Sunday, 16 July 2017

Junior champions...

In the 1880's athletic clubs were forming all over the area, as they were elsewhere in London. The Beaumont Harriers local rivals were Walthamstow Harriers, based at the "Lord Raglan" Whipps Cross, Tower A.C. another Walthamstow club based at the "Lord Brooke", whilst the Tate Institute at Silvertown was the home of the Havelock Harriers. The already successful Wood Green based club, the Spartan Harriers, founded 1870, also had a strong presence in the area.

Many clubs fell by the wayside in the fierce local rivalry of the day. The Beaumont Hariiers fared badly in their frrst winter season; on occasions the severe weather and other counter-attractions resulted in less than half-a-dozen members turning out for the regular Saturday runs. But the highlight of that first domestic season, the Flower Cup, met with a better response for twelve members started the five mile course across
country which "presented a very wintry appearance". W. Bates came home frrst and carried offthe honours - the gold cup presented by Mr Ernest Flower and a gold medal presented by the club.

In September 1888 a "capital programme" of fixtures was announced for the club's second winter season, comprising six races, along with a series of paper chases and other runs. It was soon obvious that the second season would be more successful than the first. High attendances encouraged the club to enter its frrst major competition - the North of Thames race for Junior clubs. In those days'Junior" clubs were those who had not yet proved their strength to compete against the established "senior" clubs. Extra training runs paid off and J P Leggatt, finishing seventh, led the team home to a frne second place. Four weeks later at Walthamstow, Leggatt was again the first Beaumont Harrier home in the inaugural southern Counties "Junior" Cross Country Championships, the team placing third. Not long after this the club seem to have severed all links with the People's Palace, making the Forest Gate Hotel their only base, affiliating to the Essex County Association at about the same time.

The 1890 winter brought even greater success. The first Essex County Cross Country Championship, run over an eight mile course at Forest Gate on 1 March 1890, was contested by three teams with the Walthamstow Harriers and the Havelock Harriers providing the opposition. Overcoming the terrible conditions Charles Willers (Walthamstow) easily carried off the individual prize, while the Beaumont Harriers
gained their first success by winning the team prize - a handsome trophy presented by Alderman Hay of West Ham, one of the Vice-Presidents of the Essex County Cycling and Athletic Association. In the Southern Counties race at Croydon the club ran second, one place better than 1889.

In 1891 the Forest Gate club made no mistake by winning both the Southern Counties and the North of Thames Junior races, and providing the individual winner. Latham in the latter race. So after just four winter seasons the Beaumont Harriers, the leading 'Junior" club in the South, were ready to launch their attack on the senior ranks.

Where it all began - the People's Palace, Mile End Road at the turn of the century. Now
part of Queen Mary College. (L.B. Tower Hamlets)

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