Larry Carter digs through the archives for a look back at the programme for a meeting of Darlington and District Motor Club at Croft airfield on May 5, 1951.

CROFT AIRFIELD (RAF Croft, later renamed RAF Neasham, also known as Croft Aerodrome) was constructed in 1940 and opened in October 1941.

It was originally intended as a satellite base to RAF Middleton St George (today better known as Teesside Airport) and its first squadron was 78 Sqn with Whitley bombers, from October 1941. 419 Sqn RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) arrived at the airfield a year later in October 1942, and various other squadrons occupied the North Yorkshire airfield throughout the Second World War.

At the end of hostilities, Croft saw very little activity apart from some training usage, and finally closed in the summer of 1946. The following year, businessman and councillor John Neasham acquired the lease to the land and formed the Darlington and District Aero Club. The club folded after only five years and subsequently the airfield fell into disuse.

It was still owned by the RAF however, and in 1951 they changed the name of the airfield to Croft Airport, using it as a relief landing ground. At the time, the airfield was also occasionally being used for motor race meetings by Darlington and District Motor Club. On various layouts utilising the runways and perimeter roads as a circuit, it held races throughout the 1950s.

One of the first meetings took place in May 1951 for various classes of solo motor cycles and three wheelers. It was the usual format of heats, finals and handicap races with some pretty generous prize money on offer of £10 to the winner of each event. That equates to £338 in today’s money and with prizes of £6 for second, £4 for third and £2 for fourth, as well as £2 for each heat winner, it was certainly worthwhile.

Leading the entry was TT and Manx Grand Prix winner Denis Parkinson from Wakefield on his 350cc and 500cc Nortons as well as another former TT winner, Eric Houseley from Chesterfield (347cc Matchless and 499cc BSA). The vast majority of the 107 solo entrants (and only six sidecars) were from the North-East and Yorkshire although V.R. Green (Birkenhead), A.J. Samuels (Manchester) and S.R. West (Oxford) had slightly longer journeys in those pre-motorway days.

Sadly, no results were included in the programme, or exist online but it did include many adverts for local businesses including the now defunct Darlington traders such as Motor Delivery Co, White Brothers Motorcycles, Wm Dresser & Sons (Stationers) and John Neasham Ford (later to become Skippers).

There was also a comprehensive circuit map which bears little resemblance to the track of the 1960s and 1970s, nor the latest version from 1995 onwards.

The pits were roughly on the exit of the former Sunny Corner (Now Sunny In and Out) and at the top end of the old Railway Straight.

Cowton Corner appears to be around the location of the “cut-through” on the run to the Jim Clark Esses before the track disappears through the no-longer visible roads of Dalton Corner, Birch Curve and Birch Corner before starting to run back through Halnaby Corner, Bigland Curve and Walmire Turn which would be in the vicinity of the residential houses now at Vince Moor East.

The programme cost a shilling (5p in today’s money) and the meeting was sponsored by Motor Cycling Magazine “read wherever motorcycles are ridden”.