Help With Warwickshire Cross Country History (12/04/2013)

Colin Kirkham, from Coventry Godiva Harriers, is researching the history of the Warwickshire Cross Country League. This league no longer exists becoming extinct in the 1950's. Colin gives us an insight into the league, which came into existance around the same time as our own.

In fact, from looking at the Midland Counties Amateur Cross Country Association minutes held at the University Of Birmingham, both leagues were initially affiliated to the MCACCA at the same meeting. 


The Warwickshire Cross Country League

On October 31st 1925, the Birmingham and District Invitation Cross Country League, as it became known eventually, held its first fixture. Or rather fixtures, as the founding six clubs (Wednesbury, Dudley, Lozells, Smethwick, West Bromwich and Small Heath Harriers which replaced Harbourne Harriers who had been invited to the initial exploritary meeting on April 9th of the same year) held three races on that date. The League's first season involved ten separate races during the winter, each club racing every other club twice with a home and an away fixture.

It is questionable whether the exploratroy meeting in September of 1926 at 'The Rising Sun' in Spon End, Coventry to explore the possibility of a Warwickshire Cross Country League was a reaction to events in Birmingham because evidence of the leagues activities is scant. Firm facts are hard to come by and help is needed to enable me to expand our knowledge about the League . The first fixture was held on October 26th 1926 with six of the founding seven clubs (Godiva, Nuneaton, Leamington, Coventry Birchfield, Humber, B.T.H., and Nelson) racing from the Humber Works Recreational Pavilion (demolished in 2012!). The inaugural race was a radical departure from the previous winter activities of pack runs, occasional paper chases, inter clubs friendlies and the three championship races, the Junior and Senior Midland and the National Championship; not that many of the founding clubs competed in all three championship races every year. It was reported in the 'Fleetfoot' column of the Midland Daily Telegraph that the formation of the League Association had 'aroused additional interest in cross country running in the county, and will encourage the clubs in their efforts to win honours for the Warwickshire county in this class of sport'.

The League had a slow lingering demise in the early years of the 1950s, finally succombing to the counter attraction of the Birmingham League . In the last sixty years, evidence of the leagues activities have all but disappeared. Clubs came to compete in the league races, they lasted a few seasons and withdrew. Some clubs joined, resigned and rejoined. Other clubs treated the league with ambivalence. The strength of the county clubs ebbed and flowed over the years and this affected the quality of league competition although it did produce international cross country runners of quality. Expulsion from the Inter County Championships competition did little to enhance the attraction for potential new applicants to become members.

One legacy which the Cross Country League left was the Warwickshire Road Relay which existed in various guises over the years, but even this ceased to function a couple of years ago.

I have not been able to locate any minutes, formal official records or results or similar paperwork. Indeed, after so long a time lapse, do any still exist?. Does any person or organisation retain or have information about the league's activities.

I wonder if other member club minutes contain relavant information; Godiva minutes are far from complete and non existant in the early years of the League. And the likes of Demon, Humber, Coventry Birchfield, Arley, Small Heath, Nelson, Birmingham Atlanta and Coventry Harriers are no longer in existance.

Does anyone have any ideas about the different methods of handicapping employed by the League to help redress the imbalance in the inherent strengths of the participating clubs; the various systems used were a constant bone of contention.

If minutes and information of the surviving clubs is sparse, the chances of finding solid details from the defunct organisations has to be remote?

I would appreciate any guidence, pointers or solid information which would enable me trace the events of the Warwickshire Cross Country League more fully and to add to the facts I have already gathered.

You can contact Colin via email :- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.