100 Years of Athletics in Wolverton* & Milton Keynes.
Wolverton Amateur Athletic Club* was founded after the opening of "The Park" at Wolverton, on 3rd August 1885. G.M.Fitzsimmons was the first secretary. Here, on a seven acre site, the London & North Western Railway provided a cycle track, Running Track, Football Pitch, Tennis & Bowls Courts. On that opening day some 15,000 people were assembled in Wolverton; over 5,000 marched in a procession to the entrance of the recreation ground.
The opening ceremony was announced by the discharge of seven fog signals. Entertainment in the form of singing by local children, selections by the many bands assembled & a march past of Bicycles. Tea followed together with sports. During the evening there was a display of fireworks, with a ball in the Railway Carriage works, which some 2,000 people attended. All employees received a full days pay, although on holiday. A commemorative medal was struck & handed out to wives & children of the workforce.
This is the opening paragraph of the official club history - A History of Athletics in Wolverton & Milton Keynes 1885 - 1985, by Brian Graves.
This volume contains some wonderful reprints of contemporary news reports. My particular favourite written by the "Bucks Standard" Newspaper correspondent on the subject of the Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) 4 miles Championship Race on 1st July 1893. Charlie Pearce, an employee at Wolverton Carriage works, was 4 times midlands champion & had planned all summer to become AAA (National) champion. The race, held at Northampton County Ground was a triumph for Charlie as he beat Charles Willers of Essex (amongst others) by 10 yards. The report read………
"…the excitement that followed almost baffles description, for Charlie is one of the most popular sportsmen in the country. The shouts sent up were almost deafening, and hats were 'skied' into the air by hundreds, the excitement fever being caught up by the usually sedate & impartial members of the reportial staff. In a moment the enclosure was like a hive of bees, as it were, black with myriads of spectators who had rushed in to get a glimpse of the celebrated local athlete, who appeared none the worse for for his splendid effort. They surrounded him in the most orderly manner, and, amidst another outburst of cheering, he was hoisted on their shoulders and carried to the pavilion. Thus completed a sight long to be remembered in the annals of the amateur racing world"
Great stuff! There is plenty more of this in the book, which will be regarded as one of the definitive studies of provincial Athletics in Great Britain, in years to come. Since the Bucks Standard newspaper ceased to trade shortly after the book was written, it provides an essential record of a world we will never see again, in these days of professional Olympians.
* W.A.A.C. changed its name to Milton Keynes AC on 28th January 1976, after the adjoining towns of Wolverton, Stony Stratford & Bletchley, were included in the designated area of a new city to be developed between 1970 & the year 2000.