1904-1913 • The demise of the Boxing Section and a move to Tom Sullivan's
The Belgrave Open Boxing Meetings had been going from strength to strength under Alex Lambert, who also organised all the prizes and entry fees. Unfortunately the Committee experienced great difficulty in getting accounts out of Lambert and were frequently pressed by the Trophy suppliers to settle bills. The matter reached crisis level in November 1909 and Lambert resigned but he was persuaded to stay on for the sake of the boxers. It was not a good move, for the same thing happened in 1910 and the Club, unable to trace him, made representations to the A.B.A. for him to be placed in the infamous ‘black book’, which they did.
Before his demise Lambert had persuaded the Committee to appoint a professional boxing instructor, T. Woodley, at a fee of £4 per month; a very large sum for an amateur club. Thanks to the generosity of the Club’s landlord Tom Sullivan and the President H.T. Blackstaffe, who agreed to pay 25% each, the proposal was accepted. However, within a month Woodley had been dismissed and his place taken by A. Garrity at 7/6d a night. The difficulties with the boxing section would not go away. Bob Ricketts took over the Open Meeting at Latchmere Baths and the finances were in excellent order throughout; but the section’s days were numbered and it was closed down at the A.G.M. of 1913, though for some time gloves were kept for sparring.
Around about 1908 the Club’s town headquarters were moved from “The King William IV” to 180 Kings Road, Chelsea, which appears, at that time, to have been the site of the Chelsea Electric Palace, Chelsea’s original picture theatre; but in 1909, W. Mathewson the Honorary Secretary approached the landlord of “The Spencer Arms”, Lower Richmond Road to see whether these quarters which had been used for cross-country for five years could also serve as our principal headquarters. The Licensee, Tom Sullivan, was a champion sculler who later went to Germany to coach the Berlin Rowing Club and laid the foundations of that sport in Germany before being interred for the
Above: "The Spencer Arms", Lower Richmond Road, where Tom Sullivan was the Licensee, became the headquarters of Belgrave Harriers in 1909 through to 1913.
Below: A group photo on the day of the Club 7 miles Cross Country Championship in January 1913. For more information on personnel, click on the image.
duration of World War I. Sullivan agreed, and a Special Meeting endorsed the decision on 22 April 1909. Within two months a Junior section had been formed, thanks to Bob Ricketts and George Tyrer. Things appeared to be looking up but there was still a long way to go before Belgrave could be sure of its future.
The fragility of the Club became apparent the following year when, for reasons unknown, Oscar Horwood and Harry Goodfellow resigned. Several others went with them to the Westminster Harriers, a branch of the multi-sports Westminster Athletic and Gymnasium Club. However, they soon found that this club too had its problems with matters reaching a head in April 1911 when the Harriers committee resigned en-bloc.
Within a matter of days the disaffected members met at the “City of Gloucester”, Burton Court, Chelsea, and reformed the long defunct Chelsea Harriers. The new club was dominated by future Belgravians of eminence. Oscar Horwood (Captain), Harry Parker (Assistant Honorary Secretary) and H. Brown (Committee member) were all destined to become Belgrave Presidents.
The new club operated north of the Thames, staging its cross country activities at Highgate and taking part in the North London Championships. But, as many new clubs find, it is not easy for active athletes to operate their own club, and in the Autumn of 1912 the Chelsea Harriers disbanded after only eighteen months of activity. The reasons are not known, but there is little doubt that Belgrave’s membership received a great boost when key members of the Chelsea club decided to join them. Oscar Horwood had gone full circle in just three years. Within five months he was Assistant Honorary Secretary of Belgrave Harriers.
All in all, 1912 seemed to be a good year. Not only had the key Chelsea Harriers joined the Club but amongst other new members that year were the Irish Guards Champion J.J. Carroll; a fine junior runner, F.H. Foster; a former member of Kennington Harriers, Ernie Musselbrook; and Jimmy Belchamber and Albert Macher – all names to be reckoned with. But if Belgrave Harriers thought they were beginning to flourish – and they had certainly turned the corner – their landlord Tom Sullivan had other views. In 1913 he gave notice to the Club that the premises would become the headquarters of Ashcombe AC, a successful club which had not had the hilly ride experienced by Belgrave; also, they were more likely to spend money at Sullivan’s bar!