Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Arthur Atkinson - Speedway Star

Arthur Atkinson Speedway Westham
Arthur Atkinson was my uncle. He was a Speedway super star of the 1930's. In his time as Speedway was more popular than football he was en parr with say David Beckham today and as you can see just as handsome. He married the bosses daughter Tippy Thorpe!

My grandfather, Pop Thorpe, was the chief accountant at Wembley Stadium and was helping Sir Arthur Elvin to run it. After the Empire Exhibition of 1924/25, like all large stadiums even today, nobody knew what to do with them. Pop's answer was the dogs, football and speedway. The latter became the craze of the world and the young daredevil  riders became super stars of the age.

I have a relation who made it on to a Players cigarette card! These famous cards were avidly collected and still are. They came in cigarette packets and were exchanged and traded. Uncle Arthur made it such was his fame.

Auntie Tippy and he led an extremely glamorous life. They were rich and feted. They drove expensive cars, traveled the world and had beautifully houses and clothes. It must have been very difficult and I can see now very worrying and tiring. Uncle Arthur won many championships and had a wonderful glass case full of trophies which always fascinated me. Sadly in later life these got stolen. The glass case was empty the last time I saw it.

Arthur came from Yorkshire and was a yeoman farmer. How he got into speedway riding I  never knew. My aunt with my grandfather's help eventually went on to run Westham Speedway.

I was intrigued because although uncle Arthur was color blind he loved painting as a hobby and I still have one of his paintings. He and I were not intellectually ever on the same plain but he was always kind to me.

During the war uncle Arthur made a fortune in munitions so I am told. He made nuts and bolts for the war effort at a penny a piece. He never fought in the war but was to my father's disdain in a nice safe reserved occupation that never left England's shores. My aunt had mink coats when everyone else had nothing. However the family did have to live in the East End of London and slept under a table for the whole of the war.

I liked him and I am proud of him. He was the sports super star of the family. He ended up running a garage in Southend.


  1. I knew them as Uncle Arthur and Auntie Tippie ... my parents, Cyril & Phyllis Mann were friends of theirs. My father Cyril was into car racing .... my grandfather - Jack Mann also knew them. I vaguely remember seeing them when I was a child but do not have many memories. I think as a child I was just not interested in my parents friends! I do have a photo of them together.

  2. Was he also the owner of the motorcycle shop in east ham? Dave.

  3. Was he also the owner of the motorcycle shop in east ham?