SLH: A BRIEF CLUB HISTORY
S.L.H. was formed on 27th December, 1871 at a meeting in the Vivian Hotel, at 34 Philip Road (now known as Philip Walk), Peckham Rye, SE15. There was a similar Club close by in Peckham Rye, which was founded at "The King's Arms", as Peckham Hare & Hounds in October 1869, before soon changing its name to Peckham Amateur Athletic Club (PAAC). It later moved to "The Rye House", and in July 1878 moved from the Peckham Rye area to become the Blackheath Harriers based at a former important staging post on the Dover Road, "The Green Man", 1 Dartmouth Row, Blackheath, SE10, which had been founded before 1629.
Briefly prominent amongst PAAC's members was the dynamic Mr. Ernest E. Smith, who became their handicapper in October 1871. With a characteristic flourish, he presented a "Challenge Belt" for a Mile Steeplechase and a "Handicapper's Cup" for a 440 yards race. Characteristically, he soon demanded that the cup should be renamed "Mr. Smith's" and results of that Race should be reported in the press. However, the PAAC Committee felt that this was too egotistical and flamboyant for their fledgling club, and rejected his demands.
Inevitably, Ernest Smith's temperament and his outlook on athletics would always lead to friction with associates and his endeavours usually ended in tears. It was no surprise that he soon left the PAAC after disputes over either the habit of smoking in the Club's changing room or his questionable impartiality as their handicapper, or both. It seems that Ernest Smith was at the centre of these disputes, although whether he was a smoker or non-smoker is not clear. However, in those days, membership of such clubs was known to be confined exclusively to 'Gentlemen Amateurs', although it seems that some members didn't always behave like gentlemen.
It so happened that at a banquet in "The King's Head", Roehampton, following a prestigious cross country challenge match between Thames Hare & Hounds and "All Comers" at Roehampton on October 28th 1871, Ernest Smith approached the 25 year-old Uppingham School alumnus, Charles Henry Larrette (b. c.1846 – d. 9/5/1913), who had run well in the race for the "All-Comers" that afternoon. Smith unfolded his plan to found a new club "South London Harriers". If Larrette would support him in this venture, Smith vowed to carry it through.
Charles Larrette, who had been living and competing in South Wales for some time, was impressed and SLH was founded the day after Boxing Day 1871, at a meeting attended by three ex-members of PAAC. Within a month or so, PAAC had lost five of their total twenty members to SLH, who soon overtook our rivals with 63 active members by the first SLH AGM in April 1872, and quickly developed into a major force in the land. In 1873, our active membership had risen to 108 members.
Our first cross country (CC) training-run was described by the South London Chronicle as the "Inauguration of a New Pack (i.e. CC Club)". This true beginning for SLH took place on January 13th, 1872, in the form of a 'Hare & Hounds' run, in which. Mr. Beaumont Kent acted as the 'Hare' and started at 3.45pm in the direction of Dulwich, whilst the 'Hounds' (all the other runners) including Charles Larrette & J. Finlay (a Shrewsbury School alumnus) started at 4pm. Our Club's fifth training run took place on February 27th, when 9 members ran the then longest 'CC Club training run' of about 29 miles on the special 'Thanksgiving' Tuesday Bank Holiday, to celebrate the recovery from typhoid of the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII).
After much success in track & field meetings that summer, S.L.H. promoted its first 'open' track meeting on August 24th, 1872 in the vast 26 acre grounds of the then 47-room 'Belair' House, London SE21. It was an 18th Century Georgian mansion, leased from Dulwich College by an SLH Vice-President, Charles W. Hutton, a wool merchant and Sheriff of Middlesex & London who was the SLH President (1873/74). The mansion and the grounds (from 1965 called 'Belair' Park) were sited on the corner of Gallery Road, Dulwich, and Thurlow Park Road that forms part of what is now the A205 South Circular Road.
In those early days of organised athletics our members, though few in number, soon gained the soubriquet of the "Irrepressibles" due to their habit of winning 1st, 2nd or 3rd place prizes in almost every track & field open meeting in the 1870s. This may well have owed something to our custom in those days of forming groups to go on tour at weekends and in the holidays to compete in various summer athletics meetings around the country.
The formation of clubs, for adults, for the specific purpose of promoting recreational and competitive amateur athletics was a new development in the sports world of the mid-19th century. However, these clubs did not just appear out of thin air. At this time, sports meetings with running, jumping and throwing events were not uncommon in schools, university colleges and even military establishments.
Such meetings had been held at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from as early as around 1812, at Eton College from 1837 and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (from 1849 until 1853). Similar meetings were sometimes organised by clubs whose primary interest lay in other sports such as rowing, cricket, rugby football or association football (soccer).
For many years prior to 1850, athletics sports had been performed by what we would now call amateurs and professionals. No doubt, some of these men had achieved remarkable feats in the prevailing difficult circumstances. However, it is almost certain that before around 1850, the sport of athletics was not practised as a recognised system, nor was there any authentic record of performances. Before that time, it is very doubtful whether times, distances and heights were taken and measured with sufficient accuracy to make reliable records.
Through the 18th century and earlier part of the 19th century there were two distinct streams of athletics: – athletic contests which were part of the age-old ‘traditional’ sports and professional pedestrianism, which in time began to rank as a branch of legitimate sport, in the same manner as ‘prize-fighting’.
For many centuries, sport was a feature of life although it was mostly confined to what are now termed ‘traditional' sports. They were a remarkable range of games and contests organised and played on a very local basis to local rules, passed from one generation to the next by word of mouth. Each village and town had its own forms of ball games, running races, jumping, throwing, fighting and animal sports, which owed much to the fact that for centuries most people of one part of the country knew next to nothing of the other parts.
Travel was so difficult in a group of offshore islands with a temperate climate (the British Isles), naturally receiving more than its share of rain, which rendered the highways impassable for much of the year in the days when only a privileged few could afford to travel on horseback, whilst the members of the limited middle classes had to suffer much discomfort in the un-sprung wagons and later the un-sprung windowless coaches of the times. The majority of the population, the labouring poor had no other choice but to travel on foot if they had to travel.
These ‘traditional’ sports were not necessarily childish or primitive. They often had complex rules and such concepts as ‘off-side’ and strategies for deceiving, marking and blocking the opposition in the same way that the ‘offensive’ and ‘defensive’ units of modern American Football (Gridiron) are deployed.
However, in contrast to most modern sport, ‘traditional’ sports tended to be integral parts of a wider pattern of amusements held during – religious festivals; the local parish’s ‘wakes’ honouring the local patron saint; and on May Day when a local youth was elected ‘Lord of Misrule’. These sports were rooted in the territorial and ‘rites of passage/conjugal’ order. Deep attachment to the land, a fierce local patriotism and the assertion of each generation’s identity, were at the heart of these popular recreations, which in some small measure brightened the lot of ordinary folk in those times.
There was little national sport in the modern sense, although there were at least two quasi-national events. The Cotswold Games’, revived in 1604, attracted huge crowds to Dover’s Hill near Chipping Campden, Gloucester, to watch leaping, shin-kicking, wrestling, coursing and jousting. In the mid-18th century, they seem to have given way to the ‘Much Wenlock Games’ in Shropshire. These Games were more like a miniature version of the ancient Olympic Games. It is said that the ‘Much Wenlock Games’ inspired Baron de Coubertin to revive the Olympic Games in 1896, when they were initially called the ‘Olympian Games’.
The 18th century had seen a distinct commercialism of leisure. The theatre, music, dancing and even sports were activities to which the new leisured middle-class, although small in numbers, increasingly aspired.
Aristocratic patronage had enabled some sports – horse racing, cricket, professional rowing and prize fighting, to become more formalised and appear on a larger stage. The founding of the Jockey Club (1752), the MCC (1788) and the introduction of a rudimentary national prize fighting Championship, under the ‘Broughton Rules’ (1743-1860), attracted crowds of up to 10,000 from far and wide.
The second distinct stream of athletics was professional pedestrianism, which had had a regular history ever since the Restoration in 1660. This probably started when gentleman took to having both town and country houses. Travel on the abominable roads of the time between their houses was so slow that their footmen could run faster than the family horse-drawn-coach and could even go further in a day than a man on horseback.
In an age given over to much gambling, gentlemen arranged matches between their footmen who were often little more than professional pedestrians retained for that specific purpose. A strong runner could easily obtain a position as a footman and his duties, of carrying messages or going in front of the family coach to make arrangements for the journey, kept him in good fettle for such matches that his master might arrange. However, the improved roads by the end of the 18th century gradually made the running footman superfluous.
18th century annals are full of accounts of wagers for the performance of various athletic feats. Professional pedestrians performed most of the more serious feats and amateurs were only occasionally involved, although they often took part in the more preposterous wagers.
Contests ranged from those lasting seconds or minutes, requiring great swiftness; those lasting one or more hours, demanding good wind and great agility; to matches of one or more often several days duration. Many of the more serious and most popular contests were feats of endurance and long distance matches against time.
These contests usually only involved just one or two contestants, who were drawn from almost every class of society, including - army officers, country gentlemen, farmers, labourers, shepherds, butchers and those who were purely professional pedestrians.
Throughout the approximate period 1800-1825, many amateur athletes contested matches at Newmarket Racecourse, on the Uxbridge Road or at Lord’s Cricket Ground. These contests also attracted much interest from spectators. It is therefore difficult to understand why the codification and formalisation of athletics did not take place half a century earlier than it did.
After about 1850, the popularity of foot racing between gentlemen appears to have waned for some reason. However, with fewer amateurs involved, professional pedestrianism steadily continued to increase throughout most of the 19th century, despite periodic booms and troughs in its popularity.
The ‘Volunteer Force’ (forerunner of the Territorial Army) was formed in 1859, as a military reserve to support our always small regular army, in response to the threat of a possible invasion by France. The ‘Volunteer Force’ laid great stress on physical exercise for its civilian soldiers. This is often said to explain the outburst of athletic activity throughout the country around the mid-1800s. The more probable catalyst was the need for an outlet for the pressure resulting from the sedentary nature of modern commercial and professional life in the towns and cities.
However, there is no doubt that the first amateur athletic sports were inspired by the performances of the professional pedestrians. Whenever there was a cluster of professional stars, as between 1845 and 1853, the amateurs were stimulated to imitate them. It is not surprising that the first cluster of regular and organised athletics meetings for adults were heard of at this time.
From 1837, Eton College staged sprint hurdles races (usually 100yards over 10 flights); flat sprint races; and possibly their steeplechase. They were all run on different days. This is the first known written reference to hurdles races. By 1861 or so, all of the Public Schools were holding athletics sports.
One autumn day in the 1850 Oxford University Michaelmas term, four or five Exeter College undergraduates, who had ridden horses in their college’s annual steeplechase, popularly known as the ‘College Grind’, enjoyed a convivial evening together discussing the day’s sport. One of them was a certain Halifax Wyatt whose horse had unfortunately landed into a road on its head instead of its legs.
No doubt fortified by ‘dutch courage’ after much drinking, Halifax Wyatt exclaimed “I’d run across two miles of country on foot”. “Well, why not?” his friends chorused – “Let’s have a ‘College Foot Grind’”. One of them even suggested a race or two on the flat as well, and so it was agreed. The conditions were drawn up, stakes named, officials appointed, and shortly afterwards the inaugural Exeter College annual athletics sports meeting, open to all Oxford undergraduates, was staged.
The first afternoon saw a 2-mile race across country with 24 jumps, held on a flat marshy farm at Binsey, near the Severn Bridge Road. It was very wet with some fields completely flooded. The next afternoon races were held in Port Meadow, on a field of unlevelled turf. There were open races over 100yds, 300yds, 400yds, Mile and 140yds Hurdles (10 flights, each 10yds apart); and closed races for Exeter College undergraduates only – over 60yds, 100yds and 150yds. Such was the first ever athletics meeting staged at a university college.
In 1851, Exeter College, Oxford, added the high jump and broad jump (long jump) in their summer meeting on Bullingdon. In 1855, St. John’s and Emmanuel were the first Cambridge colleges to hold similar meetings. By 1861, all Oxford colleges were staging meetings, and by 1863, all Cambridge colleges had followed suit.
The staging of similar athletics meetings spread like a forest fire. After the Public Schools and Oxbridge Colleges, clubs for adults outside of formal education were formed first in London and then in the provinces. By about 1852, the practice of devoting a day or afternoon to stage a meeting, for contests in the old English sports of running, jumping and throwing weights, was accepted as a recognised and reasonable form of sport.
However, the sport had no championships, open competitions or team matches and progress towards such concepts was painfully slow. In many ways, athletics was still considered to be an activity primarily for schoolboys or, by a little stretch of the imagination, undergraduates or for those in the military for fitness purposes.
It was a few years before we begin to hear of a class of adult amateur athletes (as opposed to professional ‘peds’) holding meetings of their own. During the intervening period and even well before that time, Britain's leading sporting newspaper: the ‘Bell’s Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle’ had occasionally reported amateurs matching themselves against the professionals, besides individual matches between amateurs. The day of the amateur was approaching. However, there was still at least one missing element needed before athletics meetings could be arranged in the adult world, outside of schools, universities and the military.
The missing element was probably the impetus given by a renewed surge of interest in professional pedestrianism in 1860s. An Amerindian Louis Bennett (b. 1825-30 – d. 9/1/1896), who was better known as ‘Deerfoot’, ("Hut-goh-so-do-neh" in his Seneca tribal language), visited England in 1861and began a thrilling series of matches against more than a score of the best English pedestrians.
This racing tour excited the public even more than the great pedestrian boom ten years earlier. The exploits of ‘Deerfoot’ set the public talking again about foot racing. In the winter of 1861, the West London Rowing Club held an athletics meeting at the West London Cricket Ground at Brompton, in west London, in the belief that their rowing men might enjoy some hard work and exercise to keep them in training during their off-season.
Probably the first ‘open’ race for amateurs was held on July 26th 1862, when a ‘professional pedestrian’ handicap-promoter, Mr. W. Price, offered a ‘handsome silver cup’ for competition between amateurs at the Hackney Wick Grounds, thinking that this would prove a new attraction to potential spectators. Five weeks later, on August 30th, this event was repeated with prizes for two more handicap races over 440yards and 1320yards.
It was not until the next year that the stray London runners made any effort to form themselves into a club. In June 1863, several gentlemen, including some of those who had figured in the West London Rowing Club meetings and Mr. Price’s handicaps, founded the Mincing Lane Athletic Club.
It was so named because most of the founding members were engaged in business in the famous commodities trading centre of Mincing Lane in the City of London. This new club held its first athletics meeting at the West London Grounds at Brompton on April 9th 1864. In the spring of 1866, the club’s name was changed to London Athletic Club (LAC).
Amateur athletics as an institution may be said to date from 1864. Not only did a regularly constituted club start to hold open races in that year, but the same season saw the first Inter-Varsity Sports between Oxford and Cambridge; and the Civil Service Athletic Club was founded.
It was a year or two before amateur athletics was to take on the basic form of modern athletics. In 1865 several football and cricket clubs promoted meetings. However, it was not until 1866 that athletics might be said to be a generally practised sport throughout the whole country. ‘The Athlete’ magazine recorded nearly 100 meetings in England in 1867; and nearly 150 meetings in 1868.
By this time the amateurs had decided to have nothing to do with the professional pedestrians of the day, owing to the ‘roping’ and ‘squaring’ and the betting rings, practised by many of the professionals who were more interested in fixing races for betting purposes and the resultant financial gain.
The second London club to be formed was the Amateur Athletic Club (AAC), which was founded in 1866, by some university graduates and London athletes. That club’s object was: “to supply the want of an established ground upon which competitions in amateur athletic sports might take place, and to afford as completely as possible to all classes of gentlemen amateurs the means of practising and competing against one another, without being compelled to mix with professional runners”.
From the start, the Amateur Athletic Club set out to promote championship meetings and held the first Amateur Championships (forerunner of the AAA Championships) in the spring of 1866. No doubt, the intention of the founders was to place their club in the same position that the MCC stood for cricketers. At first the idea seemed promising and the AAC acquired the Lillie Bridge Grounds in Fulham. In 1868, the AAC opened this splendid running ground for amateurs and it immediately became the headquarters for amateur athletics.
However, most active athletes continued to ally themselves more with the London AC, rather than with the AAC, and the latter club soon ceased to hold any meetings other than the ‘Amateur Championships’. In 1879 the situation came to a head when two separate ‘Amateur Championships’ were staged, the first by the AAC and the second by the LAC.
In 1880 the Championships were taken over by the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA), after the formation of that governing body. The series of annual track and field Championships has continued unbroken from 1866 up to the present day, except during the two World Wars.
The developments on the track were soon followed by almost parallel developments over the country in the form of paper-chases and steeplechases.
In paper-chases derived from the schoolboy sport of ‘hares and hounds’, the ‘hares’ (usually two more experienced runners) laid a paper-trail course of their own choice. All the other runners, called 'hounds' followed the ‘scent’ (paper trail) with the object of catching the ‘hares’. The ‘hares’ starting some minutes before the ‘hounds’ were allowed to mislead the ‘hounds’, and gain additional time, by laying false trails in addition to the true trail.
This early form of organised cross country running is said to be rooted in the Rugby School ‘Crick’, ‘Barby’ and ‘Bilton’ runs which date from about 1837, the year the young Queen Victoria came to the throne.
The 9-mile ‘Barby’ run out to the nearby 'Barby' village church and back, by different routes each time it was run, is described in Thomas Hughes’ classic part-autobiographical novel ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ first published in 1857.. It records that the ‘hares’ were given six minutes ‘grace’ (start ahead of the ‘hounds’) and all ‘hounds’ that finished the run within fifteen minutes of the ‘hares’ were considered to have completed the run successfully.
However, there is evidence that another Public School in the Midlands, Shrewsbury School, started holding similar races on a regular basis at an even earlier date. The runs at Shrewsbury School were held twice-weekly during the autumn term, amid great ceremony. A huntsman in a black cap, a scarlet jersey and long socks, set the pace. Most of the chasing runners ran coatless, although many carried heavy sticks to ward off the feckless town ruffians, who regularly stoned the runners. That school's CC Club, known as "The Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt" (RSSH) has the distinction of being the oldest CC (cross country) Club in the World, with hand-written records known as 'Hound Books' going back to 1831 and there are accounts elsewhere that the sport was established at Shrewsbury School by 1819.
Dr. Benjamin Hall Kennedy (b. 6/11/1804 – d. 6/4/1889) was the Principal (Headmaster) of Shrewsbury School from 1836 until 1866 and the writer of a number of Classics' textbooks, including the two most famous textbooks: Latin Primer and Latin Grammar. He was also prominent in the establishment of the Cambridge all-women colleges: Girton and Newnham in 1869 & 1871 respectively.
Professor Roger Robinson, who ran for Guildford & Godalming AC and Cambridge University, and who is now resident in New Zealand and the USA, spent a week in 1998 in Shrewsbury. Whilst there, he did his best to trace and run the old original CC courses: 'The Bog', 'The Drayton', 'The Tucks', and the 14-mile 'The Long', He also managed to locate landmarks cited in the 'Hound Books' like the Severn River, the little grass-clogged Berwick Brook, Coton Hill, 'Sundome Farm', 'Battlefield' (where Henry IV retained his kingdom in 1403) and the tiny communities of Hencott and Atcham.
The sport of 'Hare and Hounds’ (also known as ‘hunt the fox’ or ‘hunt the hare’) as an informal amusement for schoolboys, goes back centuries, at least since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It is probably as old as any athletic activity in England. The runs of Shrewsbury School and Rugby School would seem to be a development of this old schoolboy game, although on a more organised and formalised basis, with school prefects overseeing adherence to the rules.
In steeplechases, derived from Horse Racing, the runners followed a more predetermined course between known points such as churches, old trees or hills. If necessary, such courses might be marked by a paper trail to assist the runners.
The idea of Cross Country runs spread from Shrewsbury School and Rugby School to Marlborough College and other Public Schools and in due course Cross Country clubs were formed by ‘old boys’ (former pupils) of such schools.
The popularity of a few steeplechases arranged by some members of Thames Rowing Club in the winter of 1867-68 led to their founding the first adult club for cross country running in the following winter. This was the Thames Hare and Hounds whose opening event was a paper chase on October 17th 1868, from the King’s Head, Roehampton, which remained their headquarters until the summer of 1975 when the old stable block used for changing, etc., was gutted by fire, and the brewers wouldn't reinstate the building.
During the next few years many paper-chase packs were started round London. Most of them were not formal clubs and few survived long, after their founder’s initial enthusiasm had waned.
One of the successful few was started at Peckham Rye, where the Peckham Hare and Hounds held its first official paper chase in October 1869, from their first headquarters at the ‘King’s Arms’. That club soon changed its name to Peckham Amateur Athletic Club (PAAC). After nine years in Peckham Rye, at the ‘King’s Arms’ and then the ‘Rye House’, the club moved to the ‘Green Man’, Blackheath, With that move came the change of name to the Blackheath Harriers.
The Clubs called ‘Harrier Clubs’ were organising paper-chases and steeplechases from the late 1860s. Some of these clubs confined themselves to such forms of athletics. Although Thames Hare & Hounds did promote a few open track meetings in their earliest days, they soon confined themselves to the cross country forms of athletics.
However, some of the ‘Harrier clubs’ were equally active in track and field athletics and arranged members contests and open meetings on the track, then more usually known as ‘the path’. Of such clubs that have survived to the present day, Peckham AAC (Blackheath H.) and South London Harriers were the first and second clubs to be active in both track & field and cross country. South London Harriers did this from its first few months of existence. No doubt, this was at least partly due to the fact that several of its earliest members were ex-members of Peckham AAC (Blackheath H.).
The mid-19th century saw a transformation of most sports. The catalysts for this transformation were as follows: -
a) The increasing acceptance of sport as a vital and integral part of the curriculum and ethos of the ‘Public Schools’ set in motion the shaping of modern sport by former pupils of such schools who, after coming down from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, would spread the gospel of organised sport with missionary zeal in industrial towns and cities. They were largely responsible for the formal codification of the rules and the founding of many national governing bodies to administer the many forms of modern sport which followed.
b) i) The abolition of three of the ‘taxes on knowledge’, which had been imposed during the 18th century. The tax on advertisements; the stamp duty on newspapers; and the tax on newsprint; were abolished one by one in the years of 1853, 1855 and 1861, respectively,
b) ii) The invention of the electric recording telegraph,
b) iii) Modern methods of printing that changed the craft of printing, introduced into Europe in 1440 by the German goldsmith and inventor of 'printer's ink' (actually a varnish not an ink) Johannes Gutenberg with his 'moveable wooden (and later metal) type' press, into the industry of printing by Friedrich Gottlob König's 1814 steam press, which produced 1,100 sheets per hour in 1814. This was vastly improved to the 20,000 sheets per hour produced by Richard March Hoe's high speed printing press invented in 1858. His 1871 stereotype rotary press printed 18,000 8-page newspapers an hour and his 1875 4-page wide supplement press printed 24,000 12-page newspapers per hour. By 1884, such presses combined with the watchmaker Ottmar Mergenthaler's Linotype machine enabled very fast setting of type, and the use of cheap wood pulp for newsprint, which allowed low cost printing of thousands of sheets a day.
These changes enabled rapid newsgathering and economic production of newspapers in unlimited numbers. The Press was then able to fan the people’s taste for sporting diversions by advertising and reporting sporting events.
c) The growth of a national railway network, allowed speedy travel at reasonable and affordable prices. It also enabled organised sport to function on a national basis and greatly assisted the spread of interest in sport by rapidly carrying national newspapers, in great numbers, to all parts of the country.
d) The need for an outlet to release the pressure built up by the sedentary nature of modern commercial and professional life in the towns and cities.
e) i) The introduction of comparatively shorter working hours and changes in the rhythms of work resulting from changes in, and reforms of, society which led to an ever increasing exodus from the land to an ever more urban society.
e) ii) Increased salaries/wages, due to an expanding world economy from 1850.
These changes gradually allowed many people the opportunity to devote more time and money to leisure, albeit in much more modest ways compared with the late-20th century.
Who were the early members of South London Harriers (SLH)?
What kind of people were these Victorian trailblazers?
What sort of World was it then and what was life like?
If significant and practical time travel were possible and available to us today, many such important questions surrounding the early years of South London Harriers (SLH), could no doubt be answered.
As time travel to go as far back as to the mid-19th Century, and to return safely to the present day, are not yet options in our search for the answers to these and other questions, we are left with those records, which have survived to this day.
The good news is that many of our Minutes’ books and Treasurers’ ledgers are still intact and we have every single issue of our ‘SLH Gazette & Club Chronicle’, going back to January 1885, when it was first issued, only just over thirteen years after our Club was founded.
The bad news is that although our early members were no doubt very fine fellows, historians they were not. The first Minutes’ Book, which covers the period until late 1879, contains only brief details and does not record all committee meetings that took place before June 1876.
This fact is patently clear, as local newspapers, which often recorded brief details of our early Committee meetings, reported at least one such meeting not included in our first Minutes’ Book and the number of membership-changes not recorded therein, was at least two-thirds of all such changes. These missing membership-changes include the election of some of our most famous early members.
Furthermore, several Minutes’ books from our first sixty years of existence were destroyed, during an air raid on London. Most galling is the loss of those covering the period from late 1879 until the advent of our Club Gazette in 1885. This is only partially compensated for by the survival of an early Treasurer’s ledger covering the period from October 1876 to January 1882.
Old results and reports featured in national and local newspapers were available on microfilm at the British Museum’s Newspaper Annex at Colindale until it was closed recently. Those old results and reports are gradually being made available on the internet. Old results and reports are available to view on microfiche at the Local History Library in each of the Local Authorities in which we have been based.
However, one soon learns that newspaper editors have always had only two main aims, to fill all the pages and then to sell as many copies of each issue as possible. What they fill the pages with is of less importance, although if it is eye-catching to prospective readers, then that is all to the good.
It is now almost impossible for anyone to reach back so far and arrive at complete answers to all the questions that we might wish to ask or to gain a full understanding of what it was really like to live in that time. Probably, most people would now see it as almost a different planet.
Certainly, it has been said that “the past is another country, they do things differently there”. This is one of the main factors that make it so difficult and indeed almost impossible for the likes of present-day cinema or television film producers, directors, actors and actresses to recreate really authentic period films.
Even the least difficult things to get right, such as the inanimate objects like buildings and their contents, some forms of transport and clothes can cause problems. The clothes are nearly always too clean besides often being made from modern materials with different qualities compared with the original materials and giving a different feel to the wearer.
The more difficult problems tend to be human ones. The way that people spoke and the way speech sounded in periods before the advent of sound recording has been fairly well researched and documented. However, actors and actresses have to deliver their lines with various regional and social accents and intonations of the period, which are often specially modified in respect of regional accents and dialect words, in order to be readily understood by the average modern-day filmgoer or viewer.
Furthermore, 'baby-boomers' and those younger never seem to get 1930s and 1940s accents even half-right when they deliver very exaggerated accents, probably because they don't really listen carefully enough to the films and recordings that have survived.
Each person’s experience of life is essentially unique, although many experiences may be shared with various different groups of people during one’s lifetime.
Most of the limited World War II newsreel film that has survived gives the erroneous impression that most schoolchildren were evacuated from London under a government scheme. I lived and went to school near the Charlton Athletic F.C. Valley Ground and the Docks on the south bank of the Thames opposite London's most famous docks, between June 1939 & May 1941, including the 'Blitz' and never knew anyone who was evacuated.
Another myth perpetuated by newsreel film is that most Londoners slept in London Underground 'Deep Tube' Stations each night. A census carried out during the 'Blitz' on the night of September 27th 1940 found that only 177,500 people were sleeping in such Stations that night.
Only a little thought would show that there is little space in all of the deep tube stations of the London Underground System as there are so many 'Above Ground' Stations & 'Sub-Surface' Stations that could not be used as shelters, for obvious reasons. It was only a minute proportion of London’s wartime swollen population of 8.615 million that slept in the 'deep tube' stations, bearing in mind that the tube trains maintained a reasonably normal service until 9pm or so each night.
Every person that lives is in a sense the prisoner of his or her own time.
The easiest mistake to make is to think that people in the past thought like people do now and had the same wants and prejudices. Certainly, very few people suffered from the emotional incontinence that seems so prevalent nowadays.
Who were the earliest members of South London Harriers?
In 1934, J.P.Arkell, who had joined SLH in September 1893, compiled a splendid 131-page hand-written booklet. It contains a list of members from 1871 to 1900 inclusive, and notes on the Club sources and statistical methods used. As an experienced Civil Service statistician, he was able to reconstruct this list with amazing accuracy.
J.P.Arkell’s membership list indicates 135 ordinary members plus several Vice-Presidents had been elected by September 30th 1876. This figure of 135 ordinary members includes ten members who were unknown by name to J.P.Arkell.
However, the writer of this history discovered the names of those ten members, plus another twenty-one members, all but one of whom, were elected before August 1872. These recent discoveries in local newspapers of the time on microfilm mean that the names of 156 ordinary members, elected by September 30th 1876, are now known. The turnover in membership was rather higher in the first year or so of the Club’s existence than J.P.Arkell calculated. He used statistical methods based on the wastage figures of a few years later, when the Club had become better established, rather than a fledgling club trying to find its feet in a new ‘world of athletics’.
What kind of people were our early members?
They were without exception at least members of the various middle strata of what are loosely called the middle-classes and some were even possibly from the upper middle-classes and upper-classes.. Some of our early Vice-Presidents were even members of the aristocracy or peerage.
Our members were mostly engaged in the professions or were something in the City of London. Those who were athletically active had all been born during the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. Most had been educated at various Public Schools, although some may have been to Grammar School.
The majority of members were in their early twenties although some were as young as 17 or 18 years of age. As it was not customary for men, of the middle-classes and above, to marry until they were able to keep a wife in the manner, style and comfort that she was accustomed to, most of our earliest active members were probably unmarried. They lived in various parts of London either in their parents’ family home or, if their parents lived in the country, in rented ‘lodgings’ (a room or rooms in somebody else’s house). There were few if any blocks of flats for leasing or rental in those days.
Victorian England was a very hierarchically-conscious society, comprising a long series of small and interconnected social gradations in which each stratum merged imperceptibly into the next. It was a society of countless intricate and subtle distinctions, confusing to foreigners and even some natives.
By around 1870 the foundations of Victorian England had been laid. Religion, work, self-help, self-reliance and self-control lay at the heart of the lives of the middle-classes and the skilled and respectable working-classes. They all wished to embrace gentility to some degree or other, and in many ways, they shared a number of similar aspirations and had more in common with each other, than with the other elements of society, above and below them.
However, competition, one of the main driving forces in the lives of the middle-classes, was not seriously shared with any other section of society.
What sort of world was it then and what was life like for our early members?
The 1867 2nd Representation of the People Act (commonly known as the 2nd Reform Act) had enfranchised all male householders living in towns and cities, who paid £12 pa or more rent, and all their male lodgers, who paid £10 pa or more rent. One in three male adults living in the towns and cities now had the vote compared with the previous one in five in England & Wales and one in eight in Scotland. In other words, many more urban-adult males, from the skilled and respectable working classes upwards, now had the vote.
The 1872 Ballot Act introduced the casting of one’s vote in secret instead of having to declare one’s vote aloud. However, parliamentary candidates and their workers were still able to offer bribes and threaten voters until the 1883 Corrupt & Illegal Practices Act forbade such activities. Male householders living in the country would not get the vote until the 1884 Franchise Act (3rd Reform Act) and non-Christians would have to wait until 1888 before they were allowed to sit in the House of Commons as MPs.
The river Thames had been an open sewer before Sir Joseph Bazelgette’s new sewerage system had been built in 1865. The dreaded Cholera disease had come from the East in 1849, and was responsible for 14,000 deaths in that year. Another outbreak had claimed a further 10,000 souls in 1854. By 1870, death from Cholera was almost a thing of the past.
Once the better off Victorians grasped the importance of good drainage, they became obsessed with cleanliness and hygiene. Although new houses now started to come with internal plumbing, the new technology was often not perfect and cracked pipes and inefficient waste traps abounded. These imperfections meant that health problems were by no means all solved.
On a winter’s day, a family house in the better neighbourhoods would have at least four or five coal-fires alight and might even have up to a dozen fires on the go, if the need arose. Coal-smoke, from thousands upon thousands of domestic fires, kitchen ranges and industrial plants, meant that a murky haze usually hung over London. However, the prevailing westerly wind nearly always made conditions worse in the more eastern parts of London, where more industry was sited.
Fog was not quite such a regular occurrence as some 19th Century novels would lead us to believe, as only certain conditions forced smoke downwards to form thick fog, which came in two types, yellow (sulphurous) and black (sooty). However, fog would leave greasy smuts everywhere indoors and outside, and also soiled one’s clothes.
Even if one carried a lighted fire brand in one hand, it was difficult to orient oneself in fog in the day-time, and almost impossible at night. The general confusion was ideal for ‘pickpockets’.
Although most fogs were in autumn and winter, they also occurred in summer when kitchen ranges were still needed to be on the go for cooking and for heating water. Typical kitchen ranges, or ‘kitcheners’ as they were sometimes called, most of which were derived from the ‘Bodley’ Range patented in 1802, devoured enormous amounts of coal.
The mixture of fog and the smell of many horses produced a pungent odour, which was typical of Victorian London and the smell was at its worst in the heat of summer.
Sir Frederick Treves, a famous medical doctor of the time, calculated that a square mile of fog contained about six tons of soot. Such conditions, which led to the deaths of thousands, would not be generally eased until the 1920s and 1930s when gas and electric fires started to replace some coal-fires. However, fogs only became a rarity after the 1956 Clean Air Act had been introduced.
Surgical operations especially on internal organs, including the appendix, were always life threatening until well into the 20th Century and the introduction of sulpha-drugs. With all these dangers, it is not surprising that so many people, who had survived childhood, died well before retirement age, and that only a relatively few lived beyond the proverbial ‘three score and ten’.
For some reason, ‘Appendicitis’, then a new word for an age-old condition, which had existed under other names, seems to have been more prevalent than it is today. Perhaps the heavy eating and drinking, of many of those who could afford to do so, was responsible. Such excesses certainly did not aid life expectancy.
The middle-classes in the mid-19th Century seem to have eaten well and the reputation for ‘keeping a good table’ was the hallmark of success. Formal entertaining was easier in summer when salmon, lamb and other delicacies were in season. These and bananas, grapes, oranges, peaches and pineapples, which were only available at certain times of the year, were very expensive and were only served at dinner-parties. The grander the dinner and number of guests, the greater the number of courses served, and anything up to as many as fourteen courses were not unknown.
If keeping food hot was difficult, in those days, keeping it fresh was even more so, despite the existence of not very efficient non-mechanical ‘ice-boxes’. ‘Ice-men’ would deliver blocks of ice for use in these ‘ice-boxes’. The ice would have been cut from ponds and lakes during winter before being stored in vaults deep underground.
In the country, where shops were few and far between, obtaining provisions could be a problem especially in winter. Town dwellers were better served due to the proximity of the many urban shops, not only well stocked with staple items, but which also imported exotic delicacies for those who could afford such fare.
Fresh fish was cheap, popular and available the whole year round. Mutton, roasted and in various other guises, was the staple meat on most days, whilst a joint of beef was only bought once a week. Bacon was invariably provided at breakfast and sometimes served as a savoury dish at the end of dinner in the evening. Various soups, milk puddings and a galaxy of steamed puddings were daily fare.
All middle-class families had servants, although the numbers employed naturally depended on the family’s means. Family dinners in the evening usually comprised four courses. However, their servants were often expected to subsist on one or occasionally two courses, though they were probably also allowed to eat any leftovers, which could not be kept fresh. That was the background when SLH was taking its first few steps in the athletics world.
Our track bases have remained predominantly in 'inner London, both north and south of the Thames'.
Since our first track meeting, which we held on Saturday, August 27th 1872, at the Belair Estate of Mr. C.W.C. Hutton [SLH President 1873-74] in Gallery Road, Dulwich, we have used 45 different venues for staging track and field meetings and training with a coach present.
My research outside SLH Club records shows that our next promotion was an SLH 440 yards handicap, with three heats and a final, held on October 10th 1872 along Barry Road close to our first CC HQ, at the 'Vivien Hotel', Peckham Rye. This was repeated in April 1873, but with 100yds, 440yds, and 880yds handicaps. In January 1874, the parallel adjoining Friern Road was used for 150yds handicap and 880yds level races.
The Barry and Friern Roads were part of the large Barry Estate. Although new at the time, they were not modern metal roads but little more than brick dust paths. However, like the Barry and Friern Roads of today, they were both quite straight, ran close to and parallel with each other and were both about three quarters of a mile long, linking Lordship Lane and Peckham Rye Road. Albert AAC used these roads to form a lap for longer races. These paths were used for other similar SLH low key events and track running in our earliest years.
Even just into the 20th Century, all cinder tracks were usually referred to as 'paths'. Perhaps this was because many of the earliest tracks were only three or possibly four lanes wide.
The nearby Brown's Cricket Ground, Nunhead, was the venue for SLH members' handicap races at 880yds and 120yds on July 2nd 1874.
Contrary to popular belief, we were active in field events from our very beginning. At two meetings in one week in June 1872, we won the pole vault and had the first three in the long jump in one meeting, and won the high jump and had the first four in the long jump in the next meeting besides our usual successes in the sprints and longer track races. We even had a hammer thrower in our first summer season.
Bennett's Field, Queen's Road, Peckham, was regularly used to stage athletics meetings by various bodies in the 1870s and we may have held meetings on that grass track.
What is certain is that we staged our first Kennington Oval 'SLH Open Meeting' in September 1875, followed by similar meetings in the next two years before the 1878 and 1879 events were cancelled due to financial constraints. It is not clear whether the event took place in 1880-82, but thereafter these annual promotions went from success to success and developed into two similar meetings each spring and autumn from 1889 until World War I. Several world records were broken at these events. 1904 saw the high tide of these nationally famous Saturday afternoon meetings with record April and September attendances of over 18,000 and 20,000 respectively, in Alfred Shrubb's farewell season.
Hyde Farm, Balham [Grass Track], sited opposite the Balham-Crystal Palace railway line and Tooting Bec Common, was used at least for training in the 1890s, before and after we moved our CC HQ to south Croydon, in October 1891. Our Club Gazette in 1892 drew members' attention to the Hyde Farm track for mid-week training purposes.
Unfortunately, SLH Club records are mostly silent on the subject of our track training and venues until our Gazette was first published in January 1885, only six months after we took a 7-year lease on the track and grounds and Club 'shanty-hut' at Oldridge Road, Balham. From 1885, the picture is generally clearer although the exact situation regarding our summer training and the level of usage by our members is often unclear.
The SLH Grounds and Clubhouse at Oldridge Road, Balham, a short walk north from Balham railway station, was convenient although the track, 320yds round and 5½ laps to the mile with tennis grass courts in the middle, had its limitations. The hope of a long period of stability at one main venue disappeared after our lease ran out and could not be renewed due to impending building plans.
For the twenty three years, from 1892 until 1914, we tended to switch backwards and forwards between Stamford Bridge, Herne Hill and Crystal Palace. The choice of venue was most often based on the quality of facilities available and the discounted terms that we could obtain for track hire and railway travel, at the time. In those days, sprinters were attracted to Stamford Bridge because one of its straights had an extension to allow a straight 250yds on the railway side of the ground. However, Crystal Palace was considered the fastest cinder track surface in London.
In this period, our field events' stalwart, Alfred Edward Flaxman, won the 1909 AAA Pole Vault and 1910 AAA Hammer Championships before he and three other SLH men fell on the first day of the Somme, July 1st 1916, He was a fine all-round field events athlete, despite lacking height and weight at only 5ft 9ins and 150 lbs, who lived in Baker Street. When throwing the hammer, he used four turns and regularly threw more than a foot for every pound of his weight, which is exceptional and was due to his superb technique and strength, pound for pound.
Until this period track & field team matches were very rare. Our first was staged on July 26th 1902 at Crystal Palace against the Racing Club de France, which continued on an annual exchange basis until 1914. Other than a few Championships, track competitions had previously been virtually confined to 'Open' events, mostly comprising handicaps, although there had been a few Individual Challenge matches.
Handicaps were designed to result in the closest possible, and therefore most exciting, finish. There have been at least four different methods:-
1) Yacht – Used for the walks and cross country. Athletes started at intervals in time, as in our current Boxing Day CC Handicap.
2) Staggered – Used for track racing. Runners started at the same time but at different points on the track to reflect their estimated form.
3) Sealed – Results are calculated after the race or field event on the basis of notional time/distance/height advantages. This should still be the theory behind our usual CC handicaps these days, although the actual handicaps now tend to be broadcast shortly before the race on the day rather than 'sealed' (i.e., not broadcast), which the custom used to be).
4) Horse Racing – Used occasionally in the very earliest days, by wearing a belt with different weights. This was not a very practical method for handicapping humans.
After World War I, the 'umbilical cords' with our three main pre-war tracks gradually weakened as we seemed to become even more nomadic. Often our coaches' preferences were a significant factor in our choice of the ever increasing number of new tracks springing up in the 1920s and 1930s.
This was a time of great expansion for athletics and especially the involvement of women, although most belonged to 'women only' clubs. Even more importantly for both sexes, it saw the introduction of events and track & field Championships for the 'Under Men's & Women's Under19 year old' age groups and the introduction of athletics into all state schools.
'Billy' Holt, our Hon. Secretary., and a Lloyds Bank Manager was the driving force during much of this period and was mainly responsible for cornering the market in athletes working in the London banks. This explains why the Lloyds Bank and Westminster Bank grounds, at New Beckenham and Norbury, respectively, featured in our activities. This period also saw a great increase in the number and standard of SLH field event athletes. At this time, we used the noted track coach, Guy Butler, and the great field events coach Capt. F.A.M. Webster, who had been a close pre-war friend of our Alfred Flaxman.
In 1929, SLH were the main instigators of the original Southern Men's T&F League. At first there was only one division, comprising: SLH, Polytechnic Harriers, Belgrave H, Surrey AC, HHH and Highgate Harriers. Events were in the form of level relay and team races in the hope of discouraging 'open' handicaps, which unfortunately lingered on until the 1960s.
In 1930, the league added the discus & javelin and second & third divisions were formed. A system of promotion & relegation was introduced, which saw Southgate H., replace Surrey AC in the top division at the end of the season.
In 1931 SLH were clear Southern Men's T&F League Champions with Polytechnic H., and Belgrave H., second & third. Amongst those competing for us in the league were Jack Stubbs, 'Seppy' Edenborough and Frank Humphris.
By 1932 most of the jumps and other throws had been added to the programme. Charles Reidy (an alumnus of Stonyhurst College) was the first AAA Junior Shot Champion in 1931 and featured for SLH in this league which prospered until hostilities began in September 1939. Charles Reidy played in the 1937 Rugby Union International for Ireland against Wales. He was in the 2nd row with the famous R.B. 'Paddy' Mayne, DSO & 3 Bars, a founder of the SAS in WWII, who played in the 3 tests on the 1938 British Lions tour of South Africa. Charles Reidy became an outstanding post-war hammer thrower. He still holds the SLH Club Hammer record: 51.20m set in 1952.
The prestigious White City Stadium after refurbishment was difficult to resist in 1933. However, high costs and restricted hours for athletics training due to other activities at the stadium, such as Greyhound racing, Professional Boxing & Equestrian Show Jumping', and its location north of Shepherd's Bush, pointed us in other directions at the end 1934.
The London University track at Motspur Park had the finest facilities. We flirted with that venue before and after World War II, but it was always rather outside our normal area of summer home activities. So in 1937 we turned to the new Tooting Bec track and staged the inaugural club match held there. It was to remain our main track base until 1991.
In 1938 we hired the great Austrian freelance professional athletics coach & skiing instructor, Franz Stampfl, as our main Coach until he was interned. He returned in 1951 and remained our main coach until July 1955.
Thanks to a few veterans and some brilliant 'Junior Men', we maintained a token track presence during World War II. London AC, SLH and Blackheath H., banded together as 'The Combined Clubs' (TCC) although SLH were never able to field more than five members in any of the few 'TCC' fixtures, which steadily decreased from 1940 to 1942, as members were increasingly conscripted into the armed forces.
Excluding Jack Stubbs' race against the Royal Navy in the solitary 1943 'TCC' fixture, our track presence was left to our 'Under 19 Junior Men' who competed as the 'SLH Juniors'.
Southern Junior (Under 19) Championships were won in 1943 by VP John Peckham 100yds and Life Member Doug Adair 220yds; and VP Alan Grieve won the 100yds title in 1944 [10.1s] and 1945. SLH won the 1943 & 1944 4 x 110yds Relay titles.
After World War II, our track teams, including the abovementioned sprinters, other sprinters, hurdlers, middle/long distance track runners and several outstanding jumpers and throwers, and their successors, under our dynamic Track Captain, 'Bert' Liffen, were a force at national level until the early 1960s.
This was the 'heyday' of the Trophy Meetings. Our greatest post-war track achievement was finishing 2nd equal in the 1957 'Kinnaird' Trophy meeting, in 'Bert' Liffen's eleventh and last season as our Track Captain.
The Kinnaird (Senior men) Trophy meeting was on a par with the present day 'BAL' (British Men's T&F League). Similarly, the 'Waddilove' (Senior men) Trophy and 'Grenville' (U19 men) Trophy Joint Meeting with usually twelve clubs competing at the Birchfield Harriers old Perry Barr Stadium cinder track, in Birmingham (not far from its 'all-weather' track replacement from 1976: Alexander Stadium), were other prestigious meetings to which we were regularly invited.
Complementing the Trophy Meetings were inter-club matches, usually on mid-week evenings. In a summer season an elite athlete could easily compete in as many as 13 of the former and 16 of the latter, besides various Championships from club to national level and numerous representative matches, especially if one was also in the Armed Services on National Service.
For most of the immediate post-war period, Tooting Bec track was the only floodlit track in London. It was eerily lit by ex-army surplus hurricane-type lamps. They hissed loudly when alight and were sited at intervals on the infield grass by the track curb. Tooting was so popular and it became so crowded all year round that many of our field event athletes were forced to use various Bank grounds for specialised training and coaching.
Another professional SLH Club coach, J. B. Robertson, coached members at the Barclays Bank Ground in Norbury in 1948-49. In 1948, SLH coaches boycotted Tooting Bec track, due to the overcrowding. In the 1950s, there was a long-running 'cause célèbre' in the athletic & national press after hammer throwing practice was banned at the Battersea Park track.
Following the successful trial of a limited British Men's Athletics League in 1968, the Southern Men's T&F League was revived in a new and expanded form in 1969, after a thirty year absence. The Tooting Bec Cinder-track had gradually deteriorated over the years and when needed to host Southern Men's League fixtures, it was found wanting on several points such as width and number of lanes, etc. This explains our use of other venues for some meetings until the track was enlarged and an 'all-weather' surface was laid at Tooting in August 1985.
From 1973, the important influence of our current President, Mick Mein, on our track & field activities increased. In 1975 & 1976, we competed in the Young Athletes (Male) League but were unable to sustain our involvement any further at the time.
We ran a Southern Men's League 'B' team for 12 years (1981-1992) before dropping it due to insufficient technical officials and helpers to cover both teams. Our Women's section, formed in 1982, joined the Rosenheim (Wednesday Evenings – open to both sexes) and the Southern Women's T&F Leagues and the GRE Jubilee Cup (Sundays) in 1983.
Throughout our history, many of our active athletes have been unable to train at our track bases due to being away at university, in the Armed Forces on national service, or most often just living too far away. This was not a problem as, until comparatively recently, most of our active athletes were adults and the minority were shortly to leave school.
They had all been coached in at least the basics of most sports at school. The coaching most members required was more advisory and more in the nature of the 'Oxbridge-type' university tutorial with the emphasis on discussion, although it will always be necessary for very experienced on-lookers to check technique, including on film, and then draw attention to any apparent problems, etc.
As sport in many state schools gradually became more marginalised or almost disappeared completely, youngsters looked to sports clubs to fill the vacuum. However, we were less accustomed to providing basic coaching than some other athletics clubs, which had had a sizeable element of young teenagers for a longer time than SLH.
Hercules AC (which had plenty of athletes) had been based at Tooting Bec track before merging with Wimbledon AC (which had plenty of technical officials) in 1967. Many members of the merged club still trained at Tooting, rather than Wimbledon Park. By the late 1980s, SLH was struggling rather unsuccessfully to hold our own in recruiting track members in the face of strong competition from the long-time resident Herne Hill Harriers and also Hercules Wimbledon AC, which had increased its presence at Tooting Bec, after its conversion to an 'all-weather' track in August 1985. Both of our rivals had stronger basic-coaching set-ups than SLH at that time.
In 1991, we re-joined the Young Athletes (Male) League thanks to Paul Mongan's efforts. Also in 1991, we were offered the opportunity to become the sole athletics club based at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. We seized the opportunity and our coaching organisation increased significantly thanks to the efforts of our Crystal Palace Coaching Co-ordinator, Phil Hartnett, and his able lieutenants. They had worked wonders in a comparatively short time so that we were strong enough to join the Young Athletes (Female) League in 1996.
Excluding the prestigious Stamford Bridge Stadium (the AAA Championships venue for many years), and our enforced sojourn at Southwark Park, and most recently, 'Track Coulsdon' at Woodcote, most of our regular main track venues, used for training and competitions, have been in the relatively small area bounded by our venues, listed below:-
Barry Road & Friern Road – 1km from – Herne Hill Stadium (Athletics track encircled by Cycle track),
Herne Hill Stadium – 4km from – Oldridge Road Grounds, Balham,
Oldridge Road, Balham – 2km from – Tooting Bec Athletics Track,
Tooting Bec Athletics Track – 5km from – National Sports Centre. Crystal Palace track,
NSC, Crystal Palace track – 3km from – Barry Road & Friern Road, Peckham Rye.
This is an area that is much smaller than the London Borough of Croydon, which it partially adjoins. Compared with some other London Clubs, SLH has always had a wide membership catchment area with active athletes living not only in south London but also north of the Thames and in all parts of London towards what is now the M25 motorway and beyond. Until relatively recently, most of our active athletes worked in Central London, in the City and the West End. Many would often do track training or mid-week Evening meetings at our tracks on the way home.
Despite our cross country courses and HQs having been in the Croydon postal areas since October 1891, most of our middle and long distance runners lived in such areas as Clapham, Balham, Tooting, Streatham, and Crystal Palace in what may be termed 'Inner-South London' and many of our sprinters and field events athletes lived in or near areas in the northerly Croydon postal areas. Both groups would also train in each other's areas.
However, in the last forty to fifty years a gradual polarisation has developed whereby most of our sprinters and field athletes have tended to live in 'Inner-South London' and most of middle & long-distance athletes have gravitated to the predominantly 'middle-class' areas towards, around and beyond Coulsdon. A 'never the twain shall meet', on the training ground, situation has gradually developed to some extent.
For various reasons, many of our adult active members have not always trained at our summer and winter bases. This is the norm for most clubs throughout the country, especially in the more distant provinces, although not exclusively so.
For the record, all known venues used for track & field meetings and/or training are listed below. Six tracks have been used only once for a home fixture:-
Belair Estate,Gallery Road, Dulwich, SE21
(Grass) Inaugural SLH Track Meeting, August 24.th 1872.
Brown's Cricket Ground,Nunhead, SE 15
(Grass) Club Handicap races over 880yds & 220yds, July 2nd 1874.
Crystal Palace Park,SE19.
(Grass in the Park) SLH Boxing-Day Open Meeting, December 26th 1883.
Croydon Rugby Ground,Whitehorse Road, West Croydon,
(Grass) This venue was used on April 16th 1898 when we staged the SLH Spring Open Mtg, when the Oval Cricket Ground was being upgraded.
Beckenham Cricket Ground,19 Foxgrove Road, Beckenham, BR3 5AS
(Grass) Used for our 9th match versus Racing Club de France, July 1910
Sutton Adult School Athletic Ground,Gander Green Lane, SM3.
(Grass) Used for our 13th & last match versus Racing Club de France, May 1914
11 other tracks have been used for several home fixtures only:-
Kennington 'Oval' Cricket Ground, Harleyford Street, Kennington, SE11.
(Grass) This was the venue for the regular September Open Meeting (1875-77, 1880-1913 & 1925-27) & for the regular April Open Meeting (1889-97, & 1899-1914).
Lillie Bridge, Seagrave Road, Fulham, SW6.
(Cinder) This stadium was less than 300 yards north-west of the Stamford Bridge stadium.
Lillie Bridge was used in 1884 for four Evening Meetings and on July 5th for the first SLH International Meeting.
In September 1887, a match between two professional sprinters had been arranged. Both rival gangs of supporters wanted their man to lose for betting purposes. In the event, neither sprinter turned up, so a riot ensued with the angry crowd setting the stadium ablaze. Unfortunately, it burnt down never to rise again.
Richmond Rugby Ground,The Athletic Ground, Kew Foot Road, TW9,
(Grass) Used for one of our Evening Meetings in the three years (1922-24) to cover some SLH Club Championships
Duke of York's Barracks,King's Road, SW3.
(Cinder – 5 laps to a mile) Used twice for a main SLH Club Championships Saturday Day (July 1932 & Sept 1934)
Grove Park,City of London College Ground, 147 Marvels Lane, SE12 9PP
(Cinder) This venue was used for 6 matches, when SLH competed as part of 'The Combined Clubs' team in 1940.
(Cinder) This venue was used for two SLH Evening Meetings (1946).
Wimbledon Park,Home Park Road, SW19
(Cinder) Used for a fixture each year (1953-54 & 57), & for hosting our Southern Men's fixtures (1974-81) & our Rosenheim League home match in 1977.
(All-weather, 6-lane with an 8-lane straight) Used for our home Southern Men's Lge match (2012)
Norman Park,Hayes Lane, Bromley, BR2.
Used 'in extremis' for 1983 SLH Club Championship & a Young Athletes (Girls) League match (May 1996)
Two hours after the match start, we were informed that SLH were the hosts.
Kingsmeadow, Norbiton, KT1
This 'all-weather' track venue was used to 'co-host' a Southern Men's League fixture in the2010s. The previous 'cinder' track was replaced by the current 'all-weather' track, in which the previous back straight has become the start/finish straight, so that the steeplechase water jump is in the non-standard position: 'shortly after the new start/finish'.. Prior to that conversion, this venue was known as the 'Norbiton' track, as it is much nearer Norbiton Railway Station than it is to Kingston Station. The name 'Kingsmeadow' was borrowed from the 'Kingstonian FC' next-door ground's name, where AFC Wimbledon also now play soccer after vacating their Plough Lane ground.
18 venues have been used for both home fixtures and training:-
Barry Road,Peckham Rye, SE 22
(c. 0.75 mile Straight brick-dust road) 1872-1877.
Friern Road, Peckham Rye, SE22
(c. 0.75 mile Straight brick-dust track) 1874-1877.
SLH Grounds,Oldridge Road, Balham, SW12
(cinder: 520 yard track [5½ laps to a mile] encircling tennis courts)
1879 Club Handicap Mtg (440yd, 5 mile, 2 mile walk); & 1884-1891
Stamford Bridge, SW6
(cinder:: 1892-95, 1902-04, 1912-23, 1925-30),
NB. The ground also of Chelsea FC since 1904
Herne Hill Velodrome,SE24
London County Council Grounds, Burbage Road, SE 24
(cinder track & cycle track)
1892-93, 1896-1901; 1906; 1910; 1922
Crystal Palace,Ledrington Road, SE19
(cinder) 1902-03; 1905-11; 1925-30.
(All-weather) 1984-85 (training); 1991-2014 (training)
Sutton Arena,Middleton Road, Carshalton, SM5
(All-weather) This venue has been used to host a Southern Men's League Fixture in 2012, as well as some recent Club Championships. The previous 'cinder' track was called 'Carshalton' Track but when the current 'all-weather' track was laid, it was turned through 190 degrees and renamed Sutton Arena, as the Borough of Sutton provided the finance involved.
Track Coulsdon,Woodcote High School, Meadow Rise, Coulsdon, CR5
(All-weather) It was officially opened in July 2013.
The inexorable spread of London's suburbs due to the Capital's rapid expansion between 1816 and 1910, with three main building booms: 1816-1826, 1868-1880, and 1900-1910, forced us to move our cross country (CC) bases to more suitable running country.
Peckham Rye: Until October 1877, we had four CC HQs all within a stone's throw of each other in Peckham Rye:-
In 1871, although the railway network of main- and suburban-lines was widespread, there were no petrol- or diesel-driven motor-vehicles or deep-tube-lines. However, it was an exciting time, when our sport was in its formalised infancy. There was also little housing in the vicinity to the south of Peckham Rye, when our races started and finished on 'The Rye'.
During most of our Club's earliest 40-odd years, we usually only paid 'wet-rent', for our changing facilities, etc., at hotel CC HQs on Saturday afternoons and Bank Holidays, i.e., at no cost, if we agreed that our members and guests agreed to take our post-race and post-training run 'refreshments' and 'sit-down hot high-teas' (that Walter Henry Brooker called: "after-the-run knife-and-fork teas") and suppers 'in-house' at the 'Hotel/Inn' that we were using as our CC HQ at the time. In those days after eating, members and friends would gather round the log-fire and each person would sing a song, recite a poem or tell a story. The Saturday evenings were long and merry ones, usually closing with the Publican's words: "Time, gentlemen, please – time".
Over 60 years later, W.H. Brooker (SLH President 1909 – 10) who had two spells in SLH (July 1873 – November 1879 and from 1886 to October 1945, when he died aged 90), described the facilities, which SLH used for washing after races or training on cold winter Saturday afternoons in the early days. At Peckham Rye, runners took off the worst of the mud in a pail or footbath of warm water before using a sponge or sit-bath to finish off. The water was none too plentiful and more often than not was soon quite cold At the 'Greyhound' at Streatham Common, from 1877, changing was done in a draughty stable and the showers were a couple of pails of cold water thrown over each 'victim' by a burly Club trainer.
The exact reason for siting our first CC HQs in the Peckham Rye area is not absolutely clear. However, it was little more than 10 minutes by train from London Bridge station and 'The City' where most of our members probably worked. Also, the fact that several of our early members, including our first Hon. Secretary, had joined us from Peckham AAC (later known as Blackheath Harriers) was probably a major factor.
There was an informal agreement between the two clubs, whereby, for training & racing purposes, we tended to use the area south-west towards Dulwich and Peckham AAC to use the area south-east towards Brockley and Honor Oak Park via Nunhead. In those days, many athletes belonged to two clubs. Clubs with close connections usually arranged their CC races or training runs on a fortnightly basis so that members of the two clubs could run with the two clubs on alternate Saturdays.
For 2 years 1871-1874, SLH used 'The Vivian Hotel' at 34 Philip Road, sited on the south-side of Philip Road, a side-street off the east-side of Peckham Rye Road. Unfortunately, the hotel disappeared in a 1946/47 area redevelopment. Philip Road still exists although it is now called Philip Walk.
For two years 1874-1876, SLH used The Heaton Arms' at 249 Rye Lane, on the corner of Heaton Road and Peckham Rye Road. Unfortunately, it was recently demolished to allow the building of some flats.
For three months in 1876-1877, SLH used 'The King's Arms' at 132 Peckham Rye Road, on the north-west corner of the junction of East Dulwich Road and the Peckham Rye Road. This was Peckham AAC's first CC HQ., .for a few years from 1869. Unfortunately, it was completely demolished by WW II bombing. After the war, the present hotel was built on the site.
For 8 months in 1877, SLH used the 'Lime Villa Clubhouse. This was a small one-storey detached building in Nigel Road (a side-street off the west-side of the Peckham Rye Road) next door but behind "The Old White Horse" Hotel at 20-22 Peckham Rye Road. Both buildings seem to have survived to this day.
Streatham Common:-For four years, October 1877-1881, SLH used 'The Greyhound', Streatham Common, as our CC HQ. The present hotel, although set back a little, stands opposite the common (where we staged our CC races) on the corner of Streatham High Road and the north-side of Greyhound Lane. This has been the site of at least four different 'Inns' called 'The Greyhound', since the earliest record in the early 1700s, with new buildings in 1730, 1871, & 1930. Streatham Common Railway Station, which is half-a-mile down Greyhound Lane, was known as Greyhound Lane Station when it opened on December 1st 1862. When there was a train crash very close to that station, The Times' newspaper reported that the incident occurred close to the 'Streatham Common Station'. By 1870, the station had become officially known by that name, which is its current name.
Balham:From October 1881 until the late summer of 1884, when our CC HQ was based at 'The Bedford Arms', our CC Courses started 500m away on Dragmire Lane on the nearby Tooting Bec Common, by a railway bridge arch on the Balham to Crystal Palace railway line, where a Children's Play Area now stands. 'Dragmire Lane' was later renamed 'Cavendish Road'. It is now a modern metalled road until it crosses Fernlea Road, after which it is reduced to a narrow pedestrian path on Tooting Bec Common. Our CC Courses went out as far as Mitcham via Tooting Bec Common, the adjacent Tooting Graveney Common, Rectory Lane, Amen Corner and Tooting Junction Railway Station and down 'Figges Marsh'. The half-way point was on the corner of Sandy Lane, Mitcham.
The course returned home via what are now Streatham Lane and Mitcham Lane, before passing down Green Lane (which has been replaced by two modern metalled roads: Thrale Road and the short West Drive, after crossing Furzedown Road at that off-set junction). West Drive passes very close to the present Tooting Bec Athletics Track. After this our courses returned across Tooting Bec Common to the finish, which was between two tall trees some 10 to 11 ft (c. 3m or so) apart, very close to the race start point on Dragmire Lane.
From October 1884, our CC courses started in Ormeley Road, Balham before passing our old start point in Dragmire Lane. From December 1885, permission was withdrawn for running through the 'Furzedown Estate. This meant that we had to make changes to our CC courses to avoid that Estate. After passing the old start and leaving Tooting Bec Common and Tooting Graveney Common, our courses went down Church Lane (then known as 'Back Lane') rather than Rectory Lane, then continued past Amen Corner and Tooting Junction Railway Station before crossing 'Figges Marsh' and running up to the railway bridge in Mitcham Lane. After this the changed course bore right to run over several ploughed fields including some uphill to the top of Green Lane (now two roads: Thrale Road and West Drive) before running the last mile across Tooting Bec Common past the old start and to the finish in Ormeley Road.
For three years 1881-1884, SLH used 'The Bedford Arms', 77 Bedford Hill, SW12, which stands at the bottom of Bedford Hill, on the corner of Fernlea Road. It is 200m or so from the Balham Railway & Underground Station entrance, and was less than 500m from the start & finish of our CC courses when they started in Dragmire Lane. This hotel was developed in the 1830s and has been recently renamed 'The Bedford'. The SLH 75th Anniversary Dinner was held here in 1946, when it was still called 'The Bedford Arms'.
For 8 years 1884-1892, SLH used 'The SLH Grounds', for our CC HQ as well as our track & field HQ. In 1884, we took a 7-year lease on this site at £100 per annum. The grounds had a narrow 3- or 4-lane cinder running 'path' (track), 320 yards round (i.e. 5½ laps to a mile), that encircled four lawn tennis grass courts, on the south-side of Oldridge Road, Balham. This is a side-street on the west-side of Balham High Road, at the bottom of Balham Hill, and since the 1926 Northern tube Line extension from Clapham Common Station to Morden Station was completed, Oldridge Road is closer to Clapham South tube station than Balham station. The grounds were less than 1,200m from Tooting Bec Common.
In 1885, we started an SLH Lawn Tennis Division (Section) in which lady tennis players paid 10s 6d., for a Season Ticket if introduced by two SLH members. The courts were open for play from Monday May 4th, although the regular season did not appear to start until June 1st.
We used 'The Grove' pub for changing, etc., whilst a wretched & unsuitable & inadequate 'shanty' hut in the grounds was replaced by a much more substantial and commodious SLH Clubhouse, with enlarged changing facilities, a Ladies Room & a large Clubroom. Much of the cost of the new building was borne by our most respected President, Richard Thornton, whose name is commemorated by the name of our SLH Club 10 mile CC Championship.
After our large new Clubhouse was completed, it allowed entertainment activities such as the first SLH Concert Evening on Wednesday December 16th 1885, from 6pm, at which ladies were present, to take place in our own premises. Other entertainments such as Boxing bouts, Tug-of-War contests, the ancient art of 'Indian Club Exercises' displays, and other sudorific exercises (that cause sweating) besides our traditional 'smoking concerts' were popular. On Tuesday March 2nd 1886, the inaugural SLH 'Cinderella' Dance (8pm to Midnight) was successfully staged and attended by almost 100 members and guests.
Unfortunately, despite some obvious limitations of the site, our hope for a long period of stability at one main venue for all of our activities disappeared after our short lease ran out and could not be renewed due to impending officially approved building development plans. The site is now a small dead-end 'T-shaped' side street named 'Lochinvar Street.
South Croydon:-During our 21 year 1891-1913 sojourn near South Croydon Railway Station, at three CC headquarters on or just off the Selsdon Road, our CC races usually started & finished in the 'Croham Hurst' parkland area.
For 5 years 1891-1897, SLH used 'The Croham Arms', at no. 1 Croham Road, CR2, on the corner of Croham Road and Selsdon Road, about halfway between South Croydon Railway Station and 'The Swan & Sugar Loaf' and less than a mile from our Croham Hurst CC Course.
For 11 years 1897-1908, SLH used 'The Swan & Sugar Loaf', at no. 1 Brighton Road, South Croydon, CR2.This very well-known hotel was on the east-side of the A23 Brighton Road at the junction with Selsdon Road. It was only 300m north-west of 'The Croham Arms' and about a mile from our Croham Hurst CC course. Unfortunately, this building now houses a Tesco Express Store, which opened in November 2012. The site had had a 'Public House' there for almost 200 years. The present building was opened in 1896, when it replaced a much less prepossessing one-storey 'pub'.
For 5 years 1908-1913, SLH used 'The SLH Pavilion', an old Cricket or Tennis Pavilion in Carlton Road, a side-road off the south-side of Selsdon Road, less than 800m from our Croham Hurst CC Course. Houses now cover this site.
Coulsdon:-In October 1913, we moved to another very well-known hostelry, 'The Red Lion' Hotel, sited on the east-side of the A23 Brighton Road opposite the junction with Chipstead Valley Road, at the very centre of the Coulsdon shopping area, When based at that hostelry, our CC races started & finished outside the hotel to run over nearby 'green belt' countryside, including 'Farthing Downs' (aka 'Fairdene Downs'), Coulsdon Common & 'Happy Valley', etc.
There was a 'Red Lion' Inn indicated on the 'Bainbridge' Map of 1783. It was a 'Stage Coach Halt' when the first 2-horse-drawn Brighton Mail Coach 12-hr journey from London started on May 1st 1791. Unfortunately, this Inn was demolished in 2004, and has mostly been used for car-parking since then. The Supermarket' Aldi' chain is building a 2-storey store & a 48-space '90 minute' car park there After we transferred our CC HQ to our present hall, we continued to use the 'The Red Lion' for functions and even as late as the late 1950s, we still held the Blackheath 'mob match' supper there.
In October 1919, the 'Red Lion' Hotel was not available to us, so we finally moved our CC HQ.100m or so south to our present site at 194a Brighton Road, Coulsdon, when it was just a basic high-ceilinged church hall, erected in 1908, and named 'St. Andrews Hall', comprising the present badminton court area and the old main entrance lobby, which was demolished in the mid-1990s major alterations, and where the ground-floor 'disabled toilet' is now located. Until 1933, we rented the hall on Saturdays during the cross country season at some £25 each CC season. In those early years, tin-baths were used in what is now a cellar store.
In 1933, the Church decided to sell their Hall. At that time, the Comrades' Club owned and occupied a wooden hut on the land in front of the Hall and were also in the market for the whole site. Mrs. 'Billy' Holt alerted her husband to the availability of the freehold, which we purchased mainly through the efforts of 'Billy' Holt.
'Billy' Holt, with his usual optimistic dash, to act first and think out ways & means afterwards, negotiated and secured on behalf of SLH an option to purchase the Hall at the price of £1,550. A Holding Company: SLH Ltd was formed to finance the purchase by the issue of 4% Debentures and the balance by Bank Overdraft. SLH Ltd was incorporated on September 9th 1933, with £100 of issued share capital all held by or on behalf of the Club. The original SLH Ltd directors included the key members: 'Billy' Holt (Chairman), 'Jack' Densham & Clifford Hughes (Company Secretary), amongst two or three others. Debentures totalling £1,307 were taken up & donations of £225 were received, which enabled our Club to acquire the freehold of the Hall for the sum of £1,588 including stamp duties & fees, besides spending £326 on necessary substantial alterations.
We then renamed the Hall: 'Coulsdon Hall', and added two annexes to provide plunge-baths, 'gravity-fed' showers and a small changing area on the east-side of the hall, in the space directly behind the 'Comrades Club', and a kitchen, small lounge area, a ladies room and a toilet area on the south-side. For many years, 'sit-down' high-teas were the order of the day, after Saturday training runs and races. The plunge-baths disappeared in late 1956, when that area on the east-side was refurbished and the dynamic Asst. Secretary, David Smith, arranged for an 'Ascot' gas-heater to be installed to make mid-week evening showering possible. Before late 1956, hot water for baths and later 'gravity-fed' showers was only possible on Saturdays when the hall was open, when the coke-fired boiler was tended by the old 'geordie' ex-coal miner who looked after it for many years. Over the years, various extensions, improvements & renovations have been made.
The main-hall area has been used for badminton, since the 1930s, initially informally by SLH club members, later also by the 'Coulsdon & Purley' Badminton Club and small daytime-groups of housewives. From 1971 our current SLH Badminton Section filled the gap when the 'Coulsdon & Purley' B. C., came into a sizeable sum of money and moved to larger premises, near the A237 and A2022 roads near Purley, before moving to the South Croydon Sports Club, Beech Copse, South Croydon, CR2. Martin Crickmore, Roly Langridge and Frank Seaton founded the SLH Badminton Section in 1971.
At the outbreak of WWII in September 1939, our 'Coulsdon Hall' was immediately requisitioned for Civil Defence purposes by the Local Authorities for the use of the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Wardens as a Decontamination Centre, & as a base & a store for associated equipment. However, due to the efforts of the three abovementioned key SLH Ltd directors, a very satisfactory compensation rent was agreed, which enabled SLH Ltd to pay its debentures' interest & reduce its overdraft. On the termination of the Hall's requisitioning in the summer of 1946, 'Jack' Densham (of the SLH Inter-Schools 'Densham' Cup Race renown) negotiated the Compensation Claim for reinstatement.
During WWII, SLH & Orion Harriers were initially invited to use Ranelagh's CC HQ at Petersham for training on Saturdays during the second half of the 1939/40 CC season. However, before the start of the 1940/41 CC season Ranelagh's HQ was also requisitioned and Richmond Park was closed to the general public. TH&H then kindly invited SLH, Ranelagh & Orion to use their then original HQ at the King's Head, in .Roehampton Village, for Saturday training over Wimbledon Common.
In 1942, temporary accommodation was obtained in the Cricket Pavilion on Banstead Downs. Unfortunately, it was burnt down before the next CC season started. We then moved to Belmont Hall on the railway bridge at Belmont Railway Station for training in the 1943/44 & 1944/45 seasons. From there, we also staged the 'Densham' Cup SLH Inter-Schools race over Banstead Downs in 1944 & 1945; and staged the 'Artists Rifles' Cup SLH 'Junior Men Under 21' 5 mile Club CC Championship (previously last staged in January 1939) in February 1944, 1945 & 1946; and staged the 'Moates' Cup SLH Invitation Novices CC Race (previously last staged in autumn 1938, a novice being someone who had not won an open race) in December 1942 & 1943, & January 1945 & December 1945.
We used Purley County GS, at Bradmore Green, Old Coulsdon, to stage the 'Densham' Cup SLH Inter-Schools Race in 1940, (cancelled in 1941), 1942, 1943 & 1946; and to promote the 'SLH 30' Race in 1942 (inaugural race) and in 1943, 1944 & 1945.
We used the Cadets Drill Hall at the top of Marlpit Lane, Old Coulsdon, to stage the 'SLH 30' Race in 1946.
In the second half of the 1945/46 CC season, we had to use the local Scouts hut by Coulsdon South Railway Station on Saturdays for training purposes, before we were able to return to Coulsdon Hall for the opening of the 1946/47 CC Season.
From October 1919, our courses started & finished on 'Farthing Downs'. From 1928 until late spring 1957, our 5 mile course left 'Farthing Downs' to run a circuit passing close to 'Netherne' Hospital & Alderstead Heath before returning via Chaldon Church, the 'ploughed field' & 'Happy Valley'. Until October 1946, our 7½ mile course was a one lap race but due to Alderstead Heath being off bounds due it being used as a military car park, etc., our 7½ mile course was altered so that when the 5 mile course returned to 'Farthing Downs', runners were required to pass the 'Welcome Tearooms' and cross 'Ditches Lane' to repeat the extra 2½ mile circuit before returning to the finish. In those days, our less manicured courses included a number of '5-bar gates', stiles & 'elephant traps', etc.
Since October 1957, our usual 5 mile courses have gone out from 'Farthing Downs' via the steep 'chalk path' & 'Happy Valley', passing Leazes Avenue to Chaldon Church, and returning via the 'ploughed field', 'Happy Valley' & 'Devilsden Wood' to 'Farthing Downs'. Our 7½ mile course included an extra 2½ mile loop, which after returning to 'Farthing Downs' reprised most of the 5 mile course via a short link on the downs to the steep 'chalk path' & 'happy valley', etc. After 1957, the number of previous hazards gradually disappeared, as the local countryside became more manicured by the authorities so as to be more inviting to walkers & tourists.
SLH competed in the first 'National' CC Championship, rather pretentiously dubbed at the time by the promoters as "The All England Cross-Country Championship" on November 18th 1876, which was staged from "The Bald-Faced Stag" at Buckhurst Hill, Epping Forest. It rained all afternoon and when James Gibb (SLH) was leading well ahead of the field, and with Charles Larrette and other SLH men in good positions, the paper-trail marking the course ran out of paper three miles from the finish. The whole field went off course, with the runners losing their way in the forest, so the race was declared 'void'. If the trail had not given out, SLH would surely have won both individual and team Championships.
When it was re-run on February 24th 1877, over 11¾ miles at Roehampton, James Gibb was leading by 2 minutes at half-way, when he was misdirected off-course. He managed to re-join the race but lost so much time that he could only finish 8th, whilst Charles Larrette led SLH home when finishing 4th individual.
The NCCU (National CC Union) took over the organisation of the 'National CC Championship' from the TH&H (Thames, Hare & Hounds) from March 1884. In 1937, the NCCU became the ECCU (English CC Union). Until 1992 (when the Men's & Women's governing bodies merged into the ECCA [English CC Association]), the various Men's Championships were open to all UK clubs (incl. Southern Ireland clubs until its independence) and even the very strong New Zealand World CC Championships team, in 1965, 1967 & 1973. In 1904, two French Clubs ran, and in 1920 & 1922, a famous French guest runner won the race.
Under our respected CC Captain, Peter Pirie, SLH achieved in March 1955, at RAF Cardington, the unique feat of winning all three Men's team races on the same day: the "Youths" (Under 18 men), the "Senior Men's" race, & finally the "Junior Men" (Under 21 men). Gordon Pirie (the 1953 winner at Caversham Park, Reading, & the 1954 winner at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead) was the individual 'Senior' Champion for a third successive year, and Roly Langridge (b. 20/4/1937) was 2nd in the "Youths" race. 'Ferdie' Gilson (b. 19/8/1935) was the 3rd Under 20 year old. (the IAAF age-group) in the "Junior Men's" Race.
In 1956 at Warwick Racecourse, Roly Langridge was the National "Junior Men's" (Under 21) CC Champion and SLH retained that team Championship with the all-time record points score, despite our 2nd best runner, Laurie Reed (b 21/5/1936).being absent injured.
SLH won the National "Senior Men's" team Championship again in 1957 at Parliament Hill Fields, with Peter Driver, Mick Firth & Derek Ibbotson the 2nd, 4th, & 6th individuals, & again in 1958 at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead, with Mick Firth (b. 24/8/1932) the 3rd individual.
In March 1947, Peter Pirie, was the National "Youths" (Under 18 men) CC Champion at Apsley, Hertfordshire, on a course deep in snow with a hazardous long stretch of 'up & down hill' frozen plough. SLH (scoring: 1, 6, 23 & 29) tied with Liverpool Harriers & AC. (scoring: 9, 12, 14, & 34) on 69 pts, for 1st place in the 'Youths' team race, although SLH would have been the outright champions, if the current rule introduced shortly after 1947 to avoid future team-race ties (i.e., the position of the last scorer now decides the result in the event of a tie) had been in effect.
Herbert A. Heath was the individual National CC Champion twice, in 1892 at Ockham, near Ripley, Surrey, and in 1893 at Redditch, Worcestershire. Alfred Shrubb (b. 12/12/1879 – d. 23/4/1964) was the individual National CC Champion four times, in 1901-1904, at Leicester, Lingfield Park, Haydock Park & Wolverhampton. He won the individual 'International' CC Championship (the forerunner of the World CC Championships) in the first two such races, in 1903 & 1904, at Hamilton Park, Hamilton, near Glasgow, and Haydock Park.
Up to & including the 1951-52 CC season, the 'age-limits' for CC were "age on the day", the same as now applies to 'Vets'. From the 1952-53 CC season, the CC 'age limits' were "as at 1st October". From the 1965-66 CC season, the 'age-limits' were altered to the current "as at 1st September".
Up to & including the 1951 track & field season, 'age-limits' were "age on the day". From the 1952 T&F season, the 'age-limits' were "as at 1st April". From the 1965 T&F season, the 'age-limits' were changed to the current "as at 1st September".
In 1884 at Hendon, SLH won the first 'Southern' Men's CC team Championship and our 13 wins, is only one less than Highgate Harriers' record number.
In October 1873, the SLH Hon. Secretary, Mr. E. E. Smith, resigned from SLH in disgrace, to found another club, Albert AAC in nearby Nunhead. Close relations with Blackheath Harriers were soon established with unofficial 'joint' training runs, with a meal afterwards.
Since December 1896, the two clubs have met in 103 "Nicholls" Cup annual Mob matches with only 15 cancelled due to WWI, WWII, & three dates due to: December 1899 impenetrable fog; March 2001 'foot & mouth' disease at Hayes; & a 1906 falling out over Alfred Shrubb's alleged professionalism. The score after the match at Coulsdon in the 2014/15 season is: SLH 56 wins to Blackheath's 48 wins.
Other long-established Mob Matches are with Ranelagh Harriers ("Stubbs" Cup), & Orion H., since 1909 & 1920 respectively. During the 1983/84 CC Season, SLH v Thames Hare & Hounds mob matches started on February 4th 1984. Of the traditional mob match clubs (SLH, Blackheath H, Ranelagh H, & Orion H), TH&H only have two mob matches per season with firstly, their close neighbours, Ranelagh H., (started 1/12/1973), and secondly, SLH, who were the earliest CC opponents of TH&H in the 1870s & early 1880s, that still exist as a club.
Between November 1955 & November 1999, there were 45 annual 'Peter Driver' Cup 'Vet's CC Mob Matches' contested by SLH, Blackheath H, Ranelagh H, & Orion H, all at one venue on a rotating venue basis, usually held on an early November Saturday each CC Season. From 1955 – 1996, the distance was 7½ miles, but for the last three matches, 1997 – 1999, the distance was reduced to 10k. The demise of the 'Vets Mob Match' was mainly due to most of the runners in the regular 'mob matches' being overwhelmingly 'Vets' for some years, so that a separate 'Vets mob match' had become redundant.
Between 1950 & 1965, there were 16 annual Track & Field Mob Matches versus our main CC mob-match rivals: Blackheath Harriers. The first match was held at Tooting Bec on Wednesday evening August 16th 1950. In alternate years, 'away matches' were held at our rivals' home track at the time, of Ladywell Arena Athletics track, Doggett Road, Catford, SE6. The matches consisted of sprint relays, middle-distance team races (using CC scoring) and the hurdles & field events, which were decided by adding together the performances of either 2 or 3 athletes per team. In 1957, the 880 yards field of 28 (14-a-side) starting off a straight line was interesting and required a speedy start to get to the first bend.
These track & field mob matches disappeared from our fixture list, as the difficulties posed by being held on Wednesday evenings in August and consequent weakened team turnouts due to late-working & travel problems experienced by the away team each year, proved insolvable.
Under our respected CC Captain, Peter Pirie (b.4/6/1929), SLH won the UK National 12-stage Road Relay Championship, in four successive years 1954-1957, when it was an 11-stage relay rather than a 12-stage relay. The revised stages involved replacing the usual 6th, 7th & 8th legs (out of 12 legs): from the 'Prince Albert', Earlswood Common to Povey Cross, to the 'Blue Pencil Cafe, County Oak, to the 'Red lion' Handcross; by two longer legs.
The temporary overall race distance was only a little short of the usual full 54 miles of the 'Palace Yard, Westminster Abbey to the Aquarium, Brighton Front' course (on the A23 trunk road from Purley onwards), which was diverted for those four years whilst Gatwick Aerodrome (dating from 1930 and extended for RAF Gatwick 1939-46) was upgraded to an International Airport for £7.8 million.
On the track, SLH has had three 1st Claim members (at the time) who held World Records: Alfred Shrubb (b. 12/12/1879 – d. 23/4/1964), Gordon Pirie (b. 10/2/1931 – d. 7/12/1991) & Derek Ibbotson (b. 17/6/1932).
Alfred Shrubb established World Records in 1902, 1903 & 1904 at 17 different distances: 2,000yds; 1¼ mile; 1½ mile; 1¾ mile; 2 mile; 4,000yds; 3 mile; 4 mile; 5 mile; 6 mile; 10,000m; 7 mile; 8 mile; 9 mile; 10 mile; 11 mile; & 1 hour; all without pacemakers.
Gordon Pirie recorded World Records at 4 distances on 5 different occasions: 3,000m (1956 Trondheim, Norway & 1956 Malmö, Sweden); 5,000m (1956 Bergen, Norway); and two at White City, London: 6 mile (1953 AAA) & 4 x 1,500m Relay (1953). Derek Ibbotson established 2 World Records: at the White City, London in 1957: 1 mile (v New York) & the 4 x 1 Mile Relay (v Finland).
Our Olympic Medalists (1st claim members, at the time) are Thomas John Henry 'Tom' Richards (b. 15/3/1910 – 19/1/1985) Silver in 1948 London Marathon; Douglas Alistair Gordon Pirie, Silver in 1956 Melbourne 5,000m; and 'Harry' Blackstaffe (b. 28/7/1868 – d. 22/8/1951) Gold in 1908 London Single Sculls Rowing. George Derek Ibbotson was elected to SLH 1st claim, 49 days after gaining Bronze in the 1956 Melbourne 5,000m, when he was still 1st claim for RAF Yatesbury.
In the European Championships, Derek Pugh (b. 8/2/1926 – d. 2/5/2008 ) was the 1950 Brussels 400m Champion, 'Jack' Parker (b. 6/9/1927) was 2nd in the 1954 Berne, Switzerland 110m hurdles. In the British Empire/Commonwealth Championships: Dr. Harold Moody (b. 1915 – d. 12/9/1986), who was coached by Franz Stampfl, was 2nd in the 1950 Auckland, New Zealand, Shot & Peter Driver (b. 6/1932 d. 1971) was the 1954 Vancouver 6 mile Champion.
In the May 1964 CAU Inter-Counties Championships, Gordon Miller (b. 16/12/1939) set a British high jump record of 2.08m using the 'straddle' style before the 'Fosbury Flop' style revolutionised high jumping from 1968 onwards. Tom Roden (b. 9/10/1946) still holds the Crystal Palace 24 hour track record of 156 miles 439 yards (251.459km), which was the world's 3rd best ever 24 hour track run, when he achieved it in October 1977.
Over the years, SLH has promoted several prestigious series of long-running open events, covering various aspects of athletics, including road walking & even some cycling races.
The most famous of these were the long-running annual SLH Oval Open Athletics Track Meetings, staged at the world famous Kennington Oval Cricket Ground of Surrey County Cricket Club. We inaugurated that series of meetings in September 1875, which ran until September 1913, although the 1878 & 1879 September meetings were cancelled. The September meetings were briefly revived in 1926 & 1927. The record September meeting attendance was 20,000 spectators in Alfred Shrubb's farewell season of 1904.
In April 1889, we introduced an additional annual Spring SLH Oval Open Athletics Meeting, which ran until April 1914, although the 1894 (the Oval Cricket Ground was being re-turfed & levelled), and the 1902, & 1903 April meetings were cancelled, and the April 1898.meeting was staged at the Croydon FC Ground, at Whitehorse Road, West Croydon, because the Oval's Grandstand was being rebuilt. The record April meeting attendance was 18,000 spectators also in 1904.
SLH has participated in track & field matches against several foreign teams.
The 'Entente Cordiale', was a series of agreements that resulted in a written & partly secret 3-part agreement signed in April 1904, that confirmed a cordial understanding frame of mind, shared by 'John Bull' and 'Marianne', rather than a formal alliance between Britain and France. In the prolonged run-up, SLH and the famous multi-sports club, Racing Club de France, Paris, which was founded in April 1882, confirmed cordial relations by starting a series of annual reciprocal 'home & away' track & field matches, which ran from 1902 - 1914.
SLH was the first foreign athletics team to visit Belgium, when SLH had a track & field match against the Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles in 1906 and also again in Brussels in 1908. The Belgian club was founded in 1891 as an athletics club before a football section was added in 1894.
In 1912, we competed in a match versus the multi-sports club: 'Sportovni klub Slavia Praha', in Prague, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire's Province of Bohemia. That club is now better known as the Czech Republic Soccer club: 'SK Slavia Prague', although it was founded by medical students in November 1892, initially as a Cycling, and later as an Athletics & Soccer club.
After WWII, SLH and the multi-sports club 'IL (Idrettslaget) Norrøna', founded in September 1889 in Bergen, Norway, had a series of reciprocal track & field matches & athletics tours in Norway: in 1947, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1965, & 1973; and in the home-counties of the south of England in 1951, 1955, 1959, 1963, 1967 & 1971. In the mid-1970s, the Norwegian Club's athletics section ceased to exist, perhaps in the face of fierce competition from their Bergen rivals, the strong 'IL Gular' club, which seemed to have gradually abandoned its handball, skiing, gymnastics & football sections, to concentrate on athletics.
In 1936, SLH first promoted the 'Densham' Cup SLH Inter-Schools CC Race, which has been held annually ever since (except in 1941) for the eldest scholars. .Later, races were added for younger secondary school scholars, and more recently girls' races have been added. Also in recent years, Inter-Primary Schools races have been added, which are usually held on the same day although in the Saturday morning, for logistical reasons to cope with the increased overall numbers taking part.
From 1943 – 1978, SLH promoted the annual 'Holt' Cup SLH Inter-Schools Track & Field Match, although the 1977 match was cancelled due to the temporary closure of Tooting Bec track for major alterations.
Indoor Athletics: SLH proposed to hold an Indoor Athletics Meeting on March 20th 1912 at the Holland Park Skating Rink if it could be treated as preliminary Olympic Trials for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Unfortunately, the AAA did not agree which upset the Rink's authorities and SLH had to drop the idea. It was not until 1935 that the first AAA Indoor Championships were held at the Wembley Indoor Arena and continued to 1939 and were revived in 1962, though some unrelated post-war meetings were held before then.
In 1974/75 SLH again led the way, thanks to Mick Mein and John Greatrex, when we started to promote an Indoor Athletics Inter-Schools League at Crystal Palace.
In Road Running, SLH won the team race three times in the 1977, 1978 & 1981 Ultra Distance London (Palace Yard, Westminster) to the Brighton Front (the Aquarium) Race. Tom' Richards was the individual winner in 1955. SLH won the Isle of Man 40 mile team race on 6 occasions and for 49 years (1943-1991), SLH promoted a 30 miles Road Race, the only race of that distance in the UK, and won it on 16 occasions.
Ernest Neville (1883-1972) joined SLH in late 1903 and his first race was the 1903 annual 'SLH Boxing Day 18½ miles Walk', from our then CC HQ the 'Swan & Sugar Loaf' Inn in South Croydon to Godstone & back. He mainly competed as a walker at distances from one mile to 100 miles in the colours of the Surrey Walking Club, which Ernest Neville and other SLH members: E. Knott and E. Ion Pool founded.
It is said that Ernest Neville informally walked from London to Brighton as a 14-year old in 1897. Obviously, the 'die was cast' as he became a life-long athletics administrator & promoter especially of ultra-distance events. He was the leading figure in the formation of the Road Walking Association in 1907, the Centurians in 1911, and the RRC (Road Runners Club) in 1952, which was inspired by the very successful inaugural London to Brighton Ultra Running Race on August 11th 1951, organised by Ernest Neville, who was very experienced in organising ultra-distance walking races, including such races over that course.
The London to Brighton ultra-distance running race was an annual event from 1951 until 2005, when organisational difficulties prevented its continuation on public roads. The exact distance varied over the years from 52 miles 694 yards to 55 miles, due to road & course changes. In the early years, the first few miles to the Purley/Coulsdon area, the ultra-distance course differed from the first few miles used until 1965 for the April National & until 1964 for the October Southern Road Relays. The National road relays were forced to move to courses in the Leicester & Sutton Coldfield areas, and the Southern road relays were forced to move to courses in the Wimbledon, Aldershot & Milton Keynes areas.
In 1961, John Christopher Jewell (b. 1912 – d. 2001), the SLH President 1979-81, wrote a seminal paper: "Notes on the Measurement of Roads for Athletic Events", describing road race course measurement in England. He elaborated & refined in detail the calibrated bicycle method used by the Road Time Trial Council of British cyclists. John became friends with the US Ultra Distance runner, Ted Corbet, who in 1964 published a monograph surveying measurement methods around the World: "Measuring Road Running Courses", which quoted in detail from John's 1961 paper. Ted's work helped establish World-wide acceptance of the calibrated bicycle method as the road race standard. Ted's work inspired Alan Jones to invent the "Jones Counter" in 1970, which removed the need for 'spoke counting' described in John's paper.
The AAA Course Measuring Working Party was set up in 1985 to introduce a road race course certification system, for events run under the AAA Permit System. The Chairman was John Disley, the Olympic 3,000m Steeplechaser, who was 3rd in the 1952 Helsinki, & 6th in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, despite catching virus pneumonia a few weeks before. John Disley was a 2nd Claim SLH member for CC running in the late 1950s.
SLH has played a leading role in the administration of our sport since the earliest years of organised sport in the 19th Century. SLH was involved in the formation of the AAA (1880) and the NCCU [1884, which became the ECCU (1937), & ECCA (1992)], and was the prime founder of the Southern Men's T&F League in 1929, amongst other Clubs.
A non-active SLH member, The Reverend Robert Stuart de Courcy Laffan (1853-1927), was a fluent French, German and Italian speaker, who had been Principal (Headmaster) of Cheltenham College (1895-99), and who had impressed Baron Pierre de Coubertin. They became friends, and worked together to stabilise and permanently establish the Summer Olympic Games after the chaotically organised earliest Summer Games staged quadrennially, from 1896 in Athens, Paris and St. Louis (USA), had put the future of the Olympics in doubt. The Revd., de Courcy Laffan was a key figure in establishing the British Olympic Association (BOA) in 1905 and was a member of the International Olympic Committee (1897-1927). As the BOA Honorary Secretary, he was also a key figure in ensuring that the 1908 London Olympics was a great success.
SLH has the unique record of having provided the World Athletics governing body, the IAAF, with its Hon. Secretary-Treasurer from 1946 to 1976, that office being held by E. J. 'Billy' Holt, CMG., CBE., (1946-52), Don Pain, MBE (1952-69), and Fred Holder, OBE (1969-76).
Besides being mainly responsible for our rapid recovery & progress after WWI, through his great drive, our greatest SLH athletics administrator, 'Billy' Holt held the posts of AAA Championships Secretary (1927-32), the NCCU Secretary (1930-34), the AAA Treasurer (1932-38), the AAA Secretary (1938-47), British AA Board Secretary (1938-47), the Director of Organisation of the 1948 London Olympics and the Technical Advisor in Australia (1952-56) for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, besides other posts in & outside of SLH.
SLH has produced many outstanding International Technical Officials including Harry A. Hathway, the "father of modern timekeeping". He was a timekeeper at the 1948 London Olympics and over the next 30 years, he worked unremittingly to perfect UK timekeeping. A maths master at Rutlish Grammar School (1929-67), he devised the first ever timekeepers test (September 1949 at Motspur Park) and co-wrote the standard AAA 'Bible' "Technique of Starting & Timekeeping" with J.W. Aspland in 1963.
Walter 'Wally' Tripp (b. 1856 or 1857 – d.9/6/1928) who was a Lloyds Bank man was well-known in the City. In his youth, he was a keen hurdler in the 1870s. Later, with fellow SLH man, Malcolm G. Dunlop, he founded the Inter-Banks Athletics Association. However, it was as a Starter that he was best known. He was the SLH Starter for many years until about 1924, and was the regular Starter at the AAA Championships and the famous & very popular SLH Spring & late Summer T&F meetings at the Kennington Oval Cricket Ground of the Surrey County Cricket Club. He was the Starter at the 1908 London Olympics and it took a very sharp man to beat 'Wally' and his gun. Later, he was the SLH President in 1920/21.
A WWI RFC pilot and an International sprinter, who played for the Surrey County Rugby team, Frank Norris, was a marksman at the 1948 London Olympics and for 20 years was Chief Marksman at all the major national & International meetings. Frank was also the SLH Starter (1946-69).
Frank Norris's great friend and fellow sprinter, 'Jack' Lemon was a distinguished Field Referee for many years. In WWII, after his wife was killed in an air-raid, 'Jack' joined the RAF and qualified as a Rear Gunner flying in Lancaster bombers, despite being over the usual age for the most physically demanding & psychologically stressful role of bomber aircrew.
Our most distinguished coaches have been responsible for the achievements of many International athletes, of both sexes.
In the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, and beyond Harry Andrews (b. c.1853 – d. June 1927) was considered to be Britain's leading coach (then usually referred to as 'trainer'), who wrote five books (from 1904 to 1925) including his 1914 book 'Training for Track, Field and Road' edited by E. Elliot Stock, of the publishers Stanley Paul, and a 1925 book with Field Marshal the Earl Alexander's younger brother, the Irish Guards Capt. The Hon. William Sigismund Patrick. Alexander, DSO, (b. 1894 - d. 1972), who joined SLH in 1920, and was a Colonel on the General Staff in WWII.
For many years, Harry Andrews was the official SLH Coach & Masseur and the official AAA Coach. He coached our great multiple World Record Holder, Alfred Shrubb, and J. Butler a 50 mile World running record holder. Harry Andrews also coached Montague A. Holbein, the famous Channel Swimmer and the cyclist, T.A. Fisher, a 1,000 mile World Cycle record holder, and W.J. Bailey, a World Sprint Cycle record holder. Andrews also coached A.E. Walters (Polytechnic Cycling Club) and the 'Ultra Distance' cyclists, Frank Shorland and A.A. Chase.
The 1911 & 1923 AAA Javelin Champion (at the ages of 25 & 37), the great 'inter-war' coach, Capt. Frederick Annesley Michael Webster (b. 1886 – d, 1949), has been called the 'Father of British Athletics Coaching'. He coached SLH in the 'inter-war' years and was the most outstanding British thinker in the 'inter-war' Athletics coaching world. He adopted scientific ideas and, amongst many other subjects, explored 'oxygen debt', biomechanics, dietetics, and the theories, on the effects of anxiety on the efficiency of an athlete's circulation & digestion, advanced by the Russian Physiologist, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, of 'Pavlov's dogs fame'.
From 1934, Webster directed the annual AAA Summer School at Loughborough College and in 1936 created the Loughborough School of Athletics, Games and Physical Education, the most outstanding products of which: Geoff Dyson, John Le Masurier, & Denis Watts, became AAA National Coaches. The post-war AAA Coaching Scheme operating from the late 1940s owes much to Webster. He wrote more than 30 books on athletics. The great New Zealand coach, Arthur Lydiard, considered that Webster knew more about athletics than anyone else he had read, although he did consider that Webster didn't push his athletes hard enough.
Webster coached his son, Frederick Richard Webster (b. 31/12/1914 – d. 28/9/2009), who won the AAA Pole Vault in 1936, 1939 & 1948 and competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (=6th) & the 1948 London Olympics. He held the British record from 1935 to 1950, and finished his army career as a Brigadier (= a 1 Star General).
The 1920 Antwerp Olympic Gold & Silver medallist and 1924 Paris Olympic double bronze medallist, Guy Montague Butler, was a noted track coach who pioneered the filming of athletes in training & competition as an aid to coaching. He was also an SLH coach in the 'inter-war' period.
Franz Stampfl, MBE, (b. Vienna 18/11/1913 – d. 19/3/1995) was one of the World's leading 20th Century freelance professional Athletics Coaches. He was a modern 'Renaissance Man', believing everyone should strive to reach their full potential. Although he was an early advocate of interval training, he had a holistic approach to coaching: covering: mind, body & spirit. He had an uncanny ability to judge an athlete and their short-, medium-, & long-term potential, whatever their event. His technical knowledge of field events was immense and his grasp of the psychological aspects of sports has been equalled by very few, if any. His influence on the trio: Bannister, Chataway and especially, the 'carthorse', Brasher, who became an Olympic Champion, was typical of his amazing powers to enhance an athlete's confidence.
He was an art student in Vienna and had been a javelin thrower and all-round athlete of some promise, and became an Austrian Winter Sports & Athletics Coach in the 1930s, and was said to have been an Austria Team coach at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. After the March 1938 Nazi Austrian Anschluss, Franz fled to London and studied at the Chelsea College of Art, and tried to join the British army. He always admired the British because of their love of amateur sport. He was our top SLH coach for two periods: 1938-1939 and May 1951-July 1955, after which he & his Australian wife migrated to her homeland, for Franz to become the Melbourne University Director of Athletics.
In 1939, he was interned as a supposed 'enemy alien' and on July 2nd 1940 was on the SS Arandora Star, when torpedoed in the Atlantic. To survive he forced a steel plate aside to get up to the deck and jump into the freezing cold, oil-slicked, Atlantic water. After treading water for over 7 hours, warding off 'shock' & keeping his head above water, he was rescued by a Canadian Destroyer. He was then sent to an Internment Camp in Australia.
In the 1954 Berne European Championships, Franz coached all three British Gold medallists, including Roger Bannister (1,500m), plus Chris Chataway, 2nd in the 5,000m and 'Jack' Parker (SLH) 2nd in the 110m hurdles. This riled Geoff Dyson, the Chief AAA Coach, who was responsible for a campaign against "that 'xxxxxxx' foreigner". In the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Franz coached the 3,000m Steeplechase Champion, Chris Brasher, & 11 Australian athletes. In the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Franz coached Ralph Doubell, the 800m Champion.
'Fred' Housden, OBE., MC., TD., was a former International hurdler, long jumper & pole vaulter (with the bamboo pole). Fred was a mathematician who retired in 1952, when he was the 2nd Master (Deputy Head) at Harrow School. When in his 70s, he became the 'technical' hurdling coach who coached David Hemery, to become the 1968 Mexico Olympics 400m hurdles Champion. After retiring from Harrow School, 'Fred' devoted all his time to coaching both sexes, including Pat Pryce née Nutting, a British 80m hurdles record holder.
David Hemery frankly admits "Fred was the man who taught me to hurdle and I think it stood me in tremendously good stood being a 110m hurdler. That's because if you get too close to a 400m hurdle, it doesn't make that much difference if you have the fast lead leg of a.110m hurdler. With Fred I had a coach who fully explained the mechanics of hurdling and the methods behind his coaching technique".
Fred collaborated with Geoff Dyson on the 1961 book "The Mechanics of Athletics", which remains the definitive work on the subject. Fred was also heavily involved with experiments involving women's hurdling heights & distances, which led to the 80m hurdles being superseded by the 100m hurdles.
In 1921, Fred represented England in the 110m hurdles & long jump. However, his best event was the pole vault in which he was only 11cm short of the British record of the time, when he was 2nd in the1928 & 1929 AAA Championships and represented the British Empire v the USA in 1928. He was not only one of Britain's finest ever athletics coaches but he gave so much for his country in many ways, including when in WWI, he was awarded the Military Cross, whilst serving in the Royal Field Artillery.
David Hemery who was previously a 110m hurdler described Fred's attributes as: "patience, humility, technically knowledgeable, awesome eye, humour, caring, respect, friendship, and a real gentleman.
Since Housden's death in 1974, our current President, 'Mick' Mein, has been our most distinguished athletics coach. He lectures on behalf of the UK Governing Bodies. He has also been the 'fitness coach' to England International teams & individuals in rugby union XVs & VIIs, & various other sports. 'Mick' set up the first Athletics Academy (based at Canterbury High School) & headed up Athletics at the Sussex Downs College, in Lewes.
SLH Members who distinguished themselves in the wider world, include: Field Marshal the Right Honourable the Earl Alexander of Tunis, KG, GCB, OM, GCMG, CSI, DSO, MC, CD, PC, PC (Can) (b.10/12/1891 – d. 16/6/1969), also known as "Alex", who joined SLH in 1912 when he was known as the Irish Guards 2nd Lt. Harold Alexander. He was the 1914 Irish Mile Champion, and finished WWI as acting Lt. Colonel despite being wounded in a hand & thigh in 1914 & 1917. "Alex", who 'went over the top' 30 times or more, always led from the front, and had the gift of handling men in ways they most readily responded to.
In WWII, when a Major-General "Alex" was the last senior officer to leave Dunkirk on June 3rd 1940. In 1942, he was overall Commander of Allied Land Forces in Burma, then in North Africa & the Middle East, overseeing Montgomery's 8th Army Victory at 2nd El Alamein, before controlling the two armies of Montgomery & Patton capturing Sicily. When he was Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean he accepted the German surrender in Italy on April 29th 1945.
Almost all American & British Officers preferred "Alex's" understated urbane manner & sensible willingness to discuss & compromise. US Generals like Eisenhower & Omar Bradley really appreciated "Alex's" patience & experience, which helped an inexperienced US field command to mature & come of age.
From 1946-1952, SLH Vice-President "Alex" was a very popular Governor General of Canada, with Canadians, with his relatively informal style. In 1949, he oversaw the admission of the British crown colony of Newfoundland into the Canadian Confederation. During 1952-1954, he was Churchill's Minister of Defence.
Lt. General Sir Frederick Arthur Montague 'Boy' Browning GCVO, KBE, CB, DSO, (b. 20/12/1896 – d. 14/3/1965) joined SLH as a hurdler in 1921 when a Grenadier Guards Captain, who had won the DSO in 1917. He was the bob-sleigh 'brakeman' in the 1924 Chamonix Winter Olympics, but was injured in practice. In the 1928 St. Moritz Winter Olympics, he was in the GB bobsleigh team finishing 10th. In 1925, he was the English 120yds hurdles Champion and in 1932, he married the novelist Daphne du Maurier, of 'Jamaica Inn' & 'Rebecca' fame.
In WWII, he qualified as a pilot and became Commander of the 1st Airborne Division & was responsible for the introduction of the paratroopers maroon beret. Browning, the Senior British Airborne Commander at Arnheim, was heard to say "I think we might be going a bridge too far". In December 1945, he became Chief of Staff to Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (SEAC) until July 1946. An SLH Vice-President, Browning was the 1948 London Olympics British Team Commandant.
An energetic polymath & an SLH Vice-President, Sir John Lubbock, MP, PC, FRS, DCL, LLD, (b.30/4/1834 – d.28/5/1913) who from 1900-1913, was known as the 1st Lord Avebury. He was educated at Eton College and soon became a prominent banker, becoming a partner at Coutts & Co., when only 22 years old. He created the 'cheque clearing system' and was Liberal MP for Maidstone (1870-1880) and London University (1880-1900).
He had a distinguished political career, with four main agenda: promotion of science in primary & secondary schools; the national debt, free trade & related issues; protection of ancient monuments; and securing additional holidays & shorter working hours for the working classes.
A great philanthropist, he was the most successful law maker of his time. He was responsible for the Shop Hours Act, Open Spaces Act, the Public Libraries Act, the 1882 Ancient Monuments Act, which led to the creation of 'English Heritage', as well as the 1871 Bank Holidays Act, which created four Bank Holidays: Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the 1st Monday in August, and Boxing Day, among other Acts. In 1884, he founded what is now known as the "Electoral Reform Society".
His neighbour, Charles Darwin was a great friend. Besides being an MP for 43 years, and Chairman of the LCC (London County Council), Sir John had wide-ranging scientific & historical interests, including archaeology, ethnography & several branches of biology. He helped to establish archaeology as a scientific discipline and invented the terms, 'Palaeolithic' & 'Neolithic', to denote the Old & New Stone Ages. He wrote many scientific publications including his 1882 book on "Ants, Bees & Wasps", about the habits of the social hymenoptera.
SLH founder members are considered to have been those elected by our first AGM in April 1872. Amongst those founder members, was The Rt. Hon. Lord George Francis Hamilton, GSSL, MP, PC, JP, (b. 12/1845 – d. 9/1927). He was MP for Middlesex (1868-1885) & for Ealing (1885-1906), Under Secretary of State for India (1874-1878), First Lord of the Admiralty (6/1885 – 1/1886), Secretary of State for India (8/1886 – 8/1892) and (7/1895 – 10/1903). He was also President of the Royal Statistical Society (1910 – 12) & (1915 – 16).
Sir Osborn George Holmden, KBE, JP, (b. late 1869 – d. 16/4/1945), was a sprinter and over his best distance he won the 1893 and 1894 SLH 440 yds Club Championships. He served on the SLH Committee (1892 – 96).
He was knighted in 1918 for his services as Director of the Inter-Allied Chartering Executive during World War I. In this connection, the major maritime nation, Norway, also made him a knight of the Order of St. Olav.
He was a British delegate at the 1919 post-WWI Peace Conference, attended by 32 countries and nationalities, which was staged in the stunning 'Hall of Mirrors' in the Palace of Versailles, in France.
Nicholas Lane 'Pa' Jackson (b. 1/11/1849 – d. 1937) joined SLH in 1883 & later became a Life Member. He occasionally acted as a Judge at the famous SLH Kennington Oval Open Athletics & Cycling Meetings. A journalist by profession, he became the Editor of a weekly sporting journal, 'Pastime'.
Jackson became a Sports Administrator, who was a founder member of the FA (Football Association) on October 26th 1863, at the 'Freemasons' Tavern' (now the 'Freemasons Arms', 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ), & an FA Cttee member. He was responsible for the introduction of the award of a cap for each international association football appearance after his proposal was approved on May 10th 1886. In 1882, when he was Asst. Secretary of the FA, he founded the famous 'Corinthians' FC, whose most famous player was C.B.Fry. In 1939, the 'Corinthians' FC merged with the 'Casuals' FC, to become the 'Corinthian Casuals' FC. Jackson was also a founder member of the LTA (the Lawn Tennis Association) on January 26th 1888, in London.
Sir George Rowland Blades, GBE, MP, (b. 4/1868 – d. 5/1953) was the 738th Lord Mayor of London (1926/27) and was MP for Epsom (1918 – 28). He was a director or even Chairman of the famous stationers & printing company: Blades, East & Blades.
Sir Rowland became Lord Ebbisham (1928 – 1953). 'Ebbisham' is an 'old English' name for Epsom. Until 200 or more years ago, most people in the UK were illiterate so the spelling of proper names was predominantly phonetic even into the early 19th Century. The name Ebbisham might be recorded in several versions by ill-educated professional scribes using different methods of recording phonetic words or names.
A distinguished founder member, Charles Henry Larrette (b, Thurlby, Bourne, Lincolnshire c.1846 – d. 9/5/1913) was one of the best known sporting journalists of his day, who for many years was an able and prolific writer on all branches of athletics whilst working for the 'Hulton' group of newspapers. After a boyhood accident caused by a very sharp scythe, which badly injured his right arm, he had to learn to write with his left hand.
Charles Larrette, an alumnus of Uppingham School, loved exercise, despite a near useless right arm. As a young man, he would set off on his bicycle to ride from Barnet, in Hertfordshire, to York or Edinburgh, or go for a day-long walk sticking to a regular gait of 5 miles per hour. He possessed exceptional powers of endurance and was still in the habit of walking and cycling considerable distances long after his splendid running career had ended.
He took an interest in and wrote about all forms of sport. He gave way to no man in his judgement of rowing. For many years, he would cast his expert eye on the Oxford and Cambridge crews, when they were training on the Thames tideway in the weeks before the annual Varsity race from Putney to Mortlake, and only once was his forecast of the result wrong. Of Athletics, Cricket, Rugby Football, 'Association Football' (Soccer) and other sports, he wrote interestingly and accurately.
In journalism, he was perhaps best known as an authority on cycling. For twenty years without a break, Charles Larrette wrote the cycling articles for the 'Athletic News' and there was no sounder authority on cycling matters than he was.
Our first Gazette Editor, George Lacy-Hillier, had greater fame in another sport, cycle racing. In 1870, James Starley began producing 'Penny-farthing bicycles (aka: 'high wheel', 'high wheeler' or 'ordinary') the first machine to be called a 'bicycle'. It was based on the French 'boneshaker'. SLH introduced a 'Cycling' Section riding the 'Penny Farthing' in 1876, but by 1879 interest had waned probably due to the difficulty of riding the rather cumbersome and dangerous 'Penny Farthing' direct drive cycles with a very large front wheel and a very small rear wheel. In 1873, Lacy-Hillier started cycling by riding a 'Penny-farthing', before switching in the 1880s to the newly introduced and very popular 'safety' bicycle, which was really little different from similarly designed modern cycles, although the term 'safety bicycle' has been obsolete for many years.
Lacy-Hillier was an excellent all-round athlete and became a pioneer of British cycling. He was a founder of the Chichester & District Motorcycle Club. He was also a member of other sports clubs and was the racing secretary of the London County Cycling & Athletic Club. As such, in 1890, he initiated the construction (September 1890 - March 1891, ahead of schedule) of the famous Herne Hill Cycle Velodrome, in an area of Burbage Road, Herne Hill, leased from the Dulwich College trustees. Before being popularly called 'the Herne Hill track', the Velodrome was originally called 'the 'London County Grounds', being the home track of Lacy-Hillier's Cycling Club. The Velodrome was used for the 1948 London Olympics track cycling events.
In 1881, Lacy-Hillier won every National Cycling Championship from 1 mile to 50 miles, and in 1884, he broke all cycling records for 3, 4 & 5 miles. In 1885, he set a track record in Leipzig, Germany, when he won a 10km race against the German Champion, John Pundt. George Lacy-Hillier was a writer & journalist as well as being on the London Stock Exchange, like his father before him. George's grave is in the Brockley & Ladywell Cemetery.
George Lacy-Hillier wrote four books (1888 – 1898) on Cycling. In 1887, he also co-wrote the 500 page 'Cycling', for the famous Badminton Library series of books, with another distinguished SLH member, William Coutts Keppel, the 7th Earl of Albermarle, who was the principal author & illustrator of that co-written tome.
William Coutts Keppel (b. 15/4/1832 – d.28/ 8/1894), was the 7th Earl of Albermarle, styled with the courtesy title: Viscount Bury, KCMG, PC., from 1851 until the death of his father. After Eton College, he was a soldier before becoming a politician. Initially, a Liberal, he served as Treasurer of the Household (1859-1866) in the administrations of Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell. He later switched to the Conservative Party and held office as Under-Secretary for War (1878-1880) under Lord Beaconsfield (the former Benjamin Disraeli) and (1885-1886) under Lord Salisbury. In 1865, he wrote a history of the American colonisation: "Exodus of the Western Nations". He also wrote a "Report of the condition of the Indians of North America". He was the SLH President (1886 – 1891).
His 3rd son, George Keppel, was the husband of Mrs. Alice Keppel née Edmonstone, the society hostess and most well-known mistress of Edward VII, who gave his name to the 'Edwardian Era'.
The Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas Townsend Bricknill, QC, MP, PC, (d. 10/1915), was a former MP for Mid-Surrey and a former High Court Judge. He was the SLH President (1908 – 1909), our first President to only serve one term, which became the norm until 1949 (excepting WWI & WWII). Since then only four SLH Presidents have served only one term.
In his youth, Sir Thomas had been a very fine horseman and a 1st-rate boxer, a good shot, and a sprinter of no mean ability. He was a sportsman in the best sense of the word. It was said that it would be impossible to imagine a more courteous, kindly, tactful, genial, and amiable man. He had sound common sense and was a good track judge at athletic meetings.
In the annals of SLH, there has sometimes been a family that has either firstly provided a member, or members, that have acted as a catalyst to move the Club dramatically forward in one area or more of our activities, or secondly a family, which has had a very significant influence on the character of one of our members.
An example of the former criterion is the Pirie family, which gave us ten or so SLH Pirie members, including the five Pirie brothers, out of seven: Alexander Sutherland 'Alick' (b. 31/8/1901 – d. 26/8/1975) who was an SLH member from July 1920 to his death in late August 1975, plus his four brothers Paul Ewerdine (b. 8/8/1903 – d. 22/9/1970), Ian Keith (b. 13/8/1905 – d. 14/7/1924), Douglas (b. 21 or 23 /2/1910 – d. 25/9/1976), and Hector Lahey (b. 28/9/1915) who all competed for SLH between the wars; plus 'Alick's' three Pirie sons: Ian Keith (b. 19/9/1925 - d. 15/6/1969), Peter James (b. 4/6/1929), and Douglas Alistair Gordon (b.10/2/1931 – d. 7/12/1991); plus amongst others 'Alick's' nephew: Doug-Keith Pirie (aka: Keith Cardriver) (b. 21/12/1938 – d. 14/4/2010) the son of 'Alick's' abovementioned brother Douglas.
Of these SLH Piries, the stalwart Scotland CC International father, Alexander Sutherland 'Alick' Pirie (b. 31/8/1901 – d. 26/8/1975), with his outstanding steadfast life-time loyalty to SLH, despite his working up in Yorkshire for many years, before he, 'Jack' Stubbs, 'Billy' Holt and 'Laurie' Pool kept SLH going during WWII; and the athletics talent of his two youngest sons, Peter & Gordon were the catalysts that SLH needed in the 1950s. . Gordon's great efforts & determination to surpass the achievements of his arguably more gifted & talented older brother, Peter, was the key catalyst that spurred SLH to raise its CC & Road Relay Teams' standards to match and even eventually surpass our track & field team's successes of the early post-war years.
There is a Pirie family legend passed by word of mouth from generation to generation that their family originated in France. The story goes that three Pirie brothers fled to Scotland after the French King Louis XIV had rescinded the Edict of Nantes in October 1685. King Henry IV of France had issued that edict in April 1598, which granted the Calvinist Protestants (aka Huguenots) some religious & civil liberties in a predominantly Roman Catholic France. To escape the revocation's inevitable resultant persecution, the three Huguenot Pirie brothers allegedly stowed away in wine barrels on a sailing ship, which sailed from southern France to their new home in Scotland.
There's a saying in journalism, that is attributed to the American author & humourist, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story". However, the Pirie-Family Historian, Diana Fabas-Pirie, based in Winnipeg, Canada, after a very thorough nine-year investigation casts doubts on that intriguing and very attractive colourful tale.
An example of the second criterion is the Moody family, whose environment shaped the outstanding character of our 1948 London Olympian, Dr. Harold Moody.
Dr. Harold Earnest Arundel Moody (b. 1915, in Peckham – d. 12/9/1986 in NZ) was not only a British Olympic athlete (1948 London shot & discus), but later in life, he was elected Mayor of Glen Eden, Auckland, New Zealand (1967-71). Educated at the Public School, Alleyns School, he then studied medicine at his famous father's 'alma mater': King's College Hospital Medical School, where he qualified in 1941 and although of mixed race, he became a commissioned officer who spent most of WWII in the British Royal Army Medical Corps, where he reached the rank of Major, as a doctor on troop ships in the hazardous 'u-boat infested' waters of the Atlantic, Mediterranean, & Indian Ocean, etc., that had to be negotiated.
In 1951 at his 'farewell' party, attended by a large & distinguished number of SLH & other friends, including the 1948 & 1952 Olympic 400m Champion, Dr. Arthur Wint, Harold replying to the many tributes, revealed that his impending departure for a new life in New Zealand, had brought home to him how many friends he had made in athletics. He then called on his friends to toast the health of "my Club – SLH". This was followed by a boisterous rendering of "For he's a jolly good fellow", led by the hurdler 'Jack' Parker on piano & Dr. Arthur Wint (WWII RAF pilot turned medical doctor).
Harold's grandfather, Charles Earnest Moody, was a pharmacist in Jamaica. Harold's famous father, Dr. Harold Arundel Moody (b.8/10/1882 – d. 24/4/1947) was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but sailed to the UK in 1904 to study medicine at King's College Hospital Medical School in London, where he qualified in 1913. That year he married an indigenous English nurse, Olive Tranter, with whom he worked at the Royal Eye Hospital, when he was doing post-graduate work there.
He then started his own medical practice at 111 King's Road (now King's Grove), Peckham, before moving in 1922 to 164 Queen's Road. His experiences of hardship & discrimination led him in 1931 to co-found & become President of the most influential organisation campaigning for the rights of African & Caribbean settlers in Britain: 'The League of Coloured Peoples'. During WWII, he was often asked to advise government departments.
In 1995, he was honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque, describing him as "a campaigner for racial equality", at his former home: 164 Queen's Road, Peckham. In 1999, the former 'Consort Park' in Peckham was renamed "Dr. Harold Moody Park". In 2001, an Indian Bean Tree was planted in Chumleigh Gardens in Burgess Park, Walworth, in memory of Dr. Harold Moody. Also in 2001, a street in Peckham was named after Dr. Moody.
In WWII, five of his children were commissioned in the Army or RAF, including the eldest son, the SLH athlete from 1946 onwards, Dr. Harold E. A. Moody. The 6th & youngest child, Garth, was still a pilot cadet under training when the war ended. The 2nd son, Charles, served in the infantry & artillery, in North Africa & Italy. He reached the rank of major in 1945. He was only the 2nd ever 'black' or 'mixed race' person to gain an army commission after the famous ex-Spurs footballer, Walter Tull, in WW1 1917.
Several members have had distinguished careers in Academia:-
Professor Laurence Joseph 'Laurie' Clein, B.Sc., M.B., B.S., (London), M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., (Eng), L.M.C.C., F.R.C.S., (Canada), A.B.H.P.M., is an SLH Life Member who joined SLH in August 1949. And who used to run what is now the 400m. At Dulwich College Prep School, he decisively won the DCPS 1947 'Richmond' Cup 440 yards Championship, whilst Ferdie Gilson, 18 months younger, finished a distant 2nd. At Epsom College (1947 – 52), 'Laurie' became Head Prefect before completing his medical training at the London Hospital Medical School. 'Laurie' and his younger brother Dr. Geoffrey Peter Clein (my best friend at DCPS) both followed their father, Dr. Simon Clein, into the medical profession.
'Laurie' has been the Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine, Saskatoon, Canada. He has also been the Medical Director of the Palliative Care Services for the Regina Qu'Appelle Region, Regina, Saskatchewan. He was previously Consultant Neurosurgeon at the University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Approaching 81 years old, 'Laurie' no longer sees patients but still gives lectures at his local University in Regina. If more people were as altruistic as my earliest athletic friend, 'Laurie', the World would be a much better place.
Professor Emeritus Owen Hanson, MA (Cantab), MSc (Birkbeck External), PhD (City), MIM, FIMIS, who was elected to SLH in October 1950, is one of the SLH Life Members amongst the numerous Wallington County Grammar School alumni, who are or have been SLH members. Owen was Professor of Business Computing (aka Information Systems) at the City University, London, for many years, and on retirement was invited to 'do his thing' there for as long as he liked.
Owen has written three scientific books & co-written another. He was Visiting Professor at the University of Western Sydney for 6-month Semesters in 1999 & 2003. He was Visiting Professor at Middlesex University from 1999 to 2011, running a series of joint industry/university KTP (knowledge transfer partnership) projects with his 2nd wife, Lena, who is an SLH Life Member.
After graduating in Natural Sciences at Cambridge in 1957, Owen started work as works metallurgist with Wilkinson Sword, then was manager of the works laboratory at Gillette & finally joined IBM to work in computing in 1964. It was while he was with IBM that he studied for his MSc in Computer Science in the evenings, and he was so surprised to find how irrelevant to the needs of industry that degree was, that when City University advertised to set up a business computing group, he joined them to lead that process, from a two-man team through a 'gang of four' to a Centre, and finally a large department with thousands of graduate & post-graduate students.
He has worked in many parts of the World: in every East European country for IBM before & after leaving IBM; in Western Europe as an External Examiner especially in Germany; in Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand & Australia as a conference participant & External Examiner; and less often in the USA; he also worked for the Chinese Universities Development Programme in China & Vietnam (at Hanoi's request).
Owen is a fine linguist, whose German, which includes specialist Physics, Maths & Chemistry translating, was near native in the 1970s; whose Polish is reasonable; and who can get by in Serbo-Croat (now separate Serbian & Croatian) & Russian, all of which helped in his work.
Professor Emeritus Robin Walsh, MA, PhD (Cantab), MRSC, who was elected to SLH in May 1955, is another SLH Life Member. After coming down from Cambridge, Robin carried out research at the Stanford Research Institute in California, USA (1964-66). On his return to the UK, Robin stated his long career at Reading University as a post-doctoral fellow (1986-67), Lecturer (1967-79), Reader (1979-94), Professor of Chemistry 1994-2004), and since then an Emeritus Professor.
Robin's special field was Physical Chemistry, and his research interest, gas kinetics. It is difficult to briefly describe what Robin & his research team did, but one of their main contributions to knowledge was to lay the basis of understanding of silicon chemistry at the molecular level. These are the processes underlying silicon chip and silicone plastic manufacture. This work gained Robin awards from the American Chemical Society in 1994 and the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2001. Everyone using smart electronic devices owes a huge 'thank you' to Robin.
The educationalist, Professor Sir Christopher Anthony Woodhead, MA., was her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England 'Ofsted' (1994 – 2000). He was another scholar at Wallington County Grammar School when he joined SLH between January & March 1963. He was 65th in the 1965 National Youths U18 CC Championship.
He gained his MA., at Keele University, before teaching English at schools in London; Shrewsbury, Shropshire (1969 – 72); Gloucestershire (asst. head of Eng. 1972 – 74); & Somerset (Head of Eng. 1974 – 76). He then became a lecturer at Oxford University and held posts in education development, incl., Deputy Chief Education Officer in Devon (1988 - 90) & similar posts in Shropshire & Cornwall (1990 – 91).
He was Chief Executive of the National Curriculum Council (1991 – 93), and also the School Curriculum & Assessment Authority (1993 – 94), later replaced by the Qualifications & Curriculum Authority, which replaced the National Curriculum Council and the School Examinations & Assessment Council from 1993.
He has been a Daily Telegraph and Sunday Times Columnist. In 2002, he wrote the book "Class War: The State of British (State) Education" and in 2009 he wrote "A Desolation of Learning: Is this the Education our Children deserve?". In 2002, he was appointed a Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham. In 2004, he became Chairman of 'Cognita', which owns & runs independent schools.
After recently contracting MND (Motor Neurone Disease), Chris set up a Foundation to help those who are less financially & personally able to cope with the onset of MND.
John Paul Randall, CBE, BA (York), FCGI, Hon. LLD (Nottingham Trent), is another SLH member who joined SLH in August or September 1964 when he was at Wallington County Grammar School. He ran in the 1967 & 1968 National Junior Men's U21 CC Championships. When he was at York University, he became a radical President (1973 – 75) of the NUS (National Union of Students). During his presidency, he put the 'NUS' on the map when he seemed to be constantly on TV & Radio.
John was Director, Professional Standards & Development of the Law Society of England & Wales (1987 – 1997). From 1997 to 2001, John was the Chief Executive of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the higher education equivalent of Chris Woodhead's 'Ofsted' role. He then became a consultant on higher education & professional training, in some 20 countries around the World, in addition to undertaking several other varied but important roles, including completing 11 years as the Independent Chairman of the Police Negotiating Board for which he was awarded the CBE in the New Year's honours on January 1st 2015.
The Club's magazine, 'The SLH Gazette and Club Chronicle', is now in 2015 in its 131st year of unbroken publication. Even during WWI & WWII an average of about two issues per year were published. It is considered to be the World's earliest and oldest athletics or sports magazine, about 10 years older than the next oldest sports magazine, that has been continuously published and is still published. It was founded something like 10 years earlier than its nearest rival, which it is believed to be a publication in the USA.
The inception of the SLH Gazette in January 1885 was due to George Lacy-Hillier (b. 6/6/1856 – d. 11/2/1941), who was our first Gazette Editor. He was a non-scorer for SLH in the National Senior CC Championship in 1886 held in Croydon. He was also a non-scorer for SLH in the Southern Senior CC Championship in 1884 at Hendon & 1885 at Sandown Park. Apart from founding our Gazette, his greatest other contribution to SLH was discovering Herbert A. Heath, the 1892 & 1893 National Senior CC Champion.
Shortly before our most respected President (1874-1885) Richard Thornton died in 1885, just about every member contributed to the purchase of the "Thornton" 10 Mile CC Club Championship Challenge Cup in his honour. This is unique in the History of SLH. The first "Thornton" SLH 10 miles Club CC Championship Race was run in March 1886, well over 10 years & 9 months before the first "Nicholls" SLH v Blackheath Mob match. The "Thornton" Cup was engraved with the names of all the winners of the SLH 10 mile CC Club Championship from its inception in 1879, which makes it the second oldest SLH CC Club Championship after the "Gibb" Cup SLH 5 mile CC Club Championship, one year earlier in 1878.
Richard Thornton had borne the whole cost of converting a 'shanty hut' into a much larger and most commodious Clubhouse at our SLH Grounds HQ in Balham in 1884.
Richard Thornton's much respected widow became our first lady member when she was elected an SLH Vice-President in 1888, a title which she held until her death in 1915. In January 1920, Mrs L.L. Ayres, the mother of our late CC Captain, S.F. Ayres, who fell in 1917, was the second ever lady to be elected an SLH member.
In 1982, after several years of unsuccessful negotiations with 'Selsonia Ladies AC' and two local 'Mixed' Clubs, so that we could immediately have a number of 'readymade members' of the distaff side in SLH, we changed our strategy and successfully became a 'Mixed' Club without merging with another Club. Since then the number of such members has gradually grown. Strangely enough, more often than not, most resistance to the concept of 'Mixed' Clubs came from 'Ladies Only' Clubs.
Our most successful lady member has been Natalie Harvey, who joined SLH in 1997. She represented Australia in the 1996 Atlanta (5,000m) & 2000 Sydney (10,000m) Olympics, the 1999 World Championships (5,000m), four World CC Championships (1998-2002) & the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Championships. On March 4h 2004, she was granted 'change of allegiance' and represented Great Britain in three World CC Championships (2004-2006) & England in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Championships (5,000m).
F. David 'Ferdie' Gilson (updated 24/2/2015)