Curse of the skating rink

img223 - STATE-OF-THE-ART: Batley’s roller skating rink in Bradford Road had a luxurious maple floor. Photo from Malcolm Haigh’s Historical Snapshots.

Friday, 17th August 2012, 10:00 am

img221 - BURNT DOWN: The Bradford Road skating rink was destroyed by fire in 1949. Photo from Malcolm Haigh’s Historical Snapshots.

img220 - SKATERS: The staff of the Bradford Road rink, pictured in about 1910. Photo from Norman Ellis’ Around Batley.

YORKSHIRE athlete Lizzie Armitstead was a real good luck charm for Team GB in this year’s Olympics.

Once she had won silver in the women’s cycling road race, the medals started flying in for Great Britain.

Back in 1940, two Batley athletes weren’t so lucky.

Mary May and Frank Burrows, regulars at Batley’s skating rink in Bradford Road, twice became national pair skating champions.

But their hopes of competing in the 1940 Olympics were dashed when World War Two broke out and the games were called off.

It seems skating in Batley is more cursed than charmed, as it was one in a string of disasters to befall skating in the town over the years.

Batley’s first rink was an all-wooden structure built in Batley Carr in 1875.

But it was closed down just four years later after a terrible disaster.

Its wooden balcony collapsed during a packed political debate in the run-up to an election. Four people were killed and 45 were seriously injured.

Batley’s short-lived second rink gave its name to Rink Street.

Then in 1909 a third roller skating rink was built in Bradford Road, and was celebrated as one of the best in the world.

Its maple flooring and spacious interior attracted skaters from miles around, including May and Burrows.

But yet another disaster was waiting round the corner. It was gutted by a huge fire in May 1949, and would have cost an estimated £17,500 to rebuild.

It was not replaced, but its shell was removed and the site was turned into a coke dump.