Solihull & Small Heath Athletic Club

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Small Heath Harriers

The first recorded race held by Small Heath Harriers was on Saturday, 11th October 1879. This was from the Sydenham Hotel in Golden Hillock Road. Thirteen members turned up to run about eight miles across country to the Three Horse Shoes, Sheldon where a substantial tea was provided. (It was usual in those days for races to end at a local hostelry where a meal was served)

Small Heath in the 1880's and 1890's had enough land to allow for cross country running to take place in the heart of the district and the Club had a flourishing existence for some years, finishing 5th in the Midland Senior Championships in 1884. By the following year, however, they had disappeared from the athletic scene.

On October 26th 1891, the Birmingham Gazette reported;

"Small Heath AC which was formed a few weeks ago, held the opening run on Saturday from the headquarters, Small Heath Athletic Grounds. Twenty two members turned out and had a most enjoyable run of about six miles making a tour of Victoria Park and through Hay Mills then over the country back through Yardley and down Green Lane home."

Small Heath Athletic Grounds were those of Small Heath Alliance FC in Muntz Street, ultimately to become Birmingham City FC.

Small Heath AC enjoyed early success with B Ravenscroft winning the Midland Junior Championships in 1892, G Boland and the team winning in 1893, H Bamford winning in 1894. It was in December 1898 that the Club name changed to Small Heath Harriers. Albert Owen led the Club to victory in 1900 with the next Junior team victory coming in 1909. (The term "Junior" referred then to ability and not age.)

Whilst the Club was predominantly Cross Country and Road Race orientated, there was a strong interest in track and field athletics. Summer track training, with the need for a level grassed area, always presented problems, and for a time the local football Club, Small Heath FC allowed the use of their grounds during the summer months, first at Muntz Street and then at St Andrews. This ceased in the early 1920's.

In 1928 when Kingston Hill Recreation Ground was opened, largely as a result of the energies of the then Club President Harry Butler, the problem appeared to be solved. Unfortunately local children made life very difficult for runners and the cinder track which had been laid down was left to the vandals by the early 1930's.

The ladies section was founded in 1931. Helen Wright, Lottie Stokes, Joyce Heath, Sylvia Bird and Dolly Hunt soon achieved a list of successes both running and walking and by 1936 had won the National Junior Womens and the National Senior Womens Cross Country Championships, again winning the Junior Womens Championship in 1939. Small Heath race walkers became National Road Walk Champions in 1937 and 1938.

Post war successes were hard to come by, although Joyce Heath, Nellie Batson (later Loines) and Maureen Garvey (later Blore) all won National Championships. Nellie Batson was the 800yds and 1 mile British champion in 1947 and 1948 and the 800yds champion again in 1951. Later she became a member of the first ever British female road walking team, taking part in an international in Copenhagen.

The Club President at the turn of the century was Harry Butler, a director of Mitchells & Butlers and it was through his patronage that the Club secured headquarters at the Bulls Head, Coventry Road, Yardley, after a spell at the Small Arms Inn in Muntz Street. This arrangement continued until 1937 when, due to increasing urbanisation, a move was made to the Three Horse Shoes in Sheldon.

Track facilities were provided at the BSA ground from 1946 to 1949 and thereafter at Henry Road Playing Fields

The Club won the Birmingham District League in 1926 and 1927, the Warwickshire Championships in 1939, and Jack Carrick won the MCCCA Junior Championship in 1946.

It was in 1946 that a monthly publication of news and views called the "Heathen" was founded by Don Marlow, Club Secretary (1939-1950). This continued in one form or another until the amalgamation, the last editor being Bob Froggatt (SSHAC Treasurer for many years and Club President 1994-1996). Bob's grandfather, father (Bob) and uncle (Frank) were all enthusiastic runners, and his son Paul is a fine runner also, thereby completing four generations of Froggatts.

The Heathen in its early days ran a regular series on Club members. The first to be featured was the then Club President, Jack McKenna. He joined the Club in 1911, holding many posts - Chairman, Secretary and Club Captain. At one time or another he held the office of President in virtually all the governing bodies of the sport and he remained Club President until his death in January 1974.

It was not until 1951 that Small Heath Harriers, led by Bill Gray, won the Midland Senior Cross Country team and individual for the first time. This team success was repeated in 1957. The First Division Birmingham and District League, then the strongest competition of its kind in the country, was also secured at that time for two consecutive seasons and seven league races were won in succession.

In 1956 and 1971 the Club won the Midland Junior (18-21 years) team, with individual winners, Tony Osborne in 1956, Andrew Herrity in 1967 and 1971, and David Black in 1972. The Midland Youths Championship was won in 1968, 1969 and 1970, with John King and David Black individual champions as well. In 1970 the Club also won the National Youths Team Championship.

Throughout the seventies, David Black continued to be the Club's most prominent performer, winning the National Youths title in 1971, the National Junior title in 1972, the Midland Senior Championships in 1972, 1978 and 1979, and the National Senior title in 1974.

Success came in the Midland Counties AAA Track Championships;

Jack McKenna (steeplechase) in 1919 and 1920, Jack Carrick (1 mile) in 1946, Tom Collier (440yds) in 1946, 1947, 1948, and 1949, Alf Shakespeare (1 mile) in 1935, Bill Gray (6 miles) in 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1957, John Rowe (10 miles) in 1965, Tom O'Reilly (Marathon) in 1972 and 1973, David Black (10000m) in 1973, 1975, David Black (5000m) in 1977, John Tierney (2000m Steeplechase) in 1973 and 1974.

Olympic representation was achieved by;

Jack Price (marathon) in 1908, Jack McKenna (marathon) in 1924, Tom Collier (4x400m Relay) in 1948, David Black (5000m) in 1976, David Black (Marathon) in 1980, David Black also competed in the 1974 Commonwealth Games and won Silver and Bronze medals in the 10000m and 5000m respectively.

David Black, Jack Carrick, Frank Froggatt, Bill Gray and John King won English Cross Country Union honours and Ken Dare, the Club Secretary for twenty five years (1953-1978) represented Wales. Gerry Taylor and Colin Simpson represented the Amateur Athletic Association.

The decline of Small Heath Harriers as a force in Midlands athletics began when the Club was forced to move from its headquarters at the Three Horse Shoes in 1965 together with the loss of Henry Road Playing Fields, which had provided track facilities since the summer of 1950. The last race to take place in Small Heath Park, which included Small Heath Harriers, was on 27th April 1963 when the Club won a six man relay race of 1.5 mile stages. The Club became peripatetic in nature and by the late 1970's it became imperative to stop the rot.

It was at this stage that a mutual agreement was struck with Solihull Athletic Club, who were blessed with fine facilities, to form the new Club.

Solihull Athletic Club

At Solihull Council House in November 1959, The County Borough of Solihull Athletic Club was formed with Joe Kinchin as President. The Club was officially accepted on 1st April 1960 and headquarters were set up at the new District Youth Headquarters in Tudor Grange Park in 1961.

Mike Rawson, in about 1950, together with a group of friends at Knowle Youth Club got up a petition with some 500 names asking for athletic facilities in Solihull. The idea was shelved until Alderman E. Hiley, Chairman of the Youth Sub-Committee, took up the cause. He was asked by the Youth Committee to try and secure a central place as a district headquarters for youth work in Solihull.

Alderman Hiley suggested that members of youth organisations should work to raise 2d (old penny) a head annually until the sum of £5000 was raised. They could then go to the Education Authority with a strong case. The response was only moderate. However, in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth was crowned, Ald. Hiley became Chairman of the Coronation Celebrations Committee and that gave him the opportunity to start the fund further afield. Solihull Carnival was revived with the sole object being to raise funds for the District Youth Headquarters.

In 1958 Ald. Hiley became Mayor. He announced the Youth HQ as his major project and the idea caught the imagination of the Solihull people. At that time also, Mike Rawson became Solihull's first Olympic athlete and athletics became a subject of local enthusiasm.

Joe Kinchin, a local businessman and 1908 Olympic middle distance athlete heard about the youth project and contacted Mayor Hiley. Together they conceived a plan that if the Council would agree, the Youth HQ could be erected in Tudor Grange Park to serve as an athletics pavilion (that is why the dressing rooms are separated from the indoor activities area by the corridor so that both could be used independently and simultaneously) and that the project should become associated with a running track. It was not difficult to persuade the Parks Committee to bring forward a future proposed track and incorporate an Athletics Centre with the District Youth Headquarters. The Council agreed.

The cost of all this was about £27,500 for the original building and £10,000 for the outside works. The Mayor's Appeal Fund was launched with a target of £35,000 and seven months later it was reached, with the help of grants from the Ministry of Education and the National Playing Fields Association. It was a delighted Mayor Hiley who was able to cut the first turf, (where the flagpole stands) and lay a plaque to mark the commencement of building work on 13th May 1959. This was to be almost his last Mayoral duty.

The 440yds AAA regulation track was built on clay and the Alderbrook stream had to be diverted from running diagonally across the track area. The track was made up of graded ashes from 3 to 1 inches and surfaced by a mixture of very fine ash and two types of clay dust. It was a waterbound material and needed copious watering and rolling during the summer months.

The Athletic Centre and District Youth Headquarters was opened in July 1961 by Mr Keith Thompson MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education. Cyril Villiers, a AAA qualified coach, was installed as the first Warden of the Centre and membership began to grow.

Members of the Athletic Club were able to use the facilities of the Centre. The Club's coaching and training set up was integrated with the Education Authority's organisation at the centre.

The Club covered the whole range of athletics, track and field, road and cross country for both men and women. In May 1961 the first sports meeting was held, 200 athletes from 12 area Church Youth Clubs competed on a points system.

1963 saw the first complete year of activities with Joe Kinchin, the President, Edgar Hiley as Chairman, and Norman Green, the Vice Chairman.

There began to emerge some promising youngsters, notably Richard Green, the son of Councillor Norman Green, who was selected to compete in the 220yds at the 1964 English Schools Championships. In the following year he became the Club's first International, running the 100yds and 400yds at Brighton for English Schools against Wales and Scotland and in 1967 competed for Great Britain as a Junior in America, France and Germany.

Brian Grogan, the new Warden in 1965 coordinated the coaching at the Club, and the Ladies section began to develop with a few cross country meetings. In the track season, there were about 30 female athletes, mainly 13 to 14 year olds, including Angela Lovell who went on to represent England on the track at 1500m in 1970.

An all weather Tartan long jump run up of 189 feet was opened by Lyn Davies in 1966, the only one of its kind in the country. This proved popular with the National Long Jump Squad who trained on it at weekends.

1967 was a busy year for the Club. The arrival of Michael Davies as coach improved standards with new ideas and enthusiasm. All events were covered. George Evans, a leading Midland javelin coach assisted the Club. Roger Spikes coached discus, shot and hammer. It was aimed to establish a really strong junior and intermediate ladies section.

In April, the canteen extension was started including a First Aid room. Solihull A.C. held the first Spring Relays Meeting on the track with 700 athletes from 30 Clubs taking part. Richard Green represented Great Britain in America and France (400m in 47.7s). He was also part of the GB 4x400yds team against West Germany. At the Junior and Intermediate National Ladies Championships in Harlow that year, a Junior 4x100m relay team consisting of Vyvyenne Webster, Joy Croxson, Janice Brown and Helen Gray were third in a time of 50.8s. This was the first team placing in a National final by Solihull A.C. There were some very promising women athletes emerging at this time, Denise Pack, Angela Lovell, Mary Talbot, Dianne Moseley and Gill Warner (track); Sue Cuthbertson and Sharon Corbett (Javelin); Lynn Polson, Mary Milton and Elizabeth Pickering (Discus).

The social side of the Club began to develop with the first ever get together of some 80 members attending a get-to-know-you dance and games evening. Also the first recorded Boxing Day Run in which about 26 members raced approximately 3.5 miles from the Drum and Monkey Public House to the Club Headquarters to be greeted with mince pies.

A young girl by the name of Sonia Lannaman, a sprinter with enormous potential, joined the Club in 1968. She had ran the fastest 100yds in Britain by a 12 year old, and joined forces with Webster, Croxson and Brown to win the Junior Ladies 4x400m at the WAAA Championships held at Crystal Palace in a time of 49s on the Tartan track. Sonia went on to break many records and to represent Great Britain over the next few years including the New Zealand Commonwealth Games in 1971 and the Munich Olympics in 1972. She competed 41 times for GB between 1971 and 1980. Sonia left Solihull AC in 1975 and joined Wolverhampton & Bilston.

The senior men were competing in the Birmingham Cross Country League Division 3 and were placed 5th after the four races, and were 10th in the Warwickshire Road Relay Championships (out of 20 teams).

In 1969 Bob Brind, a Birchfield athlete, took over from Brian Grogan as the Centre Warden. Sonia Lannaman, coached by Ron Rowles, became the fastest 100m sprinter in the World at age 13 in 11.9s and broke the UK 200m record in 25.4s at Solihull. Sharon Corbett won the National Intermediate Javelin Championship title and Angela Lovell held the 17 years of age best for 1500m (4.38.1s). Solihull Junior Ladies were awarded the AAA National Trophy for the most outstanding Junior Club in the country.

The Men's team were competing well in Division 5 of the Midland Track and Field League and heading for promotion, whilst holding their own in the 3rd division of the Birmingham Cross Country League.

The Management Committee of the Solihull Athletic and Youth Centre proposed that there be changes in the basic organisation at the Centre. The idea was that there would be a Centre Council with youth and adult representation from all sections and that those sections would develop a proper club system with their own committees and constitutions. The Club formed its own committee, was run independently of the Council and became Solihull Athletic Club. It was given permission to use the Arms of the County Borough as the crest.

Solihull Athletic Club in 1969, held their first Dinner Dance and Awards Night at the Saracens Head in Shirley, ticket price, only £1.7s.6d (£1.37p)

In 1970 there were some changes at the centre - Two new bays of seating were provided in front of the main building with seating for 750 and improvements were made to the canteen facilities and changing rooms.

On the 10th and 11th July 1970, the largest event yet was held at Solihull, The Esso sponsored English Schools Athletic Championships. There was seating for 5000 competitors and spectators. 170 track events were staged in the first 180 minutes on the Friday morning. The 75m and 80m Hurdle races were held on grass in the middle of the track. 10,000 spectators converged on Solihull over the two days with 20,000 cakes, sandwiches and pies being consumed.

Competing for Warwickshire Schools were;

Sonia Lannaman Junior 100m, Lyn Chantry Inter Hurdles, Angela Lovell Senior 800m , Sharon Corbett Senior Javelin, Keith Hopkins Junior 200m, Janice Brown Inter Long Jump, Martin Lee Senior 100mH, Lorna Drysdale Inter Hurdles.

The 1970's saw the continued growth of the Club. The Standards Badge scheme was introduced. whereby the Club staged special meetings once a month at which athletes had to obtain standards set in two events to gain a track suit badge. This was to encourage all round ability. There were now 15 coaches organised into 3 levels, Specialist, Club, and County Standard.

The Ladies section started to field a regular cross country team and Bill Matthews offered his services as a race walking coach. Race walking was one of the events included in the newly formed Midland Womens Track and Field League (1971). The ladies were competing in division one of this league and were only headed by the likes of Birchfield and Stoke in the early 70's. Race walkers Virginia Lovell, Ann Clench, Karen Blackmore-Squires, Ann Ward and Sally Wish were scoring vital points for the team.

The Race Walking section of the Club continued to be very successful producing several County, Area and National Champions, with International representation by Sally Wish in 1971 and 1973, Karen Hill in 1973, Karen Eden in 1978 and 1980, and Elaine Cox (now Callinan) in 1979 and 1980. (Elaine, National Track Race Walking Champion 1974-1976, and National Road Race Walking Champion 1975, set three National Track Race Walking records in 1974)

At the WAAA Race Walking Championships held in London in 1975, there was an incredible achievement by seven Solihull athletes. In the 2,500m race the Club occupied the first seven places, Elaine Cox, Karen Baker, Karen Eden, Sandra Baker, Sharon Smith, Katy Griffin and Susan Newby thereafter called the "Magnificent Seven".

In 1971 Lorna Drysdale became Intermediate National 80m Hurdle Champion and represented GB in Sweden. Ann-Marie Twomey set a new UK track record for a 14 year old in the Intermediate 400m at the National WAAA Championships at Watford. Sonia Lannaman again sprinted for GB in 1972-1973 both indoors and out. In 1974 the Club had 2 representatives in the International Schools Cross Country Championships, Gillian Dainty and Lynn Ward (now Bates). Sharon Corbett continued Javelin throwing internationally at senior level (1976 - Kiev).

The senior men by 1972 had reached division 2 of the Midland League, a creditable progression.

The track area was subject to flooding during the winter months or in a heavy summer storm and so it was decided to launch an appeal fund for an all weather track. The estimated cost would be £45,000.

In 1972 following various fund raising activities including a sponsored run by club athletes which raised £300, the High Jump, Long Jump and Pole Vault run-ups were resurfaced.

Pat Cropper, Birchfield Harrier and Olympic 800m athlete, the new Warden in 1975, had the go ahead from Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council to launch another Tartan Track Appeal. The estimated cost would now be £300,000 and the Council agreed to give 50 per cent of the Borough Lottery profits. The West Midlands Sports and Recreational Council agreed to support the appeal and the Club promised to raise £25,000 towards the much needed track.

Solihull's Deputy Mayor, Councillor Norman Green was chairman of the appeal fund, P. Montague the Hon. Secretary and Pat Cropper the Hon. Treasurer.

Events proposed: Stamp and Antiques Fair, Hair Fashion Show, Flag Day, Sponsored Runs, Coffee Mornings, Paper Collection

By December 1978 Norman Green's appeal had raised £6000.

Ladbrokes announced that it was axing the council's lottery (expected to raise £200,000) because sales were disappointing after 6 months. The Tartan Track Appeal was now only to receive £10,000 from the lottery.


1965 Richard Green Youth 100/440yds Schools(Brighton), 1967 Richard Green Junior 440yds America, 1967 Richard Green Junior 4x400yds Germany, 1967 Richard Green Junior 400m France, 1969 Sonia Lannaman Junior 100m Schools, 1969 Sharon Corbett Junior Javelin Schools, 1970 Angela Lovell Junior 1500m European Games, 1970 Sonia Lannaman Junior 200m W.Germany, 1970 Angela Lovell Senior 1500m W.Germany, 1970 Sharon Corbett Senior Javelin W.Germany, 1971 Sharon Corbett Senior Javelin W.Germany, 1971 Sonia Lannaman Junior 60m Cosford, 1971 Angela Lovell Senior 1500m Cosford, 1971 Sonia Lannaman Junior 100/200m Meadowbank, 1971 Lorna Drysdale Junior Hurdles Meadowbank, 1971 Angela Lovell Senior 1500m Meadowbank, 1971 Sally Wish Junior Race Walking Copenhagen, 1971 Sonia Lannaman Junior 100/200m New Zealand, 1971 Sharon Corbett Senior Javelin New Zealand, 1972 Lorna Drysdale Junior Hurdles Sweden, 1972 Virginia Lovell Junior Race Walking, 1972 Angela Lovell Senior C.C. Cambridge, 1972 Sonia Lannaman Inter 100/200m GDR, 1972 Sonia Lannaman Inter 100/200m Crystal Palace, 1972 Sonia Lannaman Inter 100m Helsinki, 1972 Sonia Lannaman Inter 100m & 4x100m Munich, 1972 Sonia Lannaman Inter 60m Grenoble, 1972 Sonia Lannaman Inter 100m Crystal Palace, 1973 Sally Wish Inter Race Walking Rouen, 1973 Karen Hill Junior Race Walking Rouen, 1973 Sonia Lannaman Senior 100m Warley, 1973 Sonia Lannaman Senior 100m Crystal Palace, 1973 Sonia Lannaman Senior 100m Leipseig, 1974 Gillian Dainty C.C. Schools, 1974 Lynn Ward C.C. Schools, 1974 Sally Wish Senior Race Walking, 1974 Lorna Drysdale Senior Hurdles, 1976 Sharon Corbett Senior Javelin Grangemouth, 1976 Sharon Corbett Senior Javelin Kiev, 1978 Karen Eden Junior Race Walking Sweden, 1979 Elaine Cox Senior Race Walking W.Germany, 1980 Elaine Cox Senior Race Walking Cwmbran, 1980 Karen Eden Inter Race Walking Cwmbran.


1963 Chelmsford, M.J.Green 220yds, Richard Green 220yds.

1964 Hendon, Richard Green 220yds, Tony Higgs 880yds, Bernards Wilkins 1000m Steeplechase, Philip Harding 440yds, Mary Gearing 80m Hurdles.

1965 Watford, Gerry Marlow Pole Vault, Richard Green 440yds, Robert Fellows 880yds, G.Wilkins 120yds Hurdles, Bernard Wilkins 1000m Steeplechase, B.Pratt 100yds & Relay, Liz Gould 100yds & Relay, Sue Cuthbertson Javelin.

1967 Peterborough, Richard Green, Noel Berry, Helen Gray, Angela Lovell, Denise Pack.

1968 Portsmouth, Leon Adams 100yds, Howard Vane Javelin, Edward Lison, Andrew Green, Sonia Lannaman 100yds, Vyvyenne Webster, Janice Brown Long Jump, Joy Croxon, Lyn Polson Discus, Sharon Corbett Javelin

1969 Surrey, Angela Lovell 800m, Sharon Corbett Javelin, Sonia Lannaman 100m, Vyvyenne Webster 150yds

1970 Solihull, Martin Lee 100m Hurdles, Keith Hopkins 200m, Sonia Lannaman 100m, Sharon Corbett Javelin, Lorna Drysdale Hurdles, Janice Brown Long Jump, Lyn Chantry Hurdles, Angela Lovell 800m

1971 Crystal Palace, Phil Andrews Discus, Keith Mucklow 100m, Gail Riley 75m Hurdles, Lorna Drysdale 80m Hurdles, Lyn Chantry 80m Hurdles, Sonia Lannaman 100m, Vyvyenne Webster 100m, Sharon Corbett Javelin

1972 Durham, Phil Andrews Hammer, Nigel Beard Discus, Barry Doherty High Jump, Chris Land 400m Hurdles

1973 Cheshire, Alison Crow Long Jump

1974 Shrewsbury, Gill Dainty and Lynn Ward inter 1500m

1975, Mark Bentley Hurdles

1977 London, Mark Bentley Hurdles, Morag O'Brien 100m

1978 Chesterfield, Morag O'Brien 100m & Relay

1979 Nottingham, Mark Higgins Discus, Morag O'Brien 100m & Relay

1980 Liverpool, Graham Maund 200m, Mark Higgins Discus, Ray Wilson 100m & Relay, Nicola Parsons 200m & Relay, Sharon Bowie Long Jump