SpeedwayFiction Speedway like it used to be! Home SPEEDWAY STOP PRESS Hot off the typewriter

HACKNEY, Rayleigh, Romford, West Ham, proclaimed the red strip across the foot of the front page. The only other element of colour in the paper was the masthead - also in red:







The other pages of this quarto-sized weekly news sheet were full of match reports, snippets and gossip, all densely typed - and they were typed, too - at his home in Romford by journalist Donald Allen.


In the early 70s, when speedway enjoyed huge support in Britain and before the Internet swamped us with its sensory overload of news and comment of often dubious value, we relied upon the papers and magazines to keep us informed. The Fleet Street titles found space for speedway, the local newspapers featured the exploits of their neighbourhood teams and, of course, we bought the sport’s own publications, the Star, Express and Mail to learn the details and pore over the pictures.


It remains a testimony to the support and interest that speedway enjoyed in those simpler and less self-righteous times that there was still a market for the Speedway Stop Press. It ran to six pages, stapled down one side and sold for four new pence at the four tracks mentioned above.









As a comparison, 4p in 1971 might have bought you a quarter of a pint of beer, two-thirds of a pint of milk, three cigarettes or a pound of sugar. Not bad value if you wanted the latest speedway news and the top stories from your local track. After all, many readers of the mainstream speedway magazines were only interested in items that referred to their neighbouring teams. The Speedway Star of the day cost only 10p - but remember, that was a third of a gallon of petrol!


But who was Donald Allen? He was a journalist for the Recorder Group newspapers in London and Essex. He also took the job of Press Officer for West Ham Speedway when Dave Lanning moved into the Team Manager’s role. It may even have been his report in the Newham Recorder that referred to a make of speedway machine as ‘Japanese’ when a fastidious sub-editor thought it might cause offence if were called a JAP.









From his home in Playfield Avenue, Collier Row, Romford, Donald Allen produced each six-page, closely-typed edition before delivering his manuscript for lithographic printing by Llewellyn’s in Hornchurch. Each page was certainly packed with information and as well as the latest news, league tables, match reports and previews, every edition contained comment and features such as Speedway Spotlight and Allen’s own Form Guide. Naturally, he kept a close eye on what newspapers other than those he wrote for were saying about the teams he covered and when, in 1971, Eric Cargill in the Stratford Express published and article under an ‘exclusive’ tag, warning of fears for the future of speedway at West Ham’s Custom House stadium, Allen was quick to produce a story of his own in which he brushed aside the Express report under the headline, just another west ham scare!

‘To those of us who have closely followed the affairs of West Ham speedway over the years,’ he wrote, ‘the contents in most respects, but not all, had a distinctly familiar ring about them.’ He concluded his piece optimistically, ‘No doubt the Stratford Express - not to mention Mr Cargill - would be more than happy 12 months hence to be able to look back on last week’s episode as just one more West Ham shutdown scare!’


As Hammers fans will be well aware, 1971 proved to be their final season. Custom House was demolished in October 1972.









Allen sold his publications at West Ham on Tuesday evenings and Romford on Thursdays, and an updated edition would be produced for the following night’s meeting at Hackney and at Rayleigh on Sunday.


In 1972, with the disappearance of the Hammers and with Romford moving from their Essex base and briefly taking up residence in Custom House under the name West Ham Bombers, the circulation of Speedway Stop Press changed slightly. By the time of its 50th edition, it was being sold at West Ham on Tuesdays, Ipswich and Wimbledon on Thursdays, Hackney on Fridays and Rayleigh on Saturdays. The 1972 examples shown in our pictures are the Late London editions sold at Waterden Road which include the previous Thursday’s results from Ipswich.


Speedway Stop Press may look a little primitive to a modern eye but it was better written than most Internet sources are today. It was up to date, had the look of immediacy about it and still smelled of printer’s ink when you bought it. I suspect there would still be a market for local publications of that kind if there still existed small groups of tracks in close proximity, as used to be the case in London and the South East.

SPEEDWAY  STOP PRESS

In addition to local stories from the London and Essex tracks, match reports and league tables, Speedway Stop Press was packed with features such as Speedway Spotlight, Fixtures & Form and News Digest.

For the price of a gill of beer (That’s a quarter of a pint for younger readers!)

In 1972, the format changed to foolscap size, the single colour on the cover was lost and the price went up to 5p

Produced from home on his own typewriter SpeedwayFiction

Stop Press’s six closely-typed pages were produced each week by Donald Allen at his home in Playfield Avenue, Collier Row, Romford.

A wide circulation in  London and Essex