Cycle speedway racing is reputed to have been born on the “bomb sites” of London, after the Second World War. Leicester, fortunately was not high on the list of targets for the Luftwaffe but nevertheless waste ground was readily available and tracks sprang up in locations all around the city and in surrounding areas.
It is believed that there were thirty two teams operating in the late 1940’s. Many of the tracks were built on sites without the owners permission and the clubs were concerned at the insecurity of their locations, so the Leicester Cycle Speedway Association decided to approach Leicester City Council for a permanent site to develop. Members of several clubs joined together and the Slater Street site came into being in 1950. Aylestone “Aces” and Belgrave “Red Devils” were early users of the track, but when Coalville “Stars” closed down, several riders transferred and Leicester “All Stars” was formed.
Through the 1950’s there was the inevitable decline in the number of clubs operating, and the rebuilding of industry after the war deprived the clubs of their track locations. Conversely, Blackbird “Monarchs” were successful and ambitious and moved to take over the Slater Street track. Top riders from the area were recruited and the club set its sights on national competition. The facilities at the track were improved and a challenge match was arranged against a top London club to impress the authorities that the club was ready for entry into the top flight. Hence in 1962, Leicester “Monarchs” as the club was now known, became members of the British Cycle Speedway Federation. There was at that time a parallel organisation, the National Amateur Cycle Speedway Association with their two separate leagues and separate individual championships.
The Leicester side of the 1960’s was very strong and dominated the B.C.S.F competitions, winning the English League Gold Cup in 1964 and 1965, and the English League Championship in 1965 and 1966. The English League Riders Individual Championship was won by Harry Glover in 1964 and by Grant Warwick in 1967 with Grant twice, Harry, Ken Adams and Wilson Burns gaining rostrum places over the five years 1964-8. The eventual unification of the administrative organisation followed, but the British Team Championship, the Holy Grail of cycle speedway, eluded this team whose only final appearance at that period was a losing one to Offerton by 53 points to 43 in 1969. The following year saw the first Leicester rider to gain a rostrum place in the unified National individual championships when Phil Swain was runner-up in the Junior (under 18) event.
As we move to the 1970’s the track has been rebuilt at 90 degrees to its original position to accommodate the new St Margaret’s Way The team competing in the English League, which is divided into East and West divisions and in 1972 we reach the play off but lose out. We transfer to the Northern Premier League in 1973, to cut down on travel, and remain in the League until 1977. It’s back to the English League in 1978 and we reach the Gold Cup Final only to lose to Wednesfield. The following year Slater Street gains recognition as a top track when we staged our first National Individual championship final.
The 1980’s dawned with the club very well served numerically with three teams racing every week but with only average success. There was a migration away from the sport through the later 80’s, but there were signs that things could be due to change. The departure of Dave Skinner to Australia was a major blow, but the return of Chris Harrison to join Mick Skinner and Neil Mason, plus the emerging talents from the juniors, suggested a healthier future. David Hemsley became British Junior Champion in 1987 at Poole and then Indoor Junior Champion later in the year. Geoff Burrell took the Indoor Junior title the following year. Hemsley took the Indoor Youth title in 1988 and 1989, along with the Indoor Senior title in 1988, 1989 and 1991. The team won the Indoor Team Championship in 1989, to bring the club to the threshold of the 1990’s which were to be the most successful in the Club’s history.
The loss to the sport of the Whitley Club at Coventry proved a very profitable day for the Leicester outfit as Norman Venson, one of the sport’s most respected and able riders, made the trip up the M69 to join the “Monarchs” This completed a strong top six in the team, and soon we were challenging for major honours again. We were runners up in the British Team Championship final in 1993 losing to Poole in the Thurrock mud. But it all came right the following year when we became champions with a narrow win over Ipswich in a good final at Sandwell. The title was ours again in 1996 with a comprehensive victory over Wednesfield at Thurrock. Two more runner-up places were gained in 1997 and 1999. We were almost permanent champions of the British League (Midlands) through the 1990’s until 1999 when Stoke pushed us into second place. We won the midland Gold Cup in 1994 and 1995, the English League in 1997 and the newly formed Premier League in 1998. Again Stoke edged us into second place in 1999.
In addition to team successes in the 1990’s we also enjoyed outstanding individual honours. David Hemsley won the World Masters in 1991 and was runner up in Australia in 1993 and Norman Venson was runner up at Leicester in 1996. David Hemsley was also the British Individual champion in 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1998, runner up in 1993 and third in 1997. Norman Venson was third in 1999 repeating his 1987 position. Mick Skinner won the British Veteran title in 1988. Appearances in the British Final were once rarities but have recently become frequent with the club represented in each of the last twelve finals the high point being in 1994 when we had no fewer than four finalists.
Since the new millennium the club have gone from strength with membership at record levels. Leicester’s ladies and girls are the envy of every other club in the UK with a string of team and individual successes to their name. Numerous British individual titles have been won at junior and senior levels and in 2011 Lukas Nowacki was crowned as World Champion. Team wise the Monarchs have lifted several regional and national titles together with victories in the prestigious British Team Cup.