Catford dog track at Catford Greyhound stadium
Catford dog track at Catford Greyhound stadium
Catford dog track

Catford Greyhound Stadium opened in 1932 and was a large source of revenue in Lewisham at that time according to Harry Williams South London. Its founders were Charles Benstead and Frank Sutton.

Built on Southern Railway land between Catford and Catford Bridge stations the track could also be accessed from the two bridges going across the railway lines. To use the bridges to the track you had to pay an entrance fee at the turnstiles situated on the other side of the railway line to the stadium itself meaning the bridges were actually part of the stadium.

A major event was introduced in 1933 which would gain classic status, the newly launched Gold Collar offered £1,000 prize money, which was a substantial amount back then. This race became the first target of the year for the country’s top greyhounds.

Other events included the Catford British Breeders Produce Stakes and the Cobb marathon Bowl which was introduced in 1942. The event was sponsored by Margate brewer Rupert Cobb and became a significant test for the top greyhounds. This race continued until 1975.

The stadium did great business along with the other 14 tracks operating in London until the outbreak of World War 2. Even after the war the turnover was impressive with the track making a fortune. It was the seventh best track in London and Britain.

Religious service

united service of dedication catford greyhound stadium
United Service of Dedication

On 31 May 1953 more than five thousand people attended the United Service of Dedication organised by the Vicar of Lewisham, Canon P D Robb. This service was in response to the Queen’s request that her people should pray for her on the eve of her coronation.

Accidents

On September 20 1946 an express train from Victoria to Ramsgate derailed and five of the ten coaches fell down the 20-foot embankment landing in the stadium car park. The stadium employees were first on the scene and remarkably only one person died as a result of the crash.

In 1990 two race goers were tragically killed when a car crashed through the Catford stadium gates into the car park.

Decline

Aerial view of Catford in the 60s. Copyright – GRA Ltd
Aerial view of Catford in the 60s.
Copyright – GRA Ltd

The track continued to attract large crowds until the legalisation of betting shops in 1961, which hit attendances at tracks throughout the country. In 1963 a private company called the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA) purchased the track. In 1987 the GRA was the subject of a £68.5 million reverse takeover by Wembley Stadium. Wembley assumed control of GRA and in February 1988 the GRA Group was renamed Wembley plc.

By 2003 Catford Greyhound Stadium was one of seven British sites owned by the Wembley group. Due to failed plans to upgrade the loss-making stadium the site was closed on 5 November with a loss of around 95 jobs.

Catford Green and new homes

In March 2004 the Wembley group sold the land to English Partnerships – now the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

In May 2005 the stadium was gutted by a fire that Lewisham police were treating as suspicious.

There was constant talk of building new homes but the plans fell through due to financial constraints in 2010.

In 2012 the land was transferred to the Greater London Authority (GLA) under the Localism Act and by 2013 plans were announced to build 500+ homes on the site.

In 2014 Barratt Homes started building on the site and it is now known as Catford Green.

In 2015 Barratt decided to change the height of a proposed tower block to a monstrous 19 storeys. Protest have been made and are currently at the wait and see stage.

 

Sources: Greyhound Racing History
BBC

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[…] There are two versions of Catford in people’s minds. One is rough around the edges, dominated by a crummy centre, overshadowed by the ghosts of old gangsters and the dog track. […]