1899 • A change of HQ and
back to cross-country
Two major decisions were taken at the A.G.M. of 1899. The first was to move the headquarters to the nearby "King William IV" public house. The new headquarters were only 300 yards away but held a prominent position on the Grosvenor Road embankment overlooking the River Thames, with Chelsea Bridge in splendid view a little to the west. It was an imposing building situated on the corner of Glasgow Terrace and had been rebuilt about thirty years earlier.
The upper stories were set back from the main frontage leaving a patio style balcony on the roof of the public house. The perimeter balustrades incorporated a Greek-style porch which housed a bust of King William IV. It was altogether a very much larger place than "The Kings Arms" and eminently more suitable for Belgrave's activities. Although revamped it still exists in its original form.
The proprietor was John Taylor, who had been landlord for eight years. He was by no means unknown to Belgrave and nor was his pub. Taylor had officiated as Referee at several of the Club's Boxing Day and Annual Evening meetings since arriving in 1891 and took a great interest in Belgrave affairs. His public house had been used for the Annual A.H.N. Edwards Smoking Concerts since 1893 so the surroundings were very familiar.
The second major decision to be taken at that 1899 A.G.M. was to resume cross-country running after a break of six years. It was not just resumption on the fixture list, but a serious move to involve the Club again in Open Cross Country competition. To this end, quarters were obtained at "The Railway Tavern", Battersea Rise, just five minutes walk from Clapham Junction railway station. To encourage members to revive this section, two attendance prizes were put up; one for first-claim and one for second-claim members. And so, after a period of drift, Belgrave Harriers were back on course to face the twentieth century.
But before taking this history into the twentieth century, let us take a last look at the final three months of 1899. October saw W.J. Sturgess reach the heights so many had hoped for. In Polytechnic's colours he broke his own world record for the 10 miles walk with 76:57. In November, Belgrave affiliated to the South of the Thames C.C.A., who had now attracted the "Senior" clubs into membership and were beginning to discuss barring clauses.
December saw the Sporting Life actually calling for the abolition of the Southern Counties "Junior Clubs" C.C. Championship and the opening of the "Senior" event to all affiliated clubs.
"We do not think that the mingling of the so-called Senior and Junior clubs would be detrimental to the latter class,"
wrote their correspondent. Many of the "Junior" clubs would probably have replied that they had always argued that point and that it was largely due to the "Senior" clubs that the discrimination existed.
Finally, the British Nation's involvement in the South African Boer War was to bridge the two centuries. The deeply rooted patriotism of Victorian Britain was well illustrated in the year's final month by the A.A.A. following the example of the A.B.A. in donating a sum of £100 to the War Relief Fund; a figure which represented a large proportion of the Association’s finances.
Above: As can be seen from this post card showing the Chelsea Embankment at the turn of the 20th century, traffic was not a problem when it came to holding races.
Below: The King William IV - the new headquarters of Belgrave Harriers from 1899 - pictured in 1987, 100 years after the formation of the club but little changed over the intervening years. (C.Shippen photo)
Top: St George's Square, S.W.1., the home of the Club's first President H. Morton Carr.
Above: 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.
Right: Boxing Day 1899 and another heat of the 120 yards sprint has taken off. The runners have passed the Engine Works and Belgrave Dock and are about to encounter the crowd outside All Saints Church.
Left: Nearing the finish and a huge crowd lines either side of Grosvenor Road on the Chelsea Embankment as the runners pass All Saints Church and approach the finish line opposite The King William IV public house.