HERCULES WIMBLEDON AC - A HISTORY

This is a very brief history of Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club and its two founding clubs that joined together in 1967. Space only allows tributes to a few of those who have competed or to those who have spent so much time supporting the competitors as race organisers, coaches, team managers, officials, committee members etc. It should be mentioned however that two club officials have been in 'office' from before the formation of HW - Club Treasurer David Littlewood (an official in demand for championships all over the world) and Cross-country Secretary Pete Mulholland.

Hercules Ladies Athletic Club was formed in Streatham on October 4, 1933, for 'the furtherance of womanhood in athletics', with colours of navy blue and scarlet. One of the founder members Ann Bale (nee Stone) was the club's first international. The word 'Ladies' was dropped from the name in February 1936 when male athletes were admitted; one of the earliest recruits (and long serving administrator) was Jim Braben MBE.

World War 11 curtailed activities but it says much for the spirit of early members that a club without the roots and traditions of others was soon revitalised after hostilities ceased. By the mid-50s HAC could hold its own with most clubs and Noel Fonteyn became the first of a steady flow of internationals. Success continued at individual and team level in championships over a wide range of disciplines. In 1967 the club was rich in athletic talent but found itself short of the necessary officials and administrators. Meanwhile, on a foggy January evening in 1953…..

The decision to form Wimbledon Athletic Club was instigated by the then Mayor of Wimbledon, Councillor Sydney Black, OBE, JP, following the opening of the new £8000 running track at Wimbledon Park in June 1952 by former Olympic hurdler Lord Burghley. Councillor Black called a public meeting at Wimbledon town hall in the autum of 1952 which was attended by Jack Crump, the Olympic team manager, Wimbledon's MP Sir Cyril Black, Arthur Whitehead (founder of Lauriston Runners Club), representatives from the men's and women's Surrey County associations, representatives from other athletics clubs and others.

The meeting set up a steering committee resulting in an inaugural AGM at Wimbledon Town Hall on February 26th 1953. Aubrey Reeve, an international miler and the 1935 AAA three mile champion, was elected the club's first secretary, and reported 64 members had joined the club. Councillor Black was elected the club's first president with Sir Cyril Black, Jack Crump and Vernon Ely, from Elys of Wimbledon, among six vice-presidents. Reg Thrasher was elected chairman and Charles Peach, a master at Pelham School, treasurer. The initial club colours were a white vest with blue, black and blue hoops. These were later changed to a blue and yellow hooped vest. An original Wimbledon AC was formed in 1938 but had foundered due to the outbreak of the war.

The new club was based at the new track at Wimbledon Park, where the stand was added at a cost of £17500 in May 1961. The club built up a nucleus of track and field athletes but regularly lost distance runners to other clubs. In 1958, however, a cross-country section was formed and Arthur Whitehead generously allowed the club to use Lauriston Cottage, adjacent to the large expanse of Wimbledon Common, as its winter HQ. Tommy Robertson, whose daughter Elizabeth-Mary was a Scottish international discus thrower, took over as chairman in February 1958 and the club went from strength to strength and produced a sprinkling of male and female internationals. The club was also blessed with many top officials and provided several county Presidents but team results began to slip, so…

On September 6 1967 a marriage was arranged between the two clubs to form Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club. The late 60s and early 70s saw a wide variety of scarlet and gold team successes in cross-country (recording a 2nd and a 3rd in the 'National' plus seven successive Surrey County senior men's team titles) and road running (including two victories in the Southern Road Relay) and admission was gained to the Men's National (now British) Athletics League in 1971.

In more recent times a highlight was reaching division three of the BAL in the mid-80s. The club also expanded it's fixture list overseas, notably the annual visit to the Bolbec international cross-country in France, and enjoyed more than its fair share of individual and team successes in the emerging and expanding list of Veteran's events. Individually Dave Clarke, three times winner of the Men's Senior National Cross-Country championships, represented Great Britain for more than a decade, once as captain, and also represented his country over track and road.

Hercules Wimbledon is now based at the Wimbledon Park Athletic Stadium after lighting was installed there in October 2000 to enable the track to be used throughout the year.

March 2010 saw another landmark occasion in the club’s history with the opening of the Wimbledon Park Community Clubhouse at the track by the Duke of Gloucester, negotiations with Merton Council for the facility having begun in April 2005.
Receiving planning approval in July 2007, the club then set about raising funds for the project, achieving success in December 2008 when a grant of £100,000 was received from the London Marathon Trust, followed in January 2009 with £60,000 from Sport England.

Much of the above was from an article, by Simon Ingall, that appeared in Team Spirit of January 1999 and written for the occasion of the Dinner celebrating the 65th anniversary of the founding of Hercules Ladies Athletic Club.

CM


 


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