Middlesex County A.A. was founded in 1922.
EARLY COUNTY ORGANISATIONS – MEN
The first county association to be formed was Essex Co. Cycling and A.A. in 1883. Interestingly, in March 1897 we hear of an inter-county race in which Middlesex won with 112 points, against Surrey 249, Essex 292, Kent 332, Sussex 424 and Suffolk. It was a substitute competition for the National championships because the southern clubs had withdrawn from the National over a dispute in 1896. This race was repeated the following season in December 1897 with Middlesex again winning with 81 points, Surrey 171, Essex 174, Kent 182 and Suffolk 279.
A number of counties had some track championships in Victorian times. Devon had one in 1882 and Hampshire in 1886. Essex had a 440 yards and 1 mile championships in 1887.
The 1890s saw championship events in Bedfordshire 1891, Sussex 1896, Surrey and Leicestershire 1897 and Herts in 1899. The Edwardian period saw Shropshire 1904, Durham & Northumberland 1905, Yorks 1909 as well as London. In 1911 county district committees were set up by the southern committee. We know of committees for Beds-South Oxon; Bucks-West Middlesex; Essex; Herts-North Middlesex; Kent; Norfolk-Suffolk; Surrey and Sussex and there were likely to have been others in the south of England. In the Bucks-West Middx District there were certainly championships for 100 yards, 440 yards, 880 yards, 1 mile and 2 miles for the years 1912 -14. There appears to have been a similar spread of championship events in N Middx-Herts District with 4 miles instead of 2
At the end of the 1914-18 war the Amateur Athletic Association proposed that county organisations be founded to organise county championships for track and field, road walking and cross country and to lobby for suitable playing fields. It appears that the county district committees were phased out between 1920 and 1922 as county
associations replaced them. In 1924 the county associations decided that there should be a track and field inter-county competition the following year. The CAU (Counties Athletic Union) came into being on the 3 rd April 1926 after the first inter-county cross country race had been run.
Early in 1920, the SCCCA drew up rules for county cross country championships. The first club to respond was Highgate Harriers. One September day in 1921 a group of members who lived in north Middlesex and south Hertfordshire, thought it was about time that there should be county cross-country championships in both counties. Among the clubs prominent members were WC Jewell, the club secretary, Charlie Ruffell, Vic Callard,
George Webber, Reggie Piggott, DD Taylor and HJ Storey. Several meetings were called and a committee set up.
Early in February 1922 , it was arranged for a County 10 miles championship to be held from Mr Roberts's field in Bell Lane. It was started at 3.15 pm, as most runners worked half a day on Saturdays. The winning team was Highgate H (VW Vincent, J Groves & CH Ruffell) followed by RAF Uxbridge, TVH, Irish AC, Finchley H, Enfield AC and North London Harriers. On the 1 st April, Highgate organised a 10 mile road walk from Haverstock
Hill over a course in the vicinity of the Outer Circle. Entries were accepted by those born in the County or with 12 months residence. Thirty-eight competed with HJ Devonshire (Finchley H) winning and North London Harriers taking the team award from Polytechnic H and Southgate & Wood Green AA .
BIRTH OF THE COUNTY
There was obvious concern that county championships were being organised without a county association. The Sporting Life of the 29 th April 1922 announced that the inaugural meeting of Middlesex County AA would take place on Monday May 8th 7.00pm promptly at the International Sporting Club, 25 Noel Street, W1. Here were considered the draft rules, prepared by the steering committee, and the election of Officers and Committee
resulted as follows: President Charles R Butcher , Vice Presidents Bert Ives, J Tucker and Captain AHW Aul, Treasurer AR Vine, Hon. Sec. TS Grant of 193 Junction Road N19. Committee Members were Ayres, F Gordon Brown, Flood, Gill, Gunn, Martin, Ernest A Reavell, Roberts (Chairman) and Watts. Middlesex County was defined as the geographical county of Middlesex and including that portion of London lying north of the Thames and west of the river Lea.
The association’s aims were to encourage and direct athletic sport in the county and to hold championships from time to time including events for juniors under 18 years. The association promised to be a live body and it was considered that nearly 100 athletic clubs would become affiliated (most of whom were Business Houses etc.). Copies of the constitution and full particulars of the association could be obtained by interested
parties from the Hon. Sec.
IN THE FAST LANE
The early 1920s saw clubs being reformed after the war with new clubs appearing. In the inaugural year, the track and field championships were fanned out to various clubs with entry forms from the championship secretary CT Carr. Competitions took place in July and August; QPH held the 120yH at Paddington Rec; The City of London Police the high jump at Stamford Bridge; Ponders End the Medley Relay at Durants Park; Wigmore H the 2 mile walk and 100y at Paddington, that being the same venue that the Polytechnic H held the Long Jump; Enfield AC held the I mile and Twickenham Hospital Sports the Tug-of-War. In 1923 attempts were made to promote a schools relay, while these early years saw “The County”; lobby local councils for changing accommodation, usually a shed, at various tracks.
The Ponders End event in August 1922 featured 8 x 1 mile relay, 100 yards and 880 yards (both men and ladies races), 220 yards, the Mile, 2 miles Walk, Weight putting, a handicap Javelin competition and a 3 miles invitation team race won by Birchfield with Woodford 2 nd and Highgate 3 rd .
At the end of 1922 the first cross-country championships were held at Northolt Aerodrome for both individuals and teams . The Olympic athlete, William Seagrove (Cambridge Univ. AC) won from Bert Ives (QPH) with Charles Ruffell (Highgate H), a malarial sufferer, third. Highgate won the team race from QPH, Hampstead H and 16 other teams. The second annual county cross country championships in 1923 was again held at Ruislip, 181 runners
finished the course described as “between five and six miles” in reports with “two promising athletes of the younger school” contesting the lead, S Gay from North London Harriers outsprinting R Piggott from Highgate. The Daily Telegraph team Cup was easily retained by a young Highgate team who “rose to the occasion and created a mild surprise by their forward running”.
Aircraftman F.W. Turner (R.A.F. Uxbridge) was a regular winner in the early years of the county cross country championships starting in 1924 and 1925 at Ruislip where the fields increased to well over 200 finishers. The course in 1925 was “very hard in places and rough on the feet, but there were no serious mishaps, thanks to careful arrangements” although 26 starters failed to finish. The R.A.F, Polytechnic Harriers, TVH and Cadogan AC were also amongst the early team competition winners.
In 1924, Middlesex held its track and field championships at Uxbridge Stadium on the 10th May. The meeting appears to have started at 11.00 am with schoolboy events comprising 100 yds for 12-14 ½ and 14 ½ -18 year olds and a 4×110 yds relay for the younger age group. The seniors commenced at 2.30pm and finished at 5.30pm and included a 4 mile 7 race but no 440yH, Discus or Hammer. Apart from championship medals, first and second
class standard medals were given.
The momentous event of 1925 was the inter-county championships for track and field in June. The Counties Athletic Union had yet to be formed. The first inter-county cross country championships were held at Beaconsfield, Bucks on the 3 rd April 1926 where Middlesex were runners up to Worcestershire.
In 1925 the schoolboy events at the County championships were replaced by under 18 and under 16 events for l00 yds, HJ and LJ. The 1926-27 cross-country season saw the first junior or under 21 championship race, which was won by Jim Smith of Wigmore H out of a field of 129 with the team award going to Mary Ward AC. A very large attendance was reported at the 1926 county track & field championships although “the times recorded were far below the usual standard owing to the looseness of the cinder track”. The crowd were entertained by events including Chelsea Police beating LGOC (London General Omnibus Company) Tottenham in the Tug -of-War (100 stone.) by 2 pulls to nil.
An important innovation was the introduction of a Middlesex Track & Field League in 1926 comprising relays, l mile team race, HJ and LJ. They competed in four divisions, West, North, North West and North East which gives some idea of the geographical location of the clubs at that time. The winners in each group competed in the final at Lords’ Cricket Ground in September. These league matches continued in different formats up to the outbreak of the World War in 1939.
Middlesex held its first annual dinner in 1925 of which we have no report, but 120 attended the second annual dinner in 1926 with Gordon Brown presiding in the absence of the County President, Earl Cadogan. TVH organised a Christmas dance in December at Acton Baths with Harold Abrahams (Olympic 100m champion) acting as MC.
The 1927 championships were held at Stamford Bridge for the first time with resounding success and 5,000 paying spectators, which put the County onto a firm financial footing. The venue was repeated the following year with a record entry of competitors, just short of 500. A 440ydsH race was added to the programme. H B Stallard was one of many Achilles winners, well clear in the Mile after losing a shoe, with Polytechnic Harriers athletes
also winning several events.
During 1928, AV Gelder, the County Secretary and Major General Sir Sefton Brancker, (he became Air Vice Marshall by 1931) the County President, planned a contest between the RAF, for whom Brancker worked as Director of Civil Aviation, and Middlesex.
The first contest in 1929, a cross-country match, took place over the country at the Northolt RAF Station with the RAF winning. A track match followed at the Paddington track, but only included a limited number of events , 4 x 100yds shuttle relay, l mile team race, a 3 mile race and HJ. This formula was repeated in 1930 with a larger track programme. In 1931 the Civil Service was included and the Sefton Brancker Cup was presented. Brancker
tragically died in the R101 Airship crash in October 1931.
In 1929 and 1930 when the track championships were again held at Stamford Bridge, it was found necessary to organise supplementary graded races for 100 yds and 1 mile. In 1929 a junior 4x220yds relay was inaugurated at a separate venue while in the following year a senior 4x 110 yds relay was similarly added. However, the mile medley relay appears to have lapsed between 1925 and 1931.
In August 1929 at Stamford Bridge, Middlesex won the inter-county team and relay championships for the fifth successive year. The officials worked heroically with the meeting in danger of being washed out by heavy rain. The track was so waterlogged that the 4 x 110 yds relay was changed to 4 x 100 yds up and down the finishing straight.
An initiative to support local Borough Championships was made in 1930 but had little success. A scrutiny meeting for the cross-country is first mentioned in 1932. The thirties saw the proliferation of inter-club trophy meetings, particularly as new cinder tracks were being built. In 1936 there were 39 such tracks in the whole country with the London area having the largest proportion.
The first inter-county 10mile walk was held at Mitcham in 1934 with Middlesex winning easily from Surrey, Essex, Sussex and Suffolk. In the same year the Hop, Step and Jump was added to the championship programme, the Hammer in 1935 and the 6 miles in 1936 at separate venues. In 1935 a full junior track championship was held at Finsbury Park and an experimental County cross-country novice race took place, being won by (Hornsey) St
A number of inter-county track and field matches were held from 1936, versus Surrey in 36, and Surrey and Essex in 37, 38 and 39. The 1937- 38 cross-country season saw the addition of a Youths championships for 16- 17 year olds. This was held at Cranford and won by Jeff Baker of Southgate H, which club also won the team prize. The Middlesex 20 mile road race was established in 1937 and incorporated in the Finchley 20.
The programme for the County Cross Country Championships at Enfield on 7 th January 1939 (price fourpence, printed by Stacy & Son, Betting Strictly Prohibited) also describes the Middlesex County area; “the Middlesex County Amateur Athletics Association (founded 1922, President R.J. Martin Esq.) controlling (under the directions of the A.A.A.) amateur athletics in the geographical county of Middlesex and that part of London lying north of the Thames and west of the river Lea”.
AFTER THE WAR
Following the outbreak of war, substitute 5 mile Middlesex Cross-Country Championships were held annually from 1940 until 1945. All were held at Ruislip were for seniors and juniors. There were also races for youths which mostly took place at Brook Farm, Whetstone. No senior track championships took place, but junior ones continued, organised by Alec White of TVH, usually at Parliament Hill. Alec even took a team to St Albans in July 1945 for a junior inter-county match against Herts, and Beds.
The first official Middlesex County cross country championships since 1939 took place at Ruislip on 7th January 1946 with Cadogan AC retaining the Daily Telegraph Cup from TVH in 2 nd and Finchley Harriers 3rd . TVH won the Junior Championships with Finchley Harriers 2nd. The 1948 and 1949 seasons saw a fuller track programme established for youths, bringing them into line with the juniors.
Prior to the war, the county had kept a list of volunteer judges, starters and timekeepers who were mostly club officers and school teachers. In 1948 a grading system for officials was floated by the AAA, which was not fully adopted by Middlesex until 1949 or 1950. A list of Middlesex officials was kept in a note-book until the duplicated lists were circulated in the 1960s.
Representative matches in addition to the annual inter-counties began in the 1950s. A 20 mile walk, a Pentathlon and 220yH were added to the senior championship programme in 1953, and Steeplechases, 1500m for juniors and 1000m for youths as well as the Triple jump and Hammer. The youths had to wait until 1954 for a 440y race. Juniors had a 200yH race from 1956 which was lengthened to 440y in 1968 but it was another five years before they were allowed to race over 2 miles.
In the 1960s there were occasional representative indoor matches at Stanmore where Ron Jewkes was the starter. There was a coaching initiative for several years from the middle of the 1960s with Sandy Gray organising a number of Easter courses. Don Taylor did a similar job in the 1980s. 1963 saw the Pentathlon upgraded to Decathlon and Middlesex mid-week leagues were organised from 1969 by an initiative of Frank Petit and lasted some ten years. The championships were metricated in 1969 as were many of the tracks at this time. The same year the southern area and national leagues were formed.
The 60s and 70s was a period when amalgamations were popular and the demise of many inter-club trophy meetings came about as the leagues and knock-out cup competitions came to the fore. At the end of the 70s the jogging boom occurred with new clubs entering the athletic scene. Many Middlesex clubs benefited from this kind of athlete. A number of all-male clubs formed women’s sections in the 80s and 90s but
the school-club link weakened as many P.E teachers had withdrawn their services from 1985. The Middlesex track relays were dropped in 1975 and the 10k in 1982 . A county marathon was inaugurated in conjunction with the Harrow Marathon in 1991. The under 13 track championships for boys was discontinued after only a couple of years and was replaced in 1994 with a Minithon for under 13 boys and girls, an idea of Sylvia Parker’s. A veterans championships in conjunction with Hertfordshire began in 1995 at the instigation of Jean Coker.
By 2013 Championships were again organised for all age groups with Seniors to U17 athletes competing on the Saturday and U13/U15 Athletes on the Sunday. Indoor Championships were also initiatedLee valley in conjunction with Kent and Hertfordshire.
NOTES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This history of the Middlesex County AA is an update of one produced by David Terry for the 75 th anniversary in 1997. Much of that document has been reproduced here. David acknowledged the help of Les Golding OBE, Vera Searle, Dr. John Stubbs, Alan Corfield, Peter Saw, Laurie Kelly, Jill Lindsay, Ted Whitehead, Ron Jewkes and Ben Benson.
For this update I would like to thank Alastair Aitken, Peter Browne, Roy Stratton, Pat Fitzgerald, John Falvey, Alan Chidley and Barrie Saunders for their assistance.