A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Middlesex ranks first of all the counties of England in this branch of sport, containing, as it does, some of the oldest and most important athletic clubs in the country; many clubs in the county indeed are able to boast of an unbroken existence of nearly half a century.
Foremost among athletic clubs in Middlesex is the London Athletic Club. Founded in 1863 under the title of the Mincing Lane Athletic Club, it took its present name in the spring of 1866. It held its first athletic meeting at the Beaufort House grounds at Brompton on 9 April 1864, and a second on 21 May of the same year. It continued to meet there until 1869, having in 1867 had sports at the Old Deer Park, Richmond, and at Beaufort House, Walham Green. After it moved its head quarters to Lillie Bridge in 1869 meetings were held there until 1876. In 1877 it again moved, this time to its own grounds at Stamford Bridge, Fulham. These grounds of six and a half acres were closed after the last meeting on 24 September 1904, and a new and larger track was made, partly on the same site, with a banked track for cycling and seating accommodation for 10,000 people. The new area of seventeen acres was still known as Stamford Bridge, and the L.A.C. opened with a meeting on 10 May 1905. During the winter months the ground is used by the Chelsea Football Club.
The L.A.C. has been fortunate in securing the support of many prominent men in the management of its affairs, such names as those of Lord Alverstone and the Earl of Jersey (both famous athletes of a bygone day) appearing, among others as famous, on its list of officers. Its present president is Mr. Montague Shearman, K.C., a well-known runner at Oxford University, who afterwards won the amateur championship both at 100 and 440 yards. The L.A.C. now holds four afternoon and two evening meetings a year at which races open to all amateurs, approved by the committee, are included as well as races for challenge cups and other events open to members. In addition the club holds an extra meeting in the spring, chiefly confined to contests at various distances for the Public Schools Championships. The club also competes annually against Oxford and Cambridge Universities, on the lines of the interUniversity sports, and these meetings act as an interesting and useful trial for the teams about to compete in the more important event at Queen's Club. The membership of the L.A.C. now totals about 400, a number far exceeded in the early years of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when athletics were more popular than they are at the present time. The club, however, has done yeoman service in the past in the cause of athletics.
Another old and still prominent club holding its meetings at Stamford Bridge is the Civil Service Athletic Club, whose members are drawn from the various branches of his Majesty's Civil Service. This club held its first meeting in 1864 at Brompton and, like the L.A.C., moved to Lillie Bridge in 1869, and finally to Stamford Bridge, where it held its forty-fourth meeting in June 1907. The Civil Service Athletic Club includes several open events in its programme which always attract good entries from the best athletes of the day.
The United Hospitals Athletic Club, founded in 1867, also holds its meetings at Stamford Bridge. Its chief attraction is a competition for a challenge shield between members of the various London hospitals.
Many notable performances have been done both at Lillie Bridge and Stamford Bridge from time to time, and though all the old amateur records made at Lillie Bridge have now been beaten, the following records, accomplished at Stamford Bridge, still stand to-day:—
After W. G. George became a professional runner he ran a mile in a match with W. Cummings on 23 August 1886, at Lillie Bridge, in 4 min. 12¾ sec., which stands as a world's record to this day. As an amateur he had twice beaten the mile record, once at Stamford Bridge and again at Lillie Bridge.
The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have held their sports in London since 1867; but, when the Lillie Bridge grounds were closed, they founded the Queen's Club at West Kensington in 1877. Here is a splendid cinder track of rather over three laps to the mile, and this ground has since been the venue of the University Sports, which are always looked upon as one of the chief athletic attractions of the year.
An athletic meeting between Oxford and Yale Universities was held at Queen's Club on 16 July 1894, Oxford winning by five and a half events to three and a half. Oxford and Cambridge met the combined Universities of Yale and Harvard on the same ground on 22 July 1899, when the Englishmen won by five events to four. Yale and Harvard wiped out this defeat at Berkeley Oval, New York, on 25 September 1901, by six events to three, and repeated their victory at Queen's Club on 23 July 1904, again winning by six events to three. At the latter meeting W. A. Schick, of Harvard, won the 100 yds. race in 94/5 sec., which is a record for an English track.
The Amateur Championships prior to 1879 were controlled by the Amateur Athletic Club, which was formed in 1866. It held its first championship meeting in London in that year and continued to do so until the management was taken over by the Amateur Athletic Association in 1880. The Amateur Athletic Club held its championships at Lillie Bridge immediately after the Oxford and Cambridge Sports, and they were chiefly patronized by the runners from those Universities. Owing to the growth of the L.A.C. and provincial clubs it was felt that the general body of athletes would be able to compete on more equal terms if the championships were held in the summer. With this end in view, the L.A.C. held an extra championship meeting in the summer of 1879 at Stamford Bridge. On 4 April 1880, a meeting of representatives of the chief athletic clubs in the country was held at Oxford, and the Amateur Athletic Association was then formed, with its head quarters in London. The A.A.A. is now the governing body for all amateur athletic clubs in England. All athletic clubs of any standing are affiliated to the Association and hold their meetings under its laws. It has branches in the North and Midlands, and controls the championships which are held alternately in London, the North and Midlands.
Middlesex also contains some important cross-country clubs. The Highgate Harriers, founded in 1879, held the National Championship in 1899, 1902, 1904 and 1905, and won the Southern Counties Championship in 1899, 1900, and from 1903 to 1907 without a break. The Finchley Harriers, also founded in 1879, won the National Championship in 1900, and were Southern Counties Champions in 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892, and from 1895 to 1897. The Hampstead Harriers, founded in 1890, the Polytechnic Harriers, whose head quarters are in Regent Street, and the St. Bride's Institute Athletic Club also run across country.