Motorbike Scrambling on the Downs

Oral History of Richard Yetton Recorded January 2011

Dave Bicker at Hadleigh Track
Harry Emery
Dave Bickers at Hadleigh Track
Harry Emery

The Senior Meeting – May Bank Holiday Monday.

‘The scrambling started in 1952; I became a member of the Southend Motor Cycle club in 1961, 1962.’

‘I was involved in organising and getting the track ready for the two meets a year. The first was the senior international event with all the works riders, they were paid to attend. The Greeves’ riders from the Benfleet factory would come down, there were international riders, it was a big event. One year Murray Walker was doing the commentary for the television.’

‘There would be between eight – ten thousand people attend; it was the biggest event in East Anglia that weekend, perhaps in the country.  It was always on the Monday the Salvation Army would not let us work on a Sunday in those days it was taboo.’

The Club Event – August Bank Holiday Monday.

‘Average club riders could take part, ‘I competed once it nearly killed me.’ I had a 350 Matchless, a big old beast, I did 6 or 7 laps and I could not hold the thing up, the course was very, very bumpy, I had only ever ridden on flat grass fields before.  This was hilly, you went up what we called “Monkey Hill” and then down and then up again.  The course was about three quarters of a mile to a mile long.  I think it was about 10 laps and then a final of perhaps 10 – 15 laps.’

Final Events 1982

‘It was perhaps the noise abatement society that may have been behind the closure.  The motorbikes had open exhausts and standing next to one was ear splitting, the 2 strokes were like megaphones.  I later took up sailing and you could hear the start coming out of the Medway. They started to put silences on but that took all the fun out of it.’

The Greeves Motor cycle factory

‘Greeves made world class bikes; they did really well for such a small factory on Manor Trading Estate. They made scramble and Trials bikes and later moved into road racing.’

The Greeves factory on Manor Trading estate still stands but no longer manafactures motor bikes, however new ‘Greeves’ motor bikes are now made in Sandon near Chelmsford.

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  • The legacy of the Downs Scrambling still go’s on. The Kickstart Motor Cross has their own track on the land between the water treatment works and Canvey creek at the bottom of Watlington Road Benfleet. I believe the club has been running since the late 50’s early 60’s
    with over 130 members now. The track has had major improvement this year (2018) and is non profit making and completely run by volunteers. We have strict noise regulations that only allow us to ride Saturdays and start bikes at 12:00 and switch off at 16:30.

    By Gary Prior (07/12/2018)
  • My father worked for Invacar and was aware of the development of the Greeves motorcycle but didn’t work on it. As a young teenager I followed its birth and trials on the works test track( roughly where Parsons Road is now), then later, its rise to fame with Dave Bickers. Old man Derry ‘Cobb was a mad driver in his special, rear loading chariot. On more than one occasion he came down Church Hill too fast and rolled the contraption on the bottom left hand bend. He’d then lay there, laughing until some-one came to his aid. He certainly enjoyed life. 

    Invacar finally came to an end when, on the advice of Graham Hill the grand-prix driver, the layout of the carriages (single wheel at the front) were deemed inherently dangerous and were banned.

    By Doug Mansfield (06/05/2012)
  • In 1962 at the tender age of fifteen I left school and started work as a trainee storekeeper for Greeves Mototcycles/Invacar Ltd. Initially, I worked on the Manor Trading Estate opposite the main Invacar factory with the Competition unit and the Foundry at the rear. Later, a purpose built stores and Foundry unit were built in Church Road next to E.H.Roberts plant Hire. Bert Greeves lived in a flat above the stores.  have fond memories of meeting Dave Bickers, Brian Goss and many others during my time there.

    My overwhelming memory is of Mr Derry Preston-Cobb who was disabled and I believe was the main reason Invacar was started. He called me to his office one day and decided I was worth another 1/2p per hour (thats old money) and I was so ecstatic I couldn’t wait to tell my parents. My father (a storekeeper) was as pleased as I was, so all was well. I left Greeves after three years but never really thought I made the right decision

    By Alan Emery (05/03/2011)

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