IT WAS the home of speedway and greyhound racing in Southampton, providing local residents with entertainment the likes of which have never been enjoyed in the city since.

Southampton Stadium, originally opened in Banister Court in 1928, was the base for Saints – Southampton’s very own speedway team.

The track was originally 440 yards in length, later being shortened to 333.

In 1949, horse jumping was held at the stadium for the first time, and although the show was well received, it wasn’t attended by a great number of spectators.

Charles Knott, managing director of Southern Sporting Promotions Ltd, said: “With a show of such great quality, I thought Southampton people would have been keener to see it.”

Horses and greyhounds weren’t the only animals to entertain the crowds that year when more than 6,000 people flocked to see six border collie dogs give displays of their ability to drive and pen sheep.

The collies had to gather a number of sheep from one end of the track, drive them through three different hurdles and then pen them in an enclosure before driving them off the field.

With a roar of exhausts, the acrid smell of racing fuel and the glint of powerful arc lamps reflected in spinning wheels as the 1950s saw motor-racing at the stadium in various forms.

Midget car racing involved small cars with a high power-to-weight ratio careering around the track, whilst stock car racing occasionally saw sparks fly with the clashing of metal.

Bantam racing cars involved custom-built cars powered by motor-cycle engines providing a racing experience in which anyone who could drive a car could take part.

In March 1955, long queues formed outside Southampton Stadium, made up of dozens of eager drivers of varying ages and genders wanting to take part trials for bantam vehicle racing.

That same month a team of first-class stunt drivers known as The Hollywood Motor Rodeo thrilled crowds with a series of death-defying exhibitions and jumps.

The stadium even played host to boxing and wrestling matches throughout its time.

Disaster struck on May 11, 1960 when a fire ripped through the stadium, destroying half of the main stand. It was said that the when the roof cracked, the noise could be heard almost a mile away.

Flying debris littered the greyhound and speedway tracks as the racket roused many people living in the Banister district from their beds.

Repair work was carried out before the eight-acre stadium was finally sold to the Rank Organisation in 1963 who shortly sold off some of the land for housing.

They also invested money for the remodelling of the ice rink and the building of Top Rank.