Sunday, 16 July 2017

The palace of delights...

In May 1887, just one month before her jubilee celebrations began, Queen Victoria performed the Grand Opening of the People's Palace in the Mile End Road. This "palace of leisure, arts and entertainment for working class people" was a typical product of the Victorian age of improvement. Although its foundation owed much to the vision of the author Sir Walter Besant, and to an earlier bequest from the Stepney philosopher Barber Beaumont, it was the organising abilities of Sir Edmund Hay Currie which made the Palace a reality.

By the autumn of 1887 a programme of technical and educational classes were under way and a wide range of clubs and societies were starting up for the active and inactive alike. The first edition of "The Palace Journal" - its weekly newspaper - appeared on 16 November 1887 and among numerous articles and notices was the following announcement which marks the earliest record of our club:

HARRIERS
Five Shillings per annum, payable by two instalments. Already a goodly gathering have enrolled themselves as Members; and as soon as the Palace Harriers get into working order some of the better known clubs will have to look to their laurels; for a fine spirit exists amongst our fellows, and they are not going to let themselves be beaten by outsiders.
J. R. Deeley, Hon. Sec."

That same evening the club held its first general meeting where it was promptly resolved that the name "Beaumont Harriers" be adopted in preference to "Palace Harriers", taking the name from the Beaumont Trust which administered the People's Palace. At that first meeting the club rules were confirmed, and a committee of fourteen members was elected under the Presidency of Sir Edmund Hay Currie:

"Captain, Mr E C Tibbs; Vice Captain, Mr J W West; Handicapper, Mr E Bates; Secretary, Mr J R Deeley; Assistant Secretary, Mr E G Crowe; Committee, Messrs H Davis, A Greenwood, E J Taylor, A W Clews, H Marshall, J Hawkes, G Kitchener, J McGregor and E Robb."

It was later said that the club started up with seventeen members, and if this is true then only three of them did not serve on this first committee!

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