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rare pictures of Norwich speedway found

PUBLISHED: 15:58 30 March 2012

Speedway: Getting ready for the start.

Speedway: Getting ready for the start.

Archant

Remember the days when crowds of around 20,000 packed the fabulous Firs in Norwich for speedway thrills?

The stadium may have closed getting on for half a century ago but the memories are as vivid as ever.

The atmosphere, the smell, the noise, the excitement. They have never been forgotten.

Saturday night was speedway night for thousands of men, women and children across Norwich and Norfolk and further afield.

Norwich Stars stopped shining, amid a storm of protest and anger, in 1964 when the gates at the fabulous Firs slammed shut for the last time.

Much has been written about the track and the riders, hundreds of photographs have been published over the years but still ‘new’ ones keep popping up.

Books appear at regular intervals full of stories and snaps about the life and times of Norwich but still, from time to time, you see ‘new’ pictures which have emerged from a box in the loft or the back of a cupboard.

One man who knows about speedway than most is author and historian Mike Kemp and he called in to see me with a collection of photographs taken from some negatives recently discovered.

And when Mike says they are rare – believe me, they are rare.

“They are brilliant and different from so many photographs,” he said.

The pictures are thought to have been taken in the pits at a meeting between Norwich and Sheffield in August of 1948 in front of 18,812 spectators.

They are candid shots of the stars, some from Australia, and their mechanics getting ready for the races. They also show members of their family and followers.

The likes of Syd Littlewood, Jack Freeman, Paddy Mills, Bert Spencer, Aussie Powell, Ted Bravery and our own Phil Clarke – local, national and international heroes who became part of Norwich life.

These photographs are just a small part of a fantastic collection which Mike came across when he bought a bundle of speedway memorabilia. They were negatives of photographs thought to have been taken at Great Yarmouth.

“Once I had them developed I realised just how rare they were,” said Mike.

Don’t miss the rest of this rare collection of photographs in a special picture spread in the Evening News on Monday as we head for The Firs, and fight our way through the crowds and into the pits to see who we can spot during the summer of 1948.

If you have any speedway memorabilia then Mike Kemp would love to hear from you. He can be contacted by email at mikekemp.stars@btinternet.com

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