The last year has seen us rely on digitised resources more than ever before, and we continue to work on increasing the content of our online catalogue to meet the needs of our researchers. The Belle Vue Zoo archive is one of our most researched collections, and we are lucky to have a lot of its contents available online in the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. This online image bank continues to grow, and we are extremely grateful to Barry Hargreaves of BjH Reprographics, Heywood, Lancashire, for sending us an incredible collection of 683 digital images to add to our collection.
Barry has spent countless hours bringing images of Belle Vue expertly to life with colour. His collection includes images of the zoo, its keepers and animals, speedway, wrestling, firework displays, the amusement park, indeed every aspect of Belle Vue you can think of! The latest images to go online show the speedway and some of its superstars, including Jack Parker, Peter Craven, Peter Collins and Ivan Mauger.
Collage of photographs of Peter Craven, speedway rider for Belle Vue Aces from 1952 to 1963
The management of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens were always searching for new attractions to bring in the crowds. They turned their attention to speedway racing in 1928, and held the first meeting on a grass track at the Belle Vue greyhound stadium on Kirkmanshulme Lane, Gorton. Initial meetings were a success, and speedway soon moved to a new home. The athletics ground on Hyde Road, built in 1886, was converted into a speedway venue, and the first race meeting was held there on 23 March 1929.
A full crowd at Belle Vue Speedway Stadium, Barry Hargreaves Collection
The Hyde Road stadium was sold for redevelopment in 1987. It had witnessed many thrilling races in front of 40,000 spectators, and was home to arguably the finest team in the sport, the Belle Vue Aces. Five Speedway World Champions have come from their ranks, including Peter Collins, whose triumphant return home is captured in a photograph in Barry’s collection.
Colourised photograph of Peter Collins and his 1976 Speedway World Championship trophy
Speedway moved back to the greyhound stadium on Kirkmanshulme Lane following the closure of the Hyde Road stadium. The Aces remained there until 2016 when they moved down the road to the newly built National Speedway Stadium.
Colourised photograph of the Belle Vue Aces in action, Barry Hargreaves Collection, 1970s
We continue to add images from Barry’s collection to our online catalogue so please check back for giraffes, zoo keepers, mermaids and more! Barry hopes his fantastic images will “give pleasure and awaken memories of the ‘Playground of the North’”, and we do too!