I must admit that the area around the South East London Combined Heat and Power Plant incinerator is not generally on any of my running routes, but last Sunday’s rather tired-legged run included it. The only reason was a search for a bit of history, the old New Cross speedway and greyhound stadium.
These days it isn’t much to look at – a triangle of grass surrounded by the Overground and housing, now known as Bridgehouse Meadows. There is a large mound of earth at one end and from the top of that a vague outline of what once was becomes more apparent.
The ‘Frying Pan’ had a capacity of 26,000 in its heyday. It opened initially as an athletics track in the early years of the 20th Century, but was converted to a greyhound track which had a speedway track inside it.
The New Cross Rangers speedway team operated from there from 1934 when a team based at Crystal Palace moved there. The Crystal Palace base is where the National Sports Centre now is in Crystal Palace Park, and had previously been the home to Crystal Palace Football Club before the military requisitioned the park during WW1.
With a few gaps in the late 1950s, the New Cross Rangers kept going until mid-way through the 1963 season, in the latter years their riders included Barry Briggs. There are some great photos of the stadium in its prime on the Defunct Speedway site, as well as occasionally appearing on eBay – those below were on sale in December 2014.
Greyhound racing continued into the 1960s but the legalisation of betting shops in 1961 saw attendances at greyhound racing decline generally and New Cross only continued for another 8 years.
The stadium was demolished in 1975 as part of plans to redevelop Millwall’s ground, The Den, which was adjacent to the Frying Pan. The plans ultimately came to nothing as the club were unable to afford the costs of a 25,000 all-seater stadium. Millwall eventually moved to the New Den in Senegal Fields in 1993. The site of The Den is the housing at the rear of the top photo.
The Den is commemorated by one of Lewisham’s Maroon Plaques, close to where the old ground was located.
Updated in December 2014, to increase size of photos & add those of the riders from eBay. Transpontine has recently done a post with programme covers from New Cross Speedway.