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Embassy Sportsdrome

Walford Road, Birmingham

Inside The Embassy Rink as seen in the 1960's

The Embassy opened it's door in the spring of 1910 becoming the largest rink outside of London.  Initially it was known as the Empire Skating palace but was later to be given the name of The Embassy Rollerdrome and finally The Embassy Sportsdrome.

The rink was built at a time when roller skating was enjoying a boom period and Birmingham hosted a number of rinks such as the City Rink, Erdington, Lozells, John Bright Street and the American rink in Monument Road.  Skating was indeed the craze of the day.  However, by 1912 roller skating was to lose its appeal and with the advent of the First World War any thoughts of skating, and in particular speed skating, were understandably put to the back of people's minds.

After the war skaters returned in their droves as the Embassy once more became a household name amongst Brummies.  On 16th January 1930 it hosted the first NSA sanctioned race, the Half Mile Championship for men, won by Alec McLagan (Aldwych), father of Ian "Mac" McLagan of The Small Faces and The Faces fame.

In the following years the Embassy became a popular rink to regularly hold the Northern and Midland Counties Championship as well as the Inter-Club Relay Championship.  However it would be 25 years before an other individual British Championship event was held there, the 1955 Half Mile for ladies, won by local girl Pat Harris (later to become Pat Eason).  The speed club initially named themselves The Birmingham Eagles before settling on simply Birmingham Roller Speed Club.

In 1946 the rink was bought by multi-millionaire property owner, Charles Clore along with his brother-in-law, Graham Davis.  In later years Clore would go on to own London's Selfridge's department store as well as take ownership of the Cricklewood Rink.

In the 1950's the rink was shared with other sports, most notably wrestling and boxing.  World Champion boxer, Randolph Turpin, was a regular feature at the Embassy.  In the early 1960's the Embassy was offered to have The Beatles entertain there for a fee of £250, but the niece of owner Conrad Davis (Graham Davis's nephew) advised him to turn the offer down, which he did.

In the mid-1950's the Birmingham club split and a new club, Midland Roller Speed Club (the ancestor of today's Birmingham Wheels club), was formed.

Conrad Davis ran the Embassy from 1953 until 1968.  By then, though, the venue had closed it's doors to skating and had been tuned into a bingo hall.  Some 55 years since skaters first took to the rink, the sound of wheels on maple was soon to be a thing of the past.  The last race to be held on the rink was the One Mile Handicap for the Davis Cup on 26th November 1966, won by John E. Fry (Midland Olympic).

9th April 1960 - Conrad Davis sits atop the Chambers Trophy

On 29th August 1984 the Embassy was razed to the ground.  The building was now owned by Gohil Enterprises based in Soho Road in the Handsworth district of Birmingham.  The building had stood empty since the bingo hall closed down in 1982 and was occasionally used for storage.  The cause of the fire was not determined but the fire spread rapidly, ironically due to the amount of old wood and coats of varnish that was found throughout the building.  The scene was attended by more than 100 fire fighters but by the morning of the 30th the building was little more than a pile of rubble and twisted metal.

The rink was home to some of Britain's skating legends - Pat and Leo Eason, Leon Goodchild, Les and Barbara Woodley, Danny Kelly, Ricky May to name but a very few.In later years the site would be cleared and houses erected but the name of The Embassy still gets mentioned regularly on social media pages about days gone by when skating was one of Birmingham's most popular of past times.

Shortly after the fire Chris Kelly, son of World Champion Danny Kelly, went sifting through the rubble.  He was stopped by a passing policeman who questioned what he was doing.  Kelly said "my dad was was a world champion skater and raced here".  The policeman replied "whatever son, now on your way".  As Chris made his way out of the state of devastation he stooped and picked up a piece of wood.  It was an unburnt section of the old kickboard.  Putting it inside his coat he rescued it, polished it up and gave it to his father.  Sadly Danny is no longer with us and those who remember the Embassy days are getting fewer with the passing years.  But that little bit of kickboard, incongruous as it may seem, is a physical memento of years gone by and all that remains of truly magnificent building.

30th August 1984 - The burned out shell of The Embassy
Danny Kelly's kickboard - all that remains of The Embassy

Embassy Sportsdrome
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