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Heidelberg Historical Society

The Ivanhoe Speedway

Posted on Friday, 1st May 2020 by Janine Rizzetti

*from our Facebook page 1st May 2020)

What happened in the Heidelberg District in the past is fascinating, but what DIDN’T happen is even more intriguing. How about a speedway in Ivanhoe on the river flats near Burke Road? That was what the Olympia Speedway Company proposed in 1926.

Speedway racing for both cars and motorbikes was very popular in the 1920s. In 1924 speedways opened at the Melbourne Motordrome (with the involvement of John Wren) in present-day Olympic Park and at Aspendale Park. The Olympia Speedway Company envisaged Ivanhoe as part of a chain of six speedways throughout Australia, with the Sydney speedway at Maroubra, and the Brisbane speedway at Davies Park already in operation. More speedways were planned for Adelaide, Perth and Wellington N.Z.

Not Ivanhoe! The Maroubra Speedway in Sydney in 1925. Creator Sam Hood, from the collection of the State Library of New South Wales

In January 1926, the Olympia Speedway Company issued a prospectus for the construction of the Ivanhoe Speedway on 170 acres surrounded by the Boulevard ,with access via Burke Road. It had purchased the land from Mr Irvine on condition that no horse racing or betting take place there. Of the 170 acres, 130 acres were prone to flooding.

It was proposed that the Ivanhoe Speedway be 1 ½ miles round and 66 ft wide. It would be constructed of concrete pillars with timber dressing requiring 3,000,000 superfeet of 6X2 inch mountain ash. The company assured council that the wooden flooring had been chosen to reduce noise, and that no unsightly buildings would be constructed, and that all advertising hoardings would be inside the enclosure.

Not surprisingly, the neighbours were not impressed. At a public meeting at Ivanhoe Hall on 24 February 1926, they passed a resolution that Council use every lawful means to prevent its construction, claiming that it would decrease the value of nearby residences and lead to noise and “the influx of undesirables”.

Council vetoed the proposal. It was understood that Mr Irvine withdrew the land from sale and refunded the 1150 pounds that had been paid to him by the syndicate. No more was heard about the Ivanhoe Speedway, although the name continued to be used colloquially. Eight years later the whole area was deluged by the 1934 floodwaters, which would have made short work of all that timber racetrack.

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