Leamington Athletics Club Historic Information
Leamington Cycling and Athletics Club was formed in September 1928. Previously it was separate cycling and harriers clubs which had both been active since the late 19th century.
The Courier Library archives indicate the existence of Leamington Harriers in 1868. This was dissolved in 1875 due to “doubts as to the ‘bona fide’ running of some members” (professionals !). It was reconstituted with 26 ordinary members and 10 honorary members as Leamington Athletic Club. It was also “with a much improved status in the Amateur Athletic World”. The Courier also records that “Bicycling was seen as a fine means of taking exercise and pleasure combined”.
While “croquet was surely going to the dogs and many skating rinks were being smashed up, bicycling was one thing which would get more popular every day”. The first annual Midland Bicycle Meet was held at Leamington on Whit Monday 1876. Later that year Leamington Bicycle Club held its 1st Annual Dinner at the Angel Hotel.
Little recorded information is available from the period prior to the turn of the century. Various Amateur Athletic Sports and Bicycle Races did take place on the Old Cricket Field in Avenue Road and at Leamington Town Football Club at Old Warwick Road in the period to 1898. In 1881 “the 100 yards saw a dead heat between Baxter of Rugby FC and Wright of Alcester BC in 9¾ secs. It was run again and there was a dead heat in 10¹/? secs. Baxter won at the third attempt.”
We also know that in May 1883 the Courier recorded “a very large influx of excursionists to Leamington on Whit Monday, and though the weather was a little unfavourable, being showery, the annual bicycle meet and fete at the Jephson Gardens was not unenjoyable. The Midland Bicyclists fell in order of procession and generally exhibited “good form”, by way of steadiness and dressing, following the order to mount having been given on the bugle and their leaving by way of Holly Walk”.
“In 1905 Leamington Athletics Club promoted the first of a series of cross-country runs at their headquarters at the Coach and Horses. The course of seven miles was via Offchurch and Cubbington. The fastest man was ex Midland Champion W B Law in 40minutes 32 secs.”
At some time prior to 1928 the Bicycle Club became the Leamington Cycling Club. The Courier reported on 28th September 1928 that “a resolution to amalgamate the Cycling Club and the Athletic Club was discussed and passed at the preceding Friday’s meeting of the Athletic Club held at the Bath Hotel”. Mr W H Wallsgrove, Treasurer, had told the meeting that “years ago the Athletic Club had embraced both cycling and running but since the War the cyclists had gone one way and the runners another”.
Being chairman of the CC and treasurer of the AC he thought the time was now ripe for the amalgamation. Each Club would appoint a representative committee of older members who would act as a sort of House of Lords. Any ideas for the progress of either section would then be submitted to a joint management committee of experienced members.
Both associations are recorded to have staged events in the years leading up to the First World War. The joint club hosted National and International X-Country Championships on the Newbold Farm Estate between the wars. This was followed by the first National XC after the 2nd war on the 307 acres purchased by WDC. This later became Newbold Comyn. The Club also promoted the 1935 Jubilee Sports when 6000 converged on Victoria Park. Victoria Park of course still sees cycle racing and race walking.
Ted Clifford was one of the founder members of the Leamington Cycling & Athletics Club, as the local harriers and cycling clubs joined together at its formation in 1928. Ted was General Secretary from 1938 – 1957. He was made a Life Member in 1955 and was Club President for the 29 years from 1960 – 1989. Originally joining as a cyclist he rapidly established a reputation in both sports. He became a well-known and well respected personality within both cycling and athletics circles. This was locally and nationally through his serving the two sports for many years as a Timekeeper at many events.
Ted & Doris Clifford
Ted became President of the Warwickshire AAA and was honoured as a Life Vice President of both Midland Counties Amateur Athletics and Midland Counties Cycling Associations. He was Team manager for Warwickshire AAA for 21 years and received a certificate commemorating his 60 years’ membership of that Association.
Doris Clifford had also played a very active role in both sections of the Club. She held the position of President of the Warwickshire Womens AAA during the years that this was a separate association. The Ted and Doris trophy was first presented in 1992 to commemorate and applaud the invaluable service given to our Club in particular, and the two sports in general, by them both.
It was therefore entirely appropriate when Ted, being keen to maintain the unity of the Club, presented the Clock Trophy as the award for the event which combines the skills of both sections of our Club, the annual Ted & Doris Duathlon held in August. Ted encouraged all members of the Club to participate in this two part cycling and road running event. It was inaugurated to foster and develop contacts between the two sections and give an opportunity for each to appreciate the other’s skills.
To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of its founding, the Club held a Dinner on Saturday December 6th 2003 at The Pump Rooms attended by many local dignitaries. The Dinner was the climax of an interesting day which included a cycle ride and an afternoon of reminiscing. With refreshments and a Palm Court Quartet at the new Jephson Gardens Restaurant. Many past and long standing members of our Club were present at the afternoon tea, with its extensive photograph montage of cycling and athletic sporting events which we had held within the community over the years.
The Dinner was an opportunity to acknowledge the improvements to the Edmondscote track and facilities arranged by WDC. Sport in the Community is very much a current theme for the Governing Bodies of sport and for local and national politics. We are pleased that we have in the Club a thriving organisation.
This has played its part and continues to do so in encouraging the young, the not so young, under-represented groups and the less advantaged to achieve a good level of fitness at the same time as enjoying themselves and realising that sport is indeed accessible to them.
One of the more remarkable guests at the Dinner was 92 year old Freddie Dale who with late President Ted Clifford was there at the founding in 1928. Both have been so keen to keep the two Sections together. Ted was latterly known as Mr Athletics but he actually joined the Cycling Club. Whereas Fred, known as a Cyclist, started with the Leamington Athletics Club on 21st Sept 1928.
District Council Support
Warwick District Council has supported these endeavours throughout the decades. In 1962 they spent £18,000 on the cinder track at Edmondscote, somewhat more in 1986 with the all weather surface and floodlighting. Then in 2003 completing the £500, 000 expansion and refurbishment of the track and its facilities. It is unusual to find a track close to the centre of a town and readily accessible to many community groups that we wish to encourage.
From the photograph montage on display it could be seen that the Club has produced a number of international class cyclists and athletes over the years and continues to compete at a high level in both sports. The Club’s youngsters are always prominent at Warwickshire and National Schools Athletics Championships. Many have progressed to achieve national senior recognition at home and abroad. The cyclists have staged Classic Events for many years. In the 60’s and 70’s an annual 100mile time trial which hosted the Women’s National Championship in 1970 won by the late Beryl Burton. More recently, the Club’s cycling ladies won the National Team Time Trial last year, and the Club hosted the Men’s National 10mile Championships in May this year.
The use of Pump Rooms was not new, on most Saturdays Club cycle rides started from there. Annually cyclists from all over the Midlands met in the Pump Room Gardens on the first Sunday in September. We have staged Classic Cycling events since the 30’s – the annual 100 mile trial being particularly strong in the 60’s 70’s – Len Orrick won the last in 1975 and in 1970 we hosted the Women’s National 100 won by Beryl Burton. In 2002 we hosted the National 10 Champs organised by Steve Walker; and our Women’s Team won the National 10 in 2002 – Pam Styles, Chris Walker and Tina Mullins.
Athletes were prominent over the period. Tom Buckingham won the Midlands Marathon in 1962. He was part of winning GB team at the 90km Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Then of course Cavin was pre-eminent in 70’s, setting world bests for 30m, 50m, 100kms, and 100miles – running not riding! also featuring in the medals at Comrades and the London to Brighton. Already holding the world best time for 30 miles, the 25th October 1976 was a classic day in the history of World Ultra Running for our Club and for Cavin.
Just three weeks earlier he had won the London to Brighton road race, missing the course record by just one minute. On the chilly October morning a group of world class long distance runners met at Tipton to take on the challenge of a 100 mile track race. Cavin went straight into the lead, which he never lost. He passed the 50 mile point in a new world record. He then broke the 150km world record and on the completion of the 100miles had added a third world record to his list of achievements. All the time Cavin was the Treasurer of the Club and made over 100 appearances in the blue and white in the Birmingham Cross Country League.
We bring on many younger people who achieve national prominence as Juniors and Seniors. Recently Jeff and Jenny Christie, Jonny Aires, Sara McGreavy, James Walsh. Before them, the Wurr brothers, Noel Edwards, Andy Hart, Sue Harrison and Susie Tawney. Some of whom necessarily move on as University and life takes them elsewhere. Mention of Susie illustrated how the sport had extended over time and we had to move with it. Susie, International Vet Athlete, double medal winner at the European Masters – we didn’t have Veteran categories for most of our history.
We continue to have a deserved reputation for staging high quality National and Regional Cycling events, County and Midland T&F and X-C Champs featuring up to 1500 athletes. Thanks are due to all cyclists and athletes who help marshal and organise events like these. Especially when we act together as one Club.
Over the last decade the club has strengthened itself in the athletics arena. It has done so through high quality coaching and its strong team of officials.
More recently two of the club’s officials presented a webinar on behalf of England Athletics to a nationwide audience about how it’s had success in recruiting and retaining qualified officials. Several of our young members have been selected for British or English teams competing at home and abroad. As a Leamington athletics club we take pride in being able to offer coaching at all levels and from young to old.