a greyhound called Ballindura trained by Harry Leader. The Burhill kennels in Walton-on-Thames became renowned within the industry housing the hounds for Wimbledon and were initially used by trainers Stanley Biss, Harry Leader and Ken Appleton. Paddy McEllistrim, a Norfolk farmer and breeder of greyhounds, and Sidney Orton joined the training kennels soon after.[8]


Wimbledon was the first track to introduce weighing scales in 1929 at their kennels so that the racing public could be issued with the greyhounds weights before racing. The same year Harry Leader returned to Ireland and was replaced by Sidney Orton. New events called the Puppy Derby, International, Wimbledon Gold Cup and Wimbledon Spring Stakes were all inaugurated.[9]

In December 1929 Arundel Kempton purchased Mick the Miller for £2,000 as a present for his wife placing him with Sidney Orton. The track had already been associated with Mick the Miller because the champion took up residence at the kennels of Paddy McEllistrim during the duration of the 1929 English Greyhound Derby. Con Stevens was the first Racing Manager and was instrumental in bringing the first classic race to Wimbledon in the form of the Laurels in 1930. Mick the Miller claimed his second Derby crown in 1930 propelling himself, the sport and Wimbledon into national fame.[10]

Trainer Joe Harmon arrived from White City in 1934 and Paddy Fortune another new trainer at Wimbledon claimed a second Derby victory for the track in 1939 after the greyhound Highland Rum won the race. The 'Two Year Old Produce Stakes' was introduced in 1935 and another event called 'The Key' started in 1936.[11]


During World War II the stadium suffered bomb damage but continued to race. The well known Irish dog Tanist was put with Paddy McEllistrim but found it hard to cope with the sharp turns at Wimbledon and failed to win a single race by the end of June 1940. In contrast Ballynennan Moon became a Wimbledon greyhound after Billy Quinn negotiated a sale to Mrs Cearns, wife of the managing director of Wimbledon Stadium and the greyhound became a household name during the war years. In 1942 after a winter rest he won the Walthamstow Stakes and Wimbledon Spring Cup before embarking on forty wins and seven second places from 48 starts. After finishing first fourteen times in succession he was beaten a neck by Laughing Lackey failing to beat Mick the Miller's 19 straight wins record.[12]

A new puppy called Ballyhennessy Seal first came to the scene in 1943 after moving from Catford Stadium to Wimbledon and was placed in the care of Stan Martin. Martin had joined the Wimbledon training ranks following the death of Joe Harmon in 1942. Martin guided Ballyhennessy Seal to a third Derby success for the track in 1945.[13]


After the war the Wimbledon management constructed a new grandstand in place of the war damaged section of the stadium. They also introduced new perforated tote tickets following continual losses on forged tote tickets every Saturday to the tune of £1,000. Ballymac Ball was the next greyhound to win the Derby for Wimbledon, the brindle dog won the 1950 event for Stan Martin.[14] In 1950 the Instaprint photo timer that was tested at Wimbledon and given the seal of approval to use throughout Britain.[15]

Con Stevens continued to manage the stadium throughout the 1950s overseeing the success of the track and a fifth Derby success came in 1957 after the Dennis Hannafin (brother of Jerry) trained Ford Spartan took the title.[16] In 1958 Paddy Fortune died and his kennels were taken over by George Waterman. Within a few months Sidney Orton retired and his son Clare Orton took up his position at Wimbledon. Clare had been a trainer in his own right for nearly ten years.[17]


Phil Rees Sr. joined the track as a trainer in the 1960s following the retirement of Dennis Hannafin and the Greyhound Express Merit Puppy Championship was renamed the Juvenile in 1963. George Waterman died and his Burhill kennel range was given to new trainer Nora Gleeson. The three times Derby winning trainer Paddy McEvoy also joined the track in the late 1960s. Towards the end of 1969 the possibility of the stadium being redeveloped was a possibility but the Greyhound Racing Association bought a major part of Wimbledon after a prolonged battle against developers.


The redevelopment issue could still not be discounted because the GRA Property Trust was buying and selling stadiums but the GRA invested into the stadium and raised the winning prize money levels of the Laurels to £2,000 in 1970 and £5,000 one year later. In 1972 the GRA sealed a deal to buy Wimbledon outright and bring the track fully under the GRA banner.[18] Paddy McEllistrim and Stan Martin both retired in 1974[19] and were replaced by Paddy's daughter Norah and Sam Sykes, a former head lad to Clare Orton. Con Stevens resigned from the board of directors at Wimbledon bringing to an end his 46 years of association with the track.[17]

Wimbledon introduced new technology in 1976 after using a sectional timing mechanism and they were one of the first tracks to use the system of grading (selecting greyhounds in classes on ability). In the same year Mutts Silver won the Derby when trained by Phil Rees Snr; Rees handed his kennels to his son Philip Rees Jnr just two years later, after retiring.[20]


In 1985 Wimbledon was chosen to host the sport's premier event, the Greyhound Derby, following the closure of White City. Industry support for Wembley to be given the premier race was inconsequential because GRA owned the rights to the competition and would not allow a non-GRA track to have the race. Bob Rowe the Chief Racing Manager for the GRA was also the Racing Manager at Wimbledon when the track was handed the Derby and trainers Tom Foster and David Kinchett both joined from White City. The first Derby at Wimbledon was held over a new distance of 480 metres (520 yd) and ended with a seventh success for the track, Pagan Swallow won the competition and the Rees family became the second father and son to each win the Derby.[21] Arthur Hitch joined the tack in 1987 when Slough Stadium closed and then following the closure of Harringay the prestigious Oaks for bitches was switched to Wimbledon.


In 1990 a greyhound called Druids Johno was given to Prince Edward, the half share of the black dog had been given to the Prince by Patsy Byrne during a charity meeting at Kingsmead Stadium, Canterbury. Byrne joined Wimbledon as a trainer in 1991 and sponsored the long running International in the process. This appointment brought about the last ever Derby triumph for the track. Ballinderry Ash took the 1991 title bringing the total to eight just one behind Wembley.[22]

In 1992 GRA parent company Wembley plc announced losses of £8 million despite a £13 million profit in its UK operation. Simon Harris became Racing Manager arriving from Hall Green, while Bob Rowe remained based at Wimbledon in his role of Chief Racing Manager of the GRA.[23] In 1996 the Intertrack betting service was introduced for the first time, enabling race-goers at other tracks around the country to view the racing and place bets direct into the Wimbledon tote. In 1998 the Laurels switched to sister track Belle Vue Stadium and a new Paddock Bar extension costing £500,000 opened, the kennels were moved to the first bend to facilitate the change.[24].One year later Sky Sports screened their first greyhound meeting at Wimbledon which included the Springbok final. The GRA switched the Grand National to Wimbledon from Hall Green in 1999.


Rapid Ranger completed two Derby successes in 2001 emulating Mick the Miller and Patricias Hope before both Seamus Cahill and Bernie Doyle joined Wimbledon from Catford and Reading Stadium respectively in 2002. Catford closed in 2003 resulting in three new trainers, John Simpson, Tony Taylor and John Walsh. Catford Racing Manager Derek Hope took over from the departing Simon Harris who left for Coventry. In 2003 Wimbledon underwent £70,000 track improvements following criticism received during the 2002 Derby, consequently the 680 m (740 yd) trip changed to 688 m (752 yd) and the 868 m (949 yd) changed to 872 m (954 yd). In 2004 trainer Tommy Foster retired.[25]

Westmead Hawk won the 2005 & 2006 Greyhound Derby becoming the fourth greyhound to complete two wins and in 2007 trainer Ray Peacock died. Racing Manager Derek Hope left to join William Hill and was replaced by Gary Matthews and in 2008 Richard Rees, son of Philip Rees Jnr, became a third generation trainer at Wimbledon; Philip Rees Jnr retired due to ill health. Tony Morris who stood as a track bookmaker also retired after a long career at Wimbledon. In 2010 Wimbledon underwent major changes in time for the Derby, the grandstand was switched to the far side of the stadium and the physical makeup of the track altered meaning new track records would be set.[26] The changes cost around £400,000 which were partly funded by a £195,370 grant from the British Greyhound Racing Fund.[24]

The GRA allowed the Grand National to go to Central Park Stadium in Sittingbourne in 2012 and leading trainer Norah McEllistrim left for Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium. Bob Rowe switched to Belle Vue as the Racing Manager along with the Oaks.

After falling attendances for many year, the final meeting was held on 25th March 2017. This attracted a huge crowd, many of whom were turned away due to capacity restrictions, largely caused by much of the stadium being closed off due to maintenance issues. The last ever race was won by Glitzy King trained by Brian Nicholls, who provided many of the dogs in the final few months of the stadium's existence.



Until 2005, the stadium was also home for over 50 years to the now defunct Wimbledon Dons speedway team and was famous for hosting the Internationale meeting every season.[27] from 1962 until 1981. though they did hold a qualifying round of this competition in 1961. Speedway arrived at Wimbledon in the 1928 pioneer season and a team was entered in the league competitions from 1929 to 1939. The team was re-formed after the war and the Dons raced in the top flight National League Division One from 1946 to 1964. The Dons were multiple winners of the league in the 1950s. The Dons were founder members of the British League in 1965. Upon their reopening after the war, in 1946, average weekly attendances were in excess of 30,000, until the early 1950s, when the sport declined rapidly in popularity. Still Wimbledon were one of the top teams with healthy crowd figures, and upon the closure of Wembley in 1956 remained the only team in London (apart from sporadic appearances by New Cross in 1959/1960 and 1963) until 1963 when Hackney entered the Provincial League, and 1964 when West Ham reopened in the National League (now known as the 1st Division Elite League).

Wimbledon's tenure in the top flight came to an end in the 1980s and the Greyhound Racing Association (the owners of the stadium at the time) decreed that speedway would end at the end of the 1986 season. However, a London stockbroker, David Pickles, gathered together a consortium in the 1986/87 close season who ensured that the famous Dons would continue to run. They employed the ex-England team manager John Berry and enjoyed reasonable success on and off the track in their first season. After a disagreement with Berry and the other members of the board, Pickles dramatically resigned as chairman of the club during the match with Exeter in September 1987, selling his shares back to the other members. With a few reshuffles at board level and the leaving of Berry, the remaining members eventually took Wimbledon back to the British League Division One in 1991, but the move proved disastrous and with only a couple of months of the season having been ridden, the financial losses proved to be so great that they were forced to disband the team. In June 1991 Wimbledon rode their final meeting, which was eventually curtailed due to the weather. Although there was no longer any league racing at the Plough Lane stadium the team continued their league fixtures for the 1991 season moving to Eastbourne and were known as the Eastbourne Dons.

Having been defunct for eleven years, the team were then reopened again in 2002 but were finally disbanded completely in 2005 as a result of the dispute between the team's promoters and the owners of the stadium, the Greyhound Racing Association, over a proposed large rent increase.[27]

Stock car racing[edit]

A Stock Car meeting at Wimbledon Stadium

Plough Lane also hosted Motor Racing events promoted by Spedeworth International, including Superstox, Stock Cars, Hot Rods and Bangers. The first stock car meeting at Wimbledon was on 29 September 1962 (the Superstox World Championship) and the circuit quickly became Spedeworth's flagship venue with the World Final being held there every year up to and including 1974. The World Championship, along with other key race meetings such as Carnival Night, became very popular and were often 'ticket only' events filled to capacity. The stadium also boasted its own stock car racing teams in 1966 (London Sparrows) and 1971–72 (Canaries/Dons). The 1966 team shared its base with New Cross Stadium. The Unlimited Banger World Final also used to take place at Wimbledon until the event moved to Foxhall Stadium in 2008. This was due to the introduction of the London low emission zone which made it too expensive for the transporters to travel to the venue.

Other notable events[edit]

Wimbledon Stadium was the scene for part of the music video for the Queen song "Bicycle Race", in which 65 professional female models, all nude, rode on bikes around the stadium.

Banger racing at the stadium was featured in the ITV police series The Sweeney. The story was entitled "Contact Breaker".

Closure and demolition[edit]

In 2007 the stadium was purchased by development company Galliard Homes Limited when the Greyhound Racing Association was put up for sale (along with all of its assets) by parent company Wembley PLC.[28] Following this, the local professional football team AFC Wimbledon expressed interest in building their new football stadium on the site of the greyhound track in collaboration with Galliard Homes. A joint planning application made by Galliard Homes and AFC Wimbledon to build the new football stadium, together with 600 residences, on the site of the greyhound stadium was approved by the London Borough of Merton in December 2015.[29][30] Attempts to prevent the closure of the stadium failed; a £20 million rival planning bid to build a new greyhound stadium, submitted by Irish businessman Paschal Taggart, the owner of Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium, and a bid by pressure group 'Save Wimbledon Stadium Action Group' to have the stadium granted listed status by Historic England both came to nothing.[31][32] The stadium was finally closed on 25 March 2017,[3][4] and demolition of the stadium and associated buildings commenced on the 16 March 2018.[33]

Track records[edit]


Post Metric records[edit]

Greyhound Time Date Notes
252 Travara Rock 15.15 12 Dec 1980
252 Dysert Moth 15.08 10 Dec 1982
252 Barbaran 15.18 05 May 1984
252 Slipaway Jaydee 14.95 16 Mar 1994
256 Setemup Joe 15.24 11 Nov 2003
256 Drominboy Jet 15.24* 29 Oct 2005 St Leger heats split time
256 Thai Girl 15.23 18 Mar 2008
256 Fifis Rocket 15.14 2 Mar 2010
272 Wheres The Limo 16.23 11 May 1991
272 Dynamic Fair 16.11 28 Jun 1997
273 Officer Donagh 16.21 18 May 2010
273 Jimmy Lollie 15.95 29 May 2010
273 Jimmy Lollie 15.85 29 Jun 2010
273 Skate On 15.82 31 May 2014
276 Jans Rainbow 16.61 21.12.2006
276 Lunar Vacation 16.26 7 Jul 2007
412 Barbaran 24.96 30 May 1985
412 Ballinahow Blue 24.89 27 Dec 1984
412 Mr Plum 24.89 23 Jun 1987
412 Spiral Manor 24.89 25 Jun 1987
460 Flying Pursuit 27.60 12 Oct 1979 Puppy Derby heats
460 Flying Pursuit 27.58 02 May 1980 Laurels heats
460 Ramblers Jet 27.52 27 May 1980
460 Duke of Hazard 27. May 1982 Laurels heats
460 Kybo 27.48 08 Dec 1984
460 Fearless Action 27.47 1986
460 Sams Bridge 27.44 12 Mar 1988
460 Double Bid 27.33 25 Jun 1988
460 Droopys Shearer 27.32 17 Jun 2003
460 Zigzag Dutchy 27.32 02 Jul 2005
460 Lenson Bolt 27.30 27 Oct 2009
460 Yahoo Jamie 27.29 15 Dec 2009
460 Ardbeg Kate 27.29 15 Dec 2009
480 Lloydsboro Flash 28.71 21 May 1985 Derby heats
480 Fearless Champ 28.66 21 May 1985 Derby heats
480 Morans Beef 28.60 25 May 1985 Derby heats
480 Fearless Action 28.51 29 May 1986 Derby heats
480 Lodge Prince 28.34 29 May 1986 Derby heats
480 Greenane Squire 28.21 12 Jul 1994
480 Eye Eye Pickle 28.48 29 Apr 2010 New track – Derby heats
480 Aero Ardiles 28.38 29 Apr 2010 Derby heats
480 Bandicoot Tipoki 28.26 29 Apr 2010 Derby heats
480 Toomaline Jack 28.25 15 May 2010 Derby heats
480 Droopys Harvey 28.22 27 May 2011
480 Razldazl Jayfkay 28.22 28 May 2011 Derby third round
480 Taylors Sky 28.21 31 May 2011 Derby quarter-finals
480 Taylors Sky 28.21 04 Jun 2011 Derby semi-finals
480 Taylors Sky 28.17 11 Jun 2011 Derby final
480 Razldazl Jayfkay 28.08 05 May 2012 Derby heats
480 Fiery Splendour 28.06 03 May 2014 Derby heats
480 Eden The Kid 27.95 30 May 2015 Derby heats
660 Jingling Star 40.61 27 Jul 1980
660 Astrosyn Doll 40.48 30 Sep 1983
660 Ballyregan Bob 40.35 23 Nov 1985
660 Ballyregan Bob 40.15 19 Apr 1986
660 First Defence 40.12 08 Mar 1994
668 Baran Zulu 40.98 29 Aug 2003
668 Special Trick 40.82 13 Mar 2004 WJ Cearns Memorial
668 Black Pear 40.51 20 Jul 2004
668 Black Pear 40.52 02 Jul 2005
668 Dazzle Special 40.45 15 Dec 2009
680 Geinis Champion 41.73 24 Jun 1995
687 Corrig Vieri 42.09 29 Jun 2010
687 Corrig Vieri 41.97 03 Aug 2010
687 Droopys Bradley 41.89 19 Oct 2010 St Leger semi-finals
687 Droopys Bradley 41.48 26 Oct 2010 St Leger final
687 Farloe Tango 41.40 12 Nov 2013 St Leger final
687 Romantic Rambo 41.24 31 May 2014
687 Racenight Jenny 41.19 01 Nov 2014
687 Millwards Teddy 41.13 27 Jun 2015 Derby final night
688 Shelbourne Star 41.83 05 Jun 2004
688 Caloona Striker 41.77 25 Jun 2006
820 Star Decision 51.48 28 Jul 1984
820 Role of Fame 51.26 27 Jun 1987
820 Exile Energy 51.20 1989
820 Sail On Valerie 51.16 30 Dec 1989
820 Chestnut Beauty 51.16 21 Apr 1993
868 Princess Glin 54.76 14 Sep 1980
868 Sandy Lane 54.11 06 May 1983
872 Ericas Equity 55.47 28 Jun 2003
872 Ericas Equity 54.30 09 Sep 2003
872 Greenacre Lin 54.26 02 May 2005
872 Spiridon Louis 54.22 07 Jun 2007
892 Zenas Angel 56.19 14 Nov 2009
894 Taylors Riviera 55.53 29 Jun 2010
894 Roxholme Magic 54.78 4 Jun 2016
1068 Lynns Pride 70.72 28 Mar 1980
1068 Shropshire Lass 68.55 08 Feb 1990
1080 Somer Lovin 69.64 07 Jul 2007
412 H Outcast Jet 26.19 1987
412 H Exchange Beamish 25.85 14 Apr 1984
412 H Pantile 25.38 05 Aug 1989
460 H Dine Out 28.29 12 Dec 1980
460 H Lilabeth 28.15 22 Oct 1985
460 H Emerald Trail 28.13 1989
460 H Unbelievable 28.00 22 Jun 1991 Champion Hurdle Final
460 H Arfur Daley 27.80 20 Mar 1993 Springbok final
480 H Men Of Hope 29.18 29 May 2010 Champion Hurdle Final
480 H Toomaline Jack 28.96 18 Jun 2010 Grand National heats
480 H Razldazl Raidio 28.89 25 Feb 2016
660 H Laurdella Wizard 42.33 01 Sep 1980
660 H Longcross Bruce 41.52 06 Aug 1982
660 H Gold Splash 41.15 02 Aug 1994
668 H Sizzlers Bossman 41.68 02 Jul 2005

Pre Metric records[edit]

Greyhound Time Date Notes
275 Lone Keel 15.24 18.05.1938
440 Wily Captain 24.95 29.07.1936
440 Chi Chi's Joker 24.82 01.05.1968
440 Beef Cutlet 28.47 02.09.1932 Laurels final
500 Ballyhennessy Sandhills 28.08 07.1938 National record
500 Ballymac Ball 28.03 08.1949 Laurels heats
500 Ballymac Ball 27.99 08.1949 Laurels semi-finals
500 Ford Spartan 27.89 23.08.1957 Laurels final
500 Mile Bush Pride 04.08.1959
500 Clonalvy Pride =27.66 18.08.1961 Laurels final
500 Venture Again 27.61 04.08.1965
500 Shady Parachute 27.57 13.09.1968
500 Moordyke Spot 27.57 29.07.1970
550 Mick The Miller 31.72 31.08.1929 Match v Back Isle
700 Grosvenor Edwin 40.58 1950
700 Hurry On Cleo 39.58 18.07.1958
700 Dolores Rocket 39.58 26.07.1971
725 Robeen Printer 41.51 28.04.1945
880 Boothroyden Larry 51.18 26.08.1964
880 Greenville Fauna 51.04 1970
880 Following Day 50.70 16.08.1970
940 Meteoric 54.13 26.08.1964
1140 Curraheen Bride 67.86 16.08.1963
1140 Bushane Star 66.86 08.08.1969
440 H Juvenile Classic 31.40 01.07.1938
500 H Sprightly Peter 28.88 1950
500 H Dunmore Viking 26.08.1959
500 H Change That 13.05.1960
500 H Ballinatona Special 28.37 12.05.1961
500 H Sherrys Prince 28.83 1971 Gold Cup final
700 H Markhams Brandy 41.84 1950
700 H January Prince 41.36 25.07.1961
700 H Prince Cheetah 41.36 18.08.1961
700 H Quadrant King 23.08.1961


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External links[edit]