Counthill Road, Watersheddings, Oldham, Lancashire.
LOCATED————————————–About two miles east of Oldham town centre.
ORIGINAL SITE——————————-A cricket pitch owned by the adjacent rugby club, were the cricket club paid £40 per annum, but a greyhound company came in with a better offer in 1930 and ousted out the cricket club.
DATE CONSTRUCTED———————Late 1800’s as a cricket pitch.
DATE VENUE OPENED——————–Some temporary meetings took place in 1930.
Meaning other sports may have taken place prior to the arrival of Greyhound Racing.
FIRST MEETING——————————June 9th 1933.
Greyhound Racing only.
LICENSED OR INDEPENDENT———–Independent
All venues covered would have to be licensed with the government, licensed suggested in this section would refer to tracks operating under NGRC Rules.
INSIDE OR OUTSIDE HARE TYPE——-Inside Sumner.
Please note that the Electric Hare suggested is only a guidance and would have been in operation for a certain amount of time at this venue. Although it is not necessarily guaranteed that it was operational all the time, as other types of lure may have been used and updated as time progressed.
DISTANCES————————————240, 420, 585 and 767 yards.
Please note that most racing venues distances had become varied throughout the years, the ones given above were at once point set and offers only a guidance to the track size.
Please note that alterations at most racing venues throughout its existence would see that the circumference of the track would vary, the one shown above offers only a guidance to the track size.
BIG RACE NAMES—————————-Jimmy Frizzell £1000 Open, Oldham Derby.
STADIUM SHARED WITH——————Nothing known of.
LAST MEETING——————————-March 31st 1996.
Greyhound Racing only.
STADIUM CLOSURE DATE—————-March 1996.
Meaning other sports may have taken place after Greyhound Racing had ceased.
BUILT ON SITE——————————–Housing on Hutchins Lane would possibly split the Rugby ground and greyhound track, with Ferguson Way being were the finishing straight was.
In some cases, structure’s that originally covered the venue after the stadium had been demolished, may have been themselves demolished too, so the one described is more likely to be the one which now presently covers the site.
EVIDENCE LEFT TODAY——————–Nothing known although the old cricket pavilion that overlooked the stadium may still be there.
Oldham’s greyhound stadium was situated two miles north east of its town centre, just off the A672 Ripponden Road in an area known as Watersheddings. The original site had been a cricket field, were the sport had been played since the late 1800’s, yet the site was owned by Oldham Rugby League Club, with the Cricket Club acting as tenants and paying £40 per year to rent the site. But it wasn’t until the early 1930’s that a newly formed greyhound company persuaded the rugby club to allow them to construct a greyhound track around the perimeter of the cricket pitch. Their approach was assuring, which would see the rugby club benefit financially with an offer the rugby club could not refuse, putting the future of the cricket club in doubt.
The financial returns through Greyhound Racing would no doubt overshadow that of cricket, as the sport was a twelve-month venture compared to cricket’s summer season only. With the cricket club now gone, the northern edge of the cricket pitch was removed, enabling foundations to be laid for a brand-new stand to be erected. It was the construction of the new stand that gave the Oldham circuit the D shape that many of us would remember, with a normal start and finishing straight, and an arc shaped back straight linked together by the west and eastern bends. While the new stand was being constructed, kennels were being built underneath at the rear of the stand along with a paddock area.
Throughout those years of cricket and greyhound racing, a mention should be given to the splendid red, white and black facia building that overlooked the venue, which had been constructed during the 1890’s, and acted as a pavilion for the earlier cricket club. Although its main purpose was for the Oldham Rugby Club acting as the club’s changing rooms and offices, whose enclosed ground lay directly to the south of the greyhound track.
Oldham’s first meeting came on the 9th of June 1933, but it was followed by a brief closure, this due to the company not having the correct license, after new betting legislation had closed numerous greyhound tracks around the country. It would take until the following year before the track would reopen, with the correct license obtained and then to continue as an independent track.
Those pioneering days had seen The Oldham Greyhound Company like most, provide the majority of the greyhounds, and although not proved, it may have run under rules similar to those of the NGRC. There is also a suggestion that it may have operated as a permit track during the post years of the Second World War, but again I have yet to find any evidence of this to prove that this information is true, but one thing is certain is that the Oldham track operated as a flapper during the 1950’s and onwards.
Oldham could be classed as a smallish venue compared to the close by Blackburn and Bolton tracks, with track side viewing limited to the finishing straight and the western bend, as the rest of the circuit was hemmed in by its boundary walls. Yet the main stand proved to be the best viewing advantage, with its steep wooden terracing creating an excellent panoramic view of the track, except for the four-bend race starting traps, which would eventually drift out of view as you climbed up towards the back of the stand.
Due to the narrow width of the track, races consisted of five dogs, who chased an inside Sumner type hare system, over distances of 240 and the more regular 420-yard four bend trip, with the six-bend race contested over 585 yards. The Watersheddings venue existed entirely as a greyhound racing only venue, although baseball did feature during the 1930’s, but unlike the majority of greyhound racing stadiums it never featured any motor sports. But one thing it did have in common with other greyhound racing venues is that it became another target for the developers. It soon became knowledge that the whole of the Watersheddings sporting site, which included the greyhound track, the rugby ground and its training pitch, the eye-catching old cricket pavilion along with the elevated car park at the rear, had all been sold.
Sadly, Oldham Greyhound Stadium staged its final meeting on the 31st of March 1996, with demolition coming shortly after. The land lay idle for a number of years following, before new housing on Hutchins Lane, which now dissects the rugby ground and the dog track, covers most of the site, with those on Ferguson Way almost pinpointing the tracks finishing straight.