The Twickenham Museum
Exhibitions : Sporting History

Athletics
The first recorded Olympics took place at Olympia, Greece in 776 BC

The 4th annual meeting of the Hampton Harriers, held in 1896 in the field adjoining Beveree (a Hampton property in High Street)

Early athletics events do not leave many traces unless a newspaper report, programme of events or trophy survives. We know, however, that The Twickenham Rowing Club were organising annual running races from 1863 (on land).

Local schools also arranged athletic events. The first formal sports at Hampton Grammar School, for example, took place in 1875. These were described by the Surrey Comet as “the first attempt at a public display of athleticism in connection with the school”.

In the 1880s and 1890s athletics events became organised. Working Men’s Clubs were certainly enjoying sports in the mid-1880s and a more formal athletics club, Hampton Harriers, held its first athletics meeting in 1893. The programme for the event noted the Amateur Athletics Association rules, including the requirement that competitors had to wear “complete clothing from the shoulders to the knees”. The rules also noted that open betting was strictly prohibited. This was all a far cry from modern arrangements with top Kenyan athletes running round Bushy Park and using the facilities of the Lensbury Club in Teddington.

2The 120 yards hurdle handicap in 1898 – H J Smith jumping, with feet together

The sophisticated accommodation and coaching facilities for athletes, now available at St Mary’s College at Strawberry Hill are in contrast to the informality of these early days

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