THE Rayleigh Speedway Stadium attracted thousands of sports fans from across the country for a number of decades before closing its doors in the 1970s.

Rayleigh Rockets became part of history and speedway folklore in this country, with the fast-paced sport being well supported in south Essex.

The evening of July 24, 1948 saw the first competitive match at the new Speedway Stadium, which was opened at Rayleigh Weir.

Rayleigh Rockets took on the Leicester Hunters and got off to a flying start by sealing a 51-32 triumph.


In their heyday - the Rayleigh Rockets team stand together and are all smiles in 1968

Due to being a newly-formed club, the Rockets could only participate in challenge matches under a provisional licence for the first year.

British film star Patricia Roc and Bill Owen, who was involved in the making of Once a Jolly Swagman – only the second flick to feature speedway racing – were among the surprise guests for the opening encounter in Rayleigh.


In the heat of battle - Rayleigh star Charlie Mugford (front) is cheered on by the south Essex crowd

Ron Howes skippered the first ever Rockets team, which also included Jack Wright, Roy Uden, Bruce Abernathy, Len Cooley and Vic Gooden.

Stan Crouch and Jack Millross were named as the reserves.


And they’re off - Rayleigh Rockets go head-to-head with Berwick in an eye-catching speedway encounter in April 1969

After being accepted into the National Speedway League the following year, the Rayleigh side made a number of changes. Sadly, all of the original Rockets team have now passed away.

Speedway became a hugely popular sport across the country, with attendances nationally only being beaten of football, and crowds continued to filter into the Rayleigh Speedway Stadium.


Flying the flag - the Rayleigh Rockets don Union Jack attire during the 1960s

The Rockets claimed back-to-back Southern League titles in 1952 and 1953 before being crowned the Provincial League champions in 1960.



Versatile arena - the Rayleigh Speedway Stadium also hosted greyhound racing and, above, a trophy is handed out in August 1968

However, major retail development plans for the Rayleigh Weir site subsequently saw the stadium – which also hosted other sports such as greyhound contests and stock car racing – shut its doors.

The last Rockets clash saw them beat perennial rivals Eastbourne in a 48-47 nail-biter on October 20, 1973.


Long gone - the Rayleigh Speedway Stadium closed on October 20, 1973, following major development plans for the Rayleigh Weir site

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Scroll down to see more retro photos of Rayleigh Speedway Stadium.


End of an era - the Rayleigh Speedway Stadium terraces are packed out ahead of the final greyhound racing event


In action - stock car racing taking place at the Rayleigh Speedway Stadium in May 1969


United - Rayleigh Rockets’ speedway stars during a trophy presentation in June 1969