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Final punt for famous dog track

15 August 08 00:35 GMT

Over the years Walthamstow greyhound track has attracted stars from Winston Churchill to Brad Pitt, lured to the venue for a night of gambling and excitement.

But on Saturday the dogs will burst from their traps for the final time.

The London stadium, famously featured on the front of Blur's album Parklife, has been sold to property developers.

Its owners say falling profits and attendances have forced them to sell-up after 75 years.

L&Q Housing Trust, part of the development consortium Walthamstow Stadium Developments Limited, will take ownership of the land on 1 September.

A mixture of new homes are set to be built and developers say half will be "affordable" properties.

But before then, punters can enjoy one last flutter on the dogs.

It was first opened in 1933 by William Chandler, who started out operating as an illegal street bookmaker.

And the pink and red neon of the stadium's celebrated sign quickly became synonymous with a good night out in the East End.

Internet gambling

Walthamstow Stadium has also been a popular location for films, music videos and TV shows including Eastenders, London's Burning and Murphy's Law.

Adverts for lager, cars, sports clothing and even cereal have been filmed there as well.

Under the development plans, the facade will be retained in recognition of the track's famous history.

Over the years the stadium has stayed in the Chandler family.

But William's grandson Charles, a former member of the British Greyhound Racing board, says operations have become "unsustainable".

The advent of high street and internet gambling means punters are no longer betting in such great numbers with the bookies, tic-tacs and totes on its trackside pitches.

Other celebrities who have visited Walthamstow down the years include actress Lana Turner and footballer- turned-actor Vinnie Jones.

And before fame and fortune, a young David Beckham used to collect glasses in the stadium's restaurant.

Its iconic place in greyhound racing history means it will be sorely missed.

A protest against the sale took place in July.

Despite this, and a last-ditch attempt by a consortium of businessmen and wealthy individuals to save the track for racing, it is not expected to succeed.

A family spokesman said as far as the Chandlers were concerned the stadium had been sold and would pass into the possession of developers on 1 September.

'Lovely pets'

The Walthamstow Greyhound Owners Association has contacted the stadium's 11 trainers to ensure all the dogs will be cared for.

Chairman Barry Clegg said most of the 500 greyhounds that race at Walthamstow would move on to pastures new.

"The majority will continue with the trainers and race at other tracks," he said.

"But for the ones that are getting near the end of their careers, the kindest thing would be to find them a new home.

"They make lovely pets and are wonderful with children.

"There are massive misconceptions about them. They are complete coach potatoes. They only want a little walk and spend the rest of the time sitting down."

Mr Clegg, who used to have his own pack of dogs at the stadium, added: "I'm absolutely gutted to see the stadium close. I've been coming since I was a boy.

"Walthamstow without the stadium is like Paris without the Eiffel Tower.

"It's an iconic building, it made you feel alive. It was a sport second to none. There's no better feeling in the world."

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