1888-1890 • H. Morton Carr and the possibility of a Club HQ in Battersea
There is little doubt that Alf Edwards was the driving force during those early years. Living at No.65 Sutherland Place in the heart of Pimlico, he showed an active interest in all the local recreational and entertainment pursuits. Few smoking concerts in the area were without his presence, and if he did not feature on the programme he was invariably asked to perform a number from his extensive music-hall repertoire.
Frequently, he assisted the nearby Chelsea Harriers in the staging of their races; always staying on for the post-race socialising. The Westminster and Pimlico News reported: "The Chelsea Harriers four miles handicap due to be held on 18th December 1888 was postponed due to fog, but the concert was held and Mr Edwards, Secretary of Belgrave Harriers, sang 'Katherine' composed by himself".
But Edwards had an encouraging force behind him in H. Morton Carr, his employer. Morton Carr lived at 89 St. George Square and was noted for his participation in local affairs. As President of Belgrave Harriers he was a generous donor to the Club's prize fund, but he was also a Vice-President of the Grosvenor Cricket Club and Secretary of the St. Georges Vigilance Committee. This committee was principally concerned with the encroachment into the parish of immoral houses. These places of low repute had sprung up around the now bustling Victoria Station but were gradually spreading much further a field. The committee's object was to stem the tide by investigating suspicious premises and initiating prosecutions against the keepers and inmates of these 'disorderly houses'. As landlord for the whole parish the Duke of Westminster attended the committee meetings and presumably saw that guilty parties were ejected from his properties. Morton Carr achieved considerable success during his term of office with the Vigilance committee.
His support for Belgrave Harriers was unfailing and there is little doubt that but for him and Edwards there were several occasions during the first twenty years when the Club would have faded away. A healthy prize fund was an important ingredient of a successful club in those days and it was through Morton Carr’s overtures that the Club acquired the patronage of Lord Monck, General Sir H. de Bathe JP, George Cubitt MP, G.J. Goschen MP, and W.L. Burdett-Coutts MP. Having secured the future of the prize fund he was, at the height of his interest, tempted to go even further by acquiring a permanent headquarters for the Club.
Above: St George's Square, S.W.1., the home of the Club's first President H. Morton Carr.
Below: Morton Carr had hopes of securing a building - far left of the picture, with tower - in Albert Bridge Road to be used as the Club's headquarters.
Present day members who regularly time their runs over 'The Bridges' circuit are treading an historic path. That circuit, which takes the runner over Chelsea Bridge, along the Chelsea Embankment, over Albert Bridge and along Prince Of Wales Drive to complete the loop, was a favourite and regular route of our founder members. Those familiar with the route will recall the hospital site opposite the south-west corner of Battersea Park. A large house used as a hospital stood at this key position in Victorian times, and in 1890 it came to the notice of Morton Carr, probably via Edwards, that the property was up for sale. The President devised a plan whereby a Club headquarters would be incorporated into the building with a running track laid on the facing ground. Influential support was obtained, together with financial backers, but negotiations broke down over the price. Had that deal been successful the whole future of Belgrave Harriers would have taken a different course. This appears to have been the only positive attempt to secure our own headquarter during the pre-World War I period but it illustrates the foresight and confidence of our founder members and in particular the benevolent leadership of our first president. Not until 1909 did Morton Carr relinquish his involvement with Belgrave affairs. His twenty-two years of service was a key factor in the Club’s establishment.
Early Patrons of Belgrave Harriers, from left to right: W.L. Burdett-Coutts, MP, General Sir H. de Bathe JP, G.J.Goschen MP, Lord Monck and George Cubitt (later Lord Ashcombe).