HARRINGAY ARENA & STADIUM

 

Most people are aware of the world-famous Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (White Hart Lane) that is known to football fans and sports enthusiasts all around the world. The stadium is located in the N.E corner of Tottenham but we should never forget that we once had an equally famous sports and events complex in the S.W corner of Tottenham – Harringay Stadium and Arena. In its day it rivalled Wembley in terms of hosting major sporting events but eventually it all came to an end and was demolished to make way for a supermarket and business park.

The following photograph provides a Birdseye view of the Harringay complex dating from the early 1950s.


As kids growing up in Summerhill Road. Tottenham we all looked forward to Friday nights when the Speedway took place at Harringay Stadium. We would walk down Avenue Road to St Ann’s Road and then cross over into Hermitage Road and walk almost the full length until you reached the steps from Hermitage Road and into the stadium. They were very steep steps and indeed with todays’ Health and safety probably considered too dangerous should anyone stumble coming in or going out of the stadium. When the speedway finished, we did attend a few Stock Car events but they were not as exciting as the Speedway.

My uncle was a regular at the greyhound racing and, on those rare occasions when he won, he would treat us all with some pocket money for sweets.

We were also fortunate that our next-door neighbours, who were reasonably wealthy, would take all 3 of our family to the Christmas Circus at Harringay Arena. They would also hire a chauffeur driven limousine, so we certainly arrived in style

 

STADIUM
Harringay Stadium was constructed at a cost of £35,000. The 23-acre (93,000 m2) site had been the Williamson's Pottery Works from the late 18th century through to the early 1900s. It was then used as a dumping ground for the spoil from the construction of the Piccadilly line to Finsbury Park.

GREYHOUND RACING
Harringay Stadium was the third greyhound racing stadium to open in Britain. It was owned by the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA). After great success with their first track at Belle Vue in Manchester in 1926, they opened both White City and Harringay stadiums in 1927. The opening night was on Tuesday 13 September 1927 and drew in a crowd of 35,000
 



 



 

 

SPEEDWAY
A speedway track was laid inside the greyhound track and speedway events began at Harringay Stadium on 29 May 1928, three months after the first speedway event was held in the UK. After four years, with mixed success, the events were discontinued. However, they resumed in 1935 and, after a break during the war, speedway events ran from 4 April 1947 until 1954.

The home team was known as the Canaries, then the Tigers, and finally the Harringay Racers. Australian star Vic Duggan was the top star from 1947 to 1950. When he retired Split Waterman took over as Racers star rider.




 


STOCK CAR RACING

Stock Car Racing was first held at Harringay stadium in 1954–55. After a break of five years, racing resumed in 1960 and continued off and on, until 1979.
The first Stock Cars World Championship world final for stock cars took place at Harringay on 24 June 1955, The World Final returned to Harringay in 1963.Then again in 1967, 1970 and for the last time in 1973.

In 1979 the stadium enjoyed a brief spell of fame of a different kind when a stock car event at the stadium was used as one of the locations for the film ‘The Long Good Friday’.



 


TOTTENHAM SCHOOLS ATHLETICS

In the first decades after WW2 Harringay stadium was also the venue for the annual Tottenham Schools Athletics event.

 

 


ARENA
Harringay Arena was a sporting and events venue on Green Lanes, alongside Hermitage Road in Harringay, North London. It had been built in 1936 and lasted as a venue until 1958.

The arena was an octagonal-shaped building which borrowed heavily from the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. It was erected adjacent to the Harringay Stadium in just eight months between February and October 1936. Its vast steel roof was constructed by Dorman Long & Co, who had recently been responsible for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
   

 

 


ICE HOCKEY
Up to the Second World War Ice Hockey enjoyed its most popular era in the UK until a revival in the 1990s. Two local teams were formed for the Arena's opening, Harringay Racers and Harringay Greyhounds. On the 26th October 1938, the first ice hockey game to be televised anywhere in the world was played at Harringay between the Racers and Streatham. A year later, WWII started, and ice hockey matches were suspended



 


BOXING
Boxing became firmly established at the Arena prior to the war. On 7 April 1938 Harringay was the venue for the first boxing match to be televised live when the full 15 rounds between Len Harvey v Jock McAvoy were broadcast. Following the war Harringay was a very successful boxing venue. During its 22-year life, it was home to five world title fights, a record for any British venue by the time the Arena ceased operating as a venue in 1958.



 

 

BILLY GRAHAM - EVANGELIST

American evangelist Billy Graham held his first 'Crusade' in the UK at the Arena from 1 March – 12 May 1954. Audiences could hear Graham every Sunday during the three-month crusade. It was the first of 23 'crusades' and 'missions' that he held in the UK between 1954 and 1991. His visit was started off with a gala event at the stadium which included a visit by Roy Rogers and his famous horse Trigger


   

 

 
CIRCUSES

The arena was well known as a venue for circuses. It was home to Tom Arnold’s Harringay Circus for eleven seasons from Christmas 1947 to Christmas 1957. For the first circus show in 1947 Arnold hired twenty baby elephants specially imported from Ceylon by the Chipperfield family.
Billy Smart occasionally appeared in these shows. At one of the Mammoth Christmas Circuses, he spray-painted five of his elephants white, yellow, blue, cream, and pink.
The 1952 circus included an elephant act with Sabu the young Indian actor made famous by his appearance in films such as The Thief of Baghdad.



 
 

 


OTHER EVENTS
However famous the Arena became for boxing, commercial necessity led to a diversification into a wider range of events including:


•   The Basketball and Wrestling events for the 1948 Summer Olympics.
•    The All England Open Badminton Championships from 1947 to 1949
•    Home of the ‘Horse of the Year Show’ for its first ten years, from 1949 to 1958. In its final year at Harringay, the show featured                                       in the first broadcast of the BBC's new Saturday afternoon sports programme Grandstand.

•    Roller Speedway from 1939 until 1952, with a break during the War. In 1953, with the demise of Roller Speedway, the Arena hosted a Roller Derby      match.
•   Wrestling .
•   Five-a-Side Football
•   Basketball
•   European Netball Championships from 1955.

 

 


HARRINGAY STADIUM BEING DEMOLISHED
THE END
Early in the 21st century the whole site was redeveloped for retail shopping as the Arena Shopping Park, hosting mid-market brands such as Next, Carphone Warehouse, Homebase and a Fitness-First gym.

HISTORICAL NOTES:
Historical accounts paint a colourful picture of life around the stadium. Joe Coral, the founder of Coral Bookmakers, started his business at Harringay Stadium and other similar venues. Coral is supposed to have come up against a local organised crime boss at Harringay but held his ground by holding a gun to the crimes boss’s stomach.

 


HERE IS A SMALL COLLECTION OF PROGRAMMES FOR EVENTS HELD AT THE HARRINGAY COMPLEX





Article produced by Alan Swain January 2021

Background Image - Harringay Speedway Programme 1937

We acknowledge that most of the history text originates from Wikipedia.