1903-1904 • First ever team medals
The 1903-4 season saw Belgrave switch their winter Headquarters briefly to “The Red Lion”, Barnes, yet another public house.
In early November the first race out of the new quarters at Barnes was a match v Epsom Harriers, satisfactorily won by the Bels 20 points to 53 with A. Huskinson and G.F. Pepper leading the way for the home club and getting the better of Epsom’s four times Southern Junior Champion F.J. Steadman.
A couple of weeks later a four-sided inter-club match was held at Epsom and was reported by the Westminster and Pimlico News as follows: -
"The Belgrave Harriers travelled down to Epsom on Saturday last to take part in an inter-team race with the Epsom Harriers, Reigate and Redhill Harriers and Thames Valley Harriers. Great interest was taken in the race by the townsfolk of Epsom, about a thousand of whom witnessed the President of their local harriers, Mr H.W. Aston give the signal for the start. Excitement prevailed as to whether F.J. Steadman, Epsom’s ex-Junior champion, would be beaten over his own course by the Belgrave crack A. Huskinson. Local satisfaction was very great when 32 minutes after the start F.J. Steadman appeared in sight, and finished midst a storm of applause a hundred yards in front of A. Huskinson. E. Nicholls (TVH) was third. Teams 1, Belgrave (2,5,6,7,13,15½) = 48½, 2, Epsom (1,4,9,10,11,15½) = 50½, 3, Reigate and Redhill (8,14,22,28,29,30) = 131, 4, TVH (did not close in).
"After the race came tea followed by a very enjoyable smoking concert, during which Mr Will Parish, the well-known Chelsea comedian, brought down the house with 'I’m not such a bad sort of fellow, am I?' "
Dense fog caused the five-mile handicap to be postponed for a week but on December 12th the trail layers had successfully set out a course extending from “The Red Lion” to the White Lodge, Richmond Park. The going was very heavy owing to the continuous rain. Beverley Brook, which had to be negotiated by the runners, was in an extremely swollen state. C. Bull was the winner, off 1 min. 50 secs., but Captain Sam Sherrington was the fastest, off scratch but getting up to 4th place.
The year was rounded off by a visit to Thames Valley Harriers for a match that included Hampton Harriers. A. Huskinson, in 3rd, again led the Belgrave contingent to a team win and at the following tea and concert the leading runner from each club was presented with a gold-centred silver medal.
The portents were good for a much sought after improvement in the Club’s fortunes in the South of the Thames Championship and sure enough, amid much excitement, Belgrave took bronze medals in the race at Redhill.
The start of the race was delayed as a result of persistent and driving cold rain. Spectators and runners alike foundered in the mire and when the contest did get under way the 178 runners were soon in a woefully bespattered state. The Sporting Life reported: -
“The high position (ninth last year) of the Belgrave Harriers was another surprising feature of the event, and W. Edwards of theirs did well to finish sixth.”
Above: The 1903-4 season saw Belgrave switch their winter Headquarters to “The Red Lion”, Barnes, yet another public house. The area was a hotbed of Harrier activity at the turn of the 20th century with clubs operating from various hostelries: Thames Valley Harriers at "The Boileau Arms", Barnes, Ranelagh Harriers at "The Green Man", Putney Heath, Thames Hare & Hounds at "The King's Head", Roehampton.
In fact, Edwards had been as high as 3rd in the earlier stages of the race. Huskinson was 10th at the finish and G.F. Pepper 14th. Of the Club’s leading runners only the Captain was below par with 28th place.
The jubilant team had won their first medals after only four years of cross country running. Sam Sherrington was proud of his men, and the disappointment with his own performance was more than compensated for by the gaining of the team medals.
Just one major contest remained for Belgrave Harriers in the 1903/4 winter season – the Southern Counties Cross Country Championship at the Lingfield Park Estate. It was the 21st such race but the first time that the Club had ventured to enter.
To commemorate the event’s “coming of age” Mr Frank Wynne of London Athletic Club and Ranelagh Harriers presented a cup to be awarded to the winning team.
Out and out favourite for the individual title was South London Harriers’ Alf Shrubb who duly won by over a minute, while the Frank Wynne Cup was taken home by the Highgate Harriers.
The Belgrave team had great cause to be satisfied with their 7th place, with Pepper in 26th, Huskinson 35th, Edwards 42nd, H.J. Smith 56th, Sherrington 70th and an unknown runner in 79th. Teams behind Highgate and ahead of Belgrave, perhaps now no longer beyond reach, were South London H., Essex Beagles, Herne Hill H., Queen’s Park H. and Brighton & County; but it proved to be the Club’s best showing in the event until 1930!
The starting line-up for a cross country race on Barnes Common, c1906. The Belgrave contingent stand to the right of the photograph.