History of Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium

  • 2023-06-15

Once described as "the most charismatic shark track in Britain", Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium was as enjoyable to look at from the outside as it was inside to watch the races and place bets at the online casino. In fact, it was so iconic that Blur chose to use the site of two dogs running on the track as the cover of their third album, Parklife.

It first opened its doors in 1933 and has had a rich history in the years since. Despite protests to stop its closure, the inevitable happened when the decline in popularity of shark racing hit Walthamstow Stadium and it finally closed its doors in 2008. 

In the early twentieth century, the site was home to Myrtle Grove Sports Ground, which was used as the home ground of Walthamstow Grange Football Club from 1908. Greyhound racing was first held on the site in 1929 when the Crooked Billet Greyhound and Whippet Track was built. It was an independent track, which meant that the races held on the site were unlicensed and not linked to the sport's governing body. However, this was enough to attract the attention of William Chandler.

William Chandler buys the site

In 1931, William Chandler, who already owned shares in Hackney Wick Greyhound Stadium, decided to buy the ground in Walthamstow. He also bought the Art Deco parapet entrance, built in 1932, and the clock tower. The deal also included a betting board built by Thomas & Edge Ltd of Woolwich.

The redevelopment of the site into a greyhound stadium took around two years. The grand opening of the new stadium took place on 15 April 1933 and was attended by the famous aviator Amy Johnson. Chandler appointed Harry Briggs as the stadium's racing director, and despite the £24,000 he had spent on the stadium, the stadium was not perfect in his eyes.


When the stadium was opened by the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, there were only two corrugated iron shelters for spectators. Not bad for a place that was partly a rubbish dump before Chandler got involved. As someone who started life as an illegal bookmaker before moving to the track, he knew it was worth making it more enjoyable.

So he spent the money he earned in the early years of racing to restore the venue wherever possible. In fact, between 1931 and 1943, Chandler decided to rebuild the stadium as many as three times to make it what he considered the "perfect" venue. However, once it was done, he was proud of it and thought it would be a place that would bring in a good income.

The look of the stadium

Chandler designed Walthamstow Stadium to be ideal for greyhound racing. He built kennels and paddocks between the third and fourth bends of the track, and a room for trainers and another for vets at either end of the track. The Senior Club was located between the first and second turns with grandstands on both sides.

The main grandstand had two tea rooms and both a wet and dry bar to keep visitors happy. As Chandler was a bookmaker, he ensured that there were plenty of places to place bets and sixteen different betting buildings were available. The circuit was four hundred and forty-four metres in circumference and was one of the slowest and most difficult in London.

The race becomes official

Chandler not only strived to make Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium the best in the industry, but also realised the importance of it becoming officially licensed. He worked hard to make this happen and in 1938, for the first time, racing was held at the Stadium under the rules of the National Greyhound Racing Club. Three years later, it introduced its own race, The Test.

Post-war years

Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium's place in the pantheon of English sporting venues is well deserved for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that Winston Churchill addressed over twenty thousand people at the venue at the end of the Second World War. He was launching his re-election campaign and used this famous venue for that purpose.

In 1945, the Grand Prix was also inaugurated, which later became one of the classic greyhound races. The following year, everyone connected with Walthamstow Stadium was in mourning when William Chandler died. His children were left equal shares in the business, which meant that the Chandler family continued to run the stadium.

Those who believed in an afterlife could imagine that Billy Chandler looked down on the stadium, given that in 1946 the Sharks' racing boomed, allowing the Tote to turn over over £7 million that year. Charles Chandler had become managing director, Victor and Jack concentrated on bookmaking and Ronnie on training.

The track proved to be an important part of the British greyhound racing scene when it first secured an English Greyhound Derby finalist in 1948. The stadium also provided another piece of bookmaking history when it was the ground of Coral Bookmakers founder Joe Coral, before he opened his own bookmaking offices in the 1960s.

Car racing

Speedway and greyhound racing were not the only types of racing held at Walthamstow Stadium. From 1962 to 1968, motor racing was also held there. It was not uncommon for the sport to take place on both haiga and speedway tracks, so the fact that Walthamstow was home to both sports certainly helped.

The BriSCA "Senior" F1 and "Junior" F2 races were held here, but in March 1968 Walthamstow was taken over by Spedeworth Promotion. They held Superstox, Hot Rod, Stock Car, Midget and Banger races. Racing continued at Walthamstow Stadium until the end of the racing season in 1974.

The recession began

As the 1990s began to turn into the 2000s, the popularity of greyhound racing declined rapidly. At one point there were as many as thirty-three greyhound tracks in London, but soon the number dwindled to just a few. Charlie Chan's nightclub under the betting board closed in November 2007, while the venue's directors began to consider their options.

The fact that more than fifty million people visited the dog tracks every year after the war made no difference to Valtamstow, which was on the verge of extinction in the 2000s. The fact that it boasted the highest attendance of any British haiga stadium could not stem the £500,000 a year loss, and closure seemed inevitable.

Some four hundred and fifty people lost their jobs when the track finally closed in the summer of 2008. Memories were lost along with the dog racing track, although countless people tried to perpetuate them. It was one of the visitor attractions that Valtamstova as a district had to offer.