The Greyhound Retail Park took its name from its previous use as the towns Greyhound Stadium.
The stadium was originally built on the site of the former Milton Hall Brickworks, the site had been bought by The Greycing Company headed by Mr W J Cearns, a planning application to construct a Greyhound Racing Stadium was submitted to Southend Council in 1932. Upon the granting of permission a shares issue scheme was launched, it was massively oversubscribed work on developing the track and stadium begun soon after.
Upon completion the stadium originally had the main western stand “Sutton Stand” had 2000 covered tip up seats, the rest of the stadium had uncovered terracing.
The first race was held on Easter Saturday 15th April 1933, the new track could host races from 300yards up to 750 yards, the dogs had the privilege of having the latest state of the air hare, and the track was soon named as one the fastest in the country.
In the early 1930’s the Kursaal based Southend United Football Club saw the MD of the greyhound track elected to the board with just two years left on the lease at the Kursaal discussions about where the team would play in future years were begun.
The board of directors voted to re-locate the club to the new Southend Stadium and made a re-quest to the Football Association for them to authorise the re-location to the Multi-use stadium. The FA had never been happy with football being staged at Multi-use stadia but surprised everyone when on 4th June 1934 gave the Blues permission to relocate.
The Granger Road site was airy and spacious, the playing ground in the centre of the track had never been designed or laid for football so was rough and cut up fairly easily, spectators were set back from the action by the wide dog track meant fans further back would have to squint and strain their eyes to see the action which did not prove popular, the dog track meant the end of the close tight to the pitch noisy environment of the previous Kursaal ground. The ground had three entrances one in each of Granger Road, Maldon Road and Sutton Road.
The new lease initially gave SUFC a seven year lease on the site this was later extended to 21years. The playing surface was clay based with a North-south pitch of 112yards X 72yards. The pitch was ready in time for the kick off of the 1934/35 season, the first game on 25th August 1934, it was witnessed by over 8000 spectators to see the Southend United Reserves Vs Tottenham Hotspurs Reserves Southend lost the match 2—6.
The first game played by the first team was on 29th August 1934 when 7456 spectators witnessed the visit of Aldershot, Southend ran out 2—1 victors, the largest attendance in the opening season came on 1st September 1934 with the arrival of Exeter City when 11,389 saw the away team take the spoils 1—2. The pitch was re-laid during the latter stages of 1934 but the clay base still proved to be a problem.
However the record crowed for a Southend United home game was achieved at the greyhound stadium on 15th January 1936 when some 24,000 supporters packed the stadium to bursting point for the FA Cup replay against Tottenham Hotspurs in 1936 (Southend lost 2-1) there was a further 2000 fans locked out of the stadium.
The stadium hosted dog racing twice during weekdays and on Saturday evenings, it also played host to occasional boxing matches, amateur football and other sports.
However the dark clouds of war were beginning to spread out over the horizon, soon the stadium would soon see a new tenant.
The 1939/40 season had been abandoned with all the teams being allocated into “regional” competitions Southend had been up into South Section Group A alongside some of the big London clubs however with many players away on National Service duty the FA implemented a guest player/s rule where team could borrow players from other teams to fill the teams to the required number of plays and substitutes. The competition ended in January 1940 with Southend ending up bottom team.
A second competition was arranged in February 1940, Southend were placed into Group D. However in August 1940 the Army Officer Training Corps put in a requisition order taking control of the stadium and all its facilities. The Blues were homeless, a deal was struck to rent on a game by game basis Chelmsford United’s New Writtle Street, however very poor attendance figures saw Southend United decide stop operating so that players could concentrate on their war duties.
However despite the fact that professional football had more or less ended during the war games were still being played at the Southend Stadium. With all three services being based in Southend inter-service matches were arranged as were charity games. One notable game was played between the Army and Royal Navy, lining up for the Shoeburyness Garrison was Arsenal star Alex James the Army won the game 5—2.
Southend United returned from their sabbatical in May 1945, but upon returning to the stadium it was found the pitch needed completely relaying major repairs were needed to the stadium but worse of all, all the clubs records from before the war had been destroyed by the Army. In June 1945 the stadium played host to the Southend war victory military tattoo. The first senior match played at the stadium after the war was against Queens Park Rangers the away team won 2—1. Greyhound racing did not return to the stadium until April 1946, however the midweek dog races were scheduled for Wednesday evenings the same time Southend United played their midweek home games, this saw the blues swap to either a Tuesday or Thursday evening game.
The popularity of dog racing saw it regularly attracting crowds in excess of 5000, despite the protests of Southend United to the owners over the Wednesday evening races the dogs took primacy as the tenancy agreement both groups had signed stipulated that the dog races must take preference over any other event held at the stadium.
At the start of the 1948/49 season the club began to review the lease on the stadium the lease they held was due to expire in 1955. The fans had held a deep desire to return to their spiritual home of Roots Hall in Victoria Avenue, it was decided that the club would indeed relocate to a specially built stadium.
The last season Southend United played at the Greyhound Stadium was the 1954/55 season the last game played by the first team was on 30th April 1955 when Southend United beat visitors Brentford 3—2.
However local football continued to be played at the Greyhound Stadium. With local teams playing big matches at the ground as well as Southend United’s reserve and youth teams playing home games there during the 1960’s & 1970’s.
In August 1970 BBC TV arrived to film the first the first round of the BBC Trophy. Then in September 1970 the operators applied to Southend Council to host Motorbike Speedway & Stockcar Racing at the stadium on a new track to be laid within the stadium. The proposals were refused by the council in March 1971 on noise grounds this is despite the fact that the original planning application had included Speedway as a permitted sport when the stadium was first built.
Senior football was to return to the Greyhound Stadium in 1971 when the local amateur side Pegasus Athletic joined the Essex Senior League, they rented the stadium on a game by game basis for the 1971/72 season however a dispute saw the team thrown out of the stadium and with no home the club folded.
The fading stadium (Thanks to Dave Bullock)
The Stadium as seen from the Civic centre not ling before its demolition (With thanks to Maurace for the photo)
With a general decline in the popularity og greyhound racing, the stadium fell into decline, with attendance figures rarely climbing over the 400 mark. Proffits were drastically down with 127 meetings a year lasting eight hours a week there was barely enough money coming in to cover the wages of the 21 full time staff.
A very rare shot of the demolished stadium, which can be seen to the centre of this photo. (With thanks to Dave Bullock (C))
Southend Council supported the stadium by hiring it out once a year to host its annual Firework Spectacular, however it was not prepared to buy the stadium or set up a rescue package.Eventually the stadium became unviable and the announcement was made that it was too close. The last race was held at the stadium on Boxing Day 1985, the stadium only lasted two months before it was demolished.
The area shown in red roughly shows the area of the stadium, Greyhound Way now runs through the middle of the site, Granger Road is another name that continues the legacy of the stadium. The photo to the right show the retail park a few years after it was completed, the road running towards the seafront is Sutton Road, the retail unit closest to the camera is unit 1.
Do It All—Matalan
Currys—What Everyone Wants—Paul Simon (closed mid 2012)
Unit 3 (a) *unit subdivided
Unit 3 (b) *unit subdivided
Rumbelows—£ Stretcher—in Store—£ Stretcher Extra.
Bottoms Up—Wine Rack—Choices Video—empty
Unit 7 (New build 2012)
KFC Drive Thru
Two other store that traded from the retail park (but I can't remember what units) were
The Sleep Depot (administration 2008)
The following photos are courtesy of John Slusar at http://www.greyhoundderby.com/
They show badges produced by the track, an amazing collection and my thanks to John for kindly letting me use the photos. John's website charts the history of Greyhound racing tracks in the United Kingdom and the badges issued by each course, and it is well worth a visit.