It's always been the way for Gortonians.

To say, when trying to explain to someone from outside the city exactly where you're from, 'have you heard of Belle Vue?'

For even to this today the name is iconic, known throughout the UK and even the world.

It conjures up images of a bygone era where Mancunians didn't have to venture outside M18 - never mind travel abroad - to feel like they were on holiday.

For a century and a half, the area off Hyde Road was known as the 'Showground of the World' and boasted the now legendary zoo gardens, fun fair and amusement park, circus, concert venue and speedway stadium.

Children enjoying a ride on an elephant at Belle Vue zoo

It attracted up to two million visitors per year in its heyday.

However the last remaining part of that history looks set to be lost after plans to pull down the greyhound racing track and replace it with nearly 250 houses were given the green light.

The Belle Vue Stadium, which still hosts dog and stock car racing events, dates back to the 1920s and fans of both sports had been battling hard to save it.

However councillors ruled the benefit of the new housing 'outweighed' the loss of the facility with declining visitor numbers and revenues cited in a report by planning officials.

The decision to approve its closure was welcomed by animal rights  campaigners who describe greyhound racing as 'cruel' and who have held regular demonstrations on race days.

The area seen from the air in 1926

However Mancunians have reacted with sadness at the loss of another piece of the area's history and working class culture.

Opening in 1863, Belle Vue Zoological Gardens began life as as a small private collection of birds owned by gardener John Jennison from Stockport.

But his vision saw it blossom into much more, becoming a Victorian wonderland and Manchester's own theme park.

By the early 20th century its collection of animals had expanded to include monkeys, kangaroos, rhinos, lions and bears.

It was dubbed the ‘showground of the world’ in adverts and it eventually cemented its place as one of the north’s most popular tourist attractions and the country’s third largest zoo.

One of the most famous arrivals was Maharajah the Asian elephant, bought from an Edinburgh zoo in 1872 for £680.

Maharajah was supposed to be transported to Belle Vue by train, but - having torn the roof off his compartment with his trunk - it quickly became clear that another mode of transport would be required.

Zoo manager Peter Grayson with Blanco the leopard in 1976

So along with his trainer Lorenzo Lawrence he instead had to walk from Edinburgh to Manchester, a journey which took ten full days.

John Henry Iles took over control of Belle Vue in 1925 and believed that rides and the funfair were the way forward.

Attractions such as dodgems, the caterpillar, the ghost train, the flying sea planes and The Scenic Railway were all added, the latter remaining in use until 1975.

The fairground and amusement park was also home to the famous The Bobs roller coaster, whose white wooden structure, with its 80 foot drop, came to dominate the area's skyline.

Mick Jagger on stage with The Rolling Stones at the Kings Hall in 1973

The zoo remained open throughout the Second World War, save for a couple of weeks initially in September 1939, and profits even increased.

It enjoyed a boom in visitor numbers in the 1950s and 60s where up to 150,000 people would still flock to the park on public holidays such as Easter Monday.

It was also an entertainment hub with numerous venues for music and dancing.

The Kings Hall, a converted teahouse which opened in 1910, became a popular music venue and hosted gigs by some of the word's biggest names from Jimi Hendrix, to the The Who, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and the Bay City Rollers to name just a few.

The King's Hall also hosted regular annual circuses from the 1920s onwards, with legendary Blackpool Ringmaster George Lockhart bringing his show to Gorton and becoming synonymous with the area.

The last circus in the hall took place in 1981.

Spiralling debts saw the zoo close in 1977, followed by the amusement park in 1980, leaving only the two sports arenas.

The Belle Vue Stadium was the first purpose built greyhound track in the country when it opened in 1926.

In 1925 Charles Alexander Munn, an American businessman who had seen greyhound racing in his native US, came over to the UK and teamed up with Owen Smith and George Sawyer for the rights to promote British greyhound racing as an alternative to coursing.

They teamed up with Brigadier-General Alfred Critchley and Sir William Gentle to found the Greyhound Racing Association.

Programme from the 27th International Circus

When they were deciding where to situate their stadium they decided upon Manchester as 'the ideal place because of its sporting and gambling links' and they named it Belle Vue after the neighbouring zoological gardens.

The first greyhound race around an oval track in Britain was held at Belle Vue on 24 July 1926.

More than 1,700 people were attracted to the meeting where they watched a greyhound called Mistley win over a distance of 440 yards.

She later had a stand named after her.

For the remainder of the 1920s the stadium averaged almost 70,000 visitors a week.

And for generations of families a night out 'at the dogs' became both a regular pastime and a tradition.

The stadium initially hosted speedway - dirt track motorbike racing - around the time the legendary Belle Vue Aces were formed in 1928.

The grandstand at Belle Vue greyhound stadium in 1958

However the decision was taken to convert the athletics track, dating back to the 1880s, into a specialist speedway stadium which opened in March 1929.

That was the Aces' home until 1987 until it closed and was demolished to become a car auction site.

The Aces then moved into the greyhound stadium on Kirkmanshulme Lane and stayed there until their brand new facility, the £7m National Speedway Stadium which sits next door, was complete.

They moved in in 2016.

Meanwhile, the greyhound racing stadium, the last relic of Belle Vue's entertainment heyday, was sold by a parent company of the Greyhound Racing Association to the Crown Oil Pension Fund in 2014.

And plans to knock it down and replace it with housing first emerged last year, when it is understood a leasing agreement between Crown Oil and the GRA expired.

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Manchester nostalgia

Plans for 167 two, three and four-bedroom houses and 80 one and two bed apartments were approved at a town hall planning on Thursday afternoon.

It is not known when racing might cease.

The Arena Racing Company (ARC) who now own the lease say they will sit down with the developer behind the plans, Countryside Properties, in the coming days.

However they say they are keen to start work 'as soon as possible.'

That would mean greyhound racing would join Belle Vue zoo, gardens, circus and concert hall as a page in Manchester's history books.

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