Many followers of speedway here in the Black Country would claim that the old rivalry between the Wolves of Wolverhampton and the Heathens of Cradley Heath is unsurpassed in the sport’s history, and a recent exhibition at the Central Library in Wolverhampton has done much to underline this feeling.
In a star studded, action packed and colourful exhibition that filled the two glass fronted cabinets on the landing of the library’s spiral staircase, Gerald Hanrahan and Jon George, the joint organisers on behalf of the Bilston based Black Country Memories Cub, had managed to capture the real essence of this unique rivalry.
The Bugle’s visit coincided with a throng of people eager to read about the history of the two teams, memories of old riders, reflections of the Cradley Heathens’ stadium at Dudley Wood, now sadly a housing estate, and enthuse at the colourful photographs, many taken by Jon George himself, of the thrills and spills of this exciting spectator sport.
Gerald is an old hand at staging exhibitions and by all accounts this annual excursion into the life of the dirt-track rider is one of the most popular staged at the library. But it takes time and effort, not least expertise, to know how best to attract the largest audience, and judging by the numbers that were showing interest during our visit, Gerald and Jon have just about got it spot on.
Putting on an exhibition is also about team work and others who helped contribute or gave their support are John Adams, Michael Piper, Mike Foster, Chris van Stratten, John Hipkiss, and, of course, the staff at Wolverhampton Library.
However, the real story behind the exhibition is the rivalry between two exceptional speedway teams that lasted from the late ’40s up to the demise of the Cradley Heathens in 1995.
The old gold and black of the Wolves, and the green, white and red strip of the Heathens, a blur of colour roaring around the track with a packed grandstand of spectators from both camps urging them on, was a sight to behold. The top picture in this feature was taken in the late ’70s at the Dudley Wood Stadium, perhaps a nostalgic look back for those who supported the Heathens and were saddened by the closure of the teams home base back, but happy memories nonetheless that will live long and true.
Are you a speedway fan? Have you any memories, souvenirs or pictures to share from the golden age of Wolves vs Heathens? Contact jwork email@example.com .uk, 01384 567678, or write to the usual address.