This is a copy of the archival record held at Lewisham library.
A/12/10 Kent Athletic Club
Lewisham Local History and Archives CentreLewisham Library, 199-201 Lewisham High Street, London SE13 6LG
There are no restrictions to access, except for the membership series: various application forms and 2012 excel spreadsheet of members, as they contain personal information ie names addresses dob etc. These are closed, except to club committee members, until the assumed date of death of those named; these dates are given against the items in the description. All other material can be seen by readers and copies made research and private study, requests for commercial reproduction must be referred to the club secretary; contact can be made through the website. Club officers on club business can use a hand held camera to take copies free of charge. They will identify themselves to staff by their club membership card.
Archival history and dates of accession
The records have come from a number of sources sources: those accumulated from various committee members: items 1/1/7, volume of committee minutes; some of /2, agm etc; most of /3, newsletters; and 5/3 spreadsheet of members were deposited in autumn 2012. Secondly from Ron Hale, a member since 1947 who was very active in the club’s administration in the 1960s-1980s. He also held many positions in Kent County Athletics. These were deposited in July 2015. Material held by ex secretary Bob Sear, which, after persusal by member Larry Garnham to inform his history of the club was deposited in February 2016 and February 2017. Larry Garnham also collected material from members and has copied and transcribed many sources, mainly press reports. Further deposits have been made of gm papers and newsletters.
The irregular nature of these deposits means that the numbering sequence does not always follow a chronological sequence.
Pre-war material was allegedly lost to wartime bombing. The early history in the administrative section was compiled from reports in local newspapers.
Accession Number A/12/10
Listed by Len Reilly ARA, club archivist
Covering Dates: 1947-2019
Extent six boxes
Kent AC is Lewisham’s athletics club. It has been based in that part of south London since its formation over a hundred years ago. The club’s name is something of a handicap, though one which is enthusiastically retained for reasons of consistency and nostalgia, though hardly accuracy, as at its foundation in 1898 Lewisham hadn’t been in Kent for over a decade. The club has it origins in two older organisations, Lewisham Hare and Hounds, founded in c. 1885 and West Kent Harriers, founded c. 1887. They amalgamated in the summer of 1898 and Kent AC is first heard of by that name in July of that year.
As well as spawning Kent AC, a splinter group within Lewisham Hare and Hounds also founded Catford Cycling Club, whose records are also held at Lewisham Local Studies Centre.
At this time Kent AC and its peers were very much on the periphery of London and so could enjoy access to true countryside runs at Bellingham, Beckenham and Kidbrooke. Competition in the early years was largely informal and against other familiar clubs such as Herne Hill and Highgate Harriers. It was not until the early 20th century that Kent A.C. got involved with formal competition arranged through district and regional associations. The winter cross-country season was of 8 – 10 events and featured still contested competitions such as the South of the Thames championship. The club’s leading runner was Albert Aldridge, who was second in the Southern Counties Cross County Championship in 1903; an achievement only recently surpassed. The summer saw competitions over shorter distances and the emergence of Ladywell as the summer head quarters, even before the track was built. In the 1920s the club mile record was a very creditable 4.19, run by AJ Lock. There was regular competition against Corinthian, St Brides, Metrogas and Victoria Park Harriers. (Only the last named still survives.)
The club had an active social life, including cycling, billiards, garden parties and concerts. A coming of age dinner was held in March 1920.
The club had no fixed base in its early years. Venues used for meeting and cleaning up were scattered through south-east London and north Kent. However a major turning point was the building of Ladywell track in 1936 (at the same time the London County Council built Tooting) which has been the club’s headquarters ever since, firmly rooting it to inner London and scuppering the aspirations of some members of following local rivals Blackheath Harriers to the outer suburbs.
In the 1960s and 1970s the club competed at regional level and had successful men’s and women teams. Leading male members were John Oliver and Peter Baldwin. There was a major collapse in the late 1970s, the origins of which are not clear, but seem to relate to a dearth of people willing to take on committee and team management posts and the following drop in membership saw a drop in income and activity.
A generation ago readers of the athletics press would hardly have registered Kent AC as an active club, let alone a successful one. In 1983 the club was in division 7 of the Southern League, and while it made a point of closing a team at the National Cross Country Championships, it usually finished in the 80s. It first contested the Southern 12 stage relay in 1990 finishing a lowly 43rd. The club had declining membership and even more rapidly diminishing finances. Now however its senior men’s teams are in the top dozen or so clubs in the UK in all disciplines (track, road and cross-country), membership is buoyant and finances stable.
Through the 1980s and 1990s the club ground its way up through the Southern League, spending six frustrating years in division 2 but seized its moment in 2001 and got promotion to the British League at its first attempt. It was promoted from division four to three in its first season. The progress up the ranks of national competition continued relentlessly and in summer 2011 it was champion of division and promoted to the premiership where for one season in 2012 it competed against the other top seven clubs in the country. It has since floated between divisions.
The B track team has also steadily progressed. August 5th 2006 saw a remarkable double when the A team gained promotion to British League Division 1 (old division 2), thus achieving a remarkable seven promotions in 15 years, and the B team to Southern League division 1, where it remained until the league was dissolved. A similar double was achieved in summer 2018 when the A team was promoted to division 1 of the British league and the B team, by then in the mixed Southern Athletics League, achieved its first promotion. This was the British League team’s swansong as the club resigned from the BAL later in the season.
Until the 1970s the club had a very active and successful women’s section; one member was Gillian Adams, (later Horovitz) who between 9 and 22 September 1979 held the UK marathon record at 2.41.03. After the steep decline of the late 1970s, the women’s section remained low key until the early 2000s, with the exception of enthusiastic and successful participation in the assembly leagues. This broadened to include participation in local road, cross-country and veteran track and field leagues. However in the 2010s the section grew in numbers strength and depth; it has broadened its competition to include regional road relays and the county and national cross country. From 2015 women have competed, successfully, in the mixed sex Southern Athletics League. In January 2015 Amy Clements won the senior women’s county cross country and was fastest overall in the southern road relays that September and the club were fifth in the London Marathon team competition. In November 2016 Amy Clements competed for Great Britain in the World 50k championships, winning individual bronze and team gold. This is the club’s first womens’ senior international vest for many years. The development of the women’s section, significantly helped by coaching from Pete Boxshall, has been the most significant development for the club in the decade 2005-2015.
The club is active all year round. Traditional winter targets have been the South of the Thames (the junior was won four years in succession from 2001-2005) the Kent County championships and the national. The club won the county for the first time in 2005 and again in 2015 and achieved its best ever showing in the national in 2005 with 10th place. This was battered by an 8th team position at the 2007 National XC. In winter season 2007-8 the club participated in the fiercely competitive Surrey Cross country league and in successive seasons has gained promotion and has been champion of division 1 for six consecutive years: 2012-13 – 2017-18. Spring 2018 saw John Gilbert, who in winning the county cross country for a seventh time equaled Frank Sando’s tally (and was one shy of Barry Royden), then pulled off a remarkable cross country double: winning the southern at the notoriously hard Stanmer Park course, and coming third in the national, fittingly on cross country’s most prestigious course, Parliament Hill.
Similar progress has been made with the regional and national road relays. The club first qualified the for the national 6 stage in 1995 and the national 12 stage in 2001 and has been at both ever since, regularly finishing in the top 20. In the UKA marathon championship, run in with London Marathon the club won team silver medals in 2012 and gold in 2013 and 2014.
The last decade has also seen individual members emerge onto the international scene. Steeplechaser Jermaine Mays represented GB at the European Championships in 206; in the same year John Headley was 800m champion in the V40 category in the European veterans’ championships. But the first international medal went to Conrad Williams who won silver in the GB 4x400m relay squad at the world championships in Berlin 2009. He also won bronze in the same event in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi a year later. In both instances he carved a niche market as an outstanding first leg runner and one untroubled by difficult, inside lane draws. Until 2012 Steve Green was the clubs first Olympian: a reserve in the 4×100 squad at Moscow in 1980. However Conrad and 400m hurdler Jack Green were in Team GB at London 2012. By this time Conrad was being coached by Linford Christie and Jack by Malcolm Arnold. Both made it through to their semi finals. Both were also in the first choice line up for the 4×400 relay. Along with Dai Green and Martin Rooney they ran in a thrilling final, finishing fourth. 2018 saw the retirement of Conrad Williams and the full blossoming of the already-proven talent of Alex Yee. Yee, also an international triathlete, had already set new club records at 5,000, but his 27.51 10,000 put him 3rd on the UK u23 all time list and 24th senior.
This marvelous progress has been made at a time when numbers and standards in athletics have been declining. This progress has been far from accidental, though the most important factor has been the club’s character: though small (even in 2012 there was barely 200 members) Kent AC is a friendly and inspiring outfit that very quickly generates loyalty and team spirit. It is still essentially local in its focus drawing on the huge pool of talent from the south east London area and with a skill at both nurturing it and retaining it. The club has deliberately focused on developing talented youngsters in the 16-21 age bracket and then encouraging them to continue as active seniors; that more than 70% of the U17s have done so shows the success of this approach. The second priority is to support senior athletes to a level of excellence that they and Kent AC can be proud of and a large portion of the club’s resources (especially by assisting injured athletes or subsidising travel costs to national level competition) are targeted to this.
A major factor was the centenary present from the Sports Lottery Fund and Lewisham Council who replaced the poorly-maintained cinder surface at Laydwell with an all weather surface.
The final feature has been leadership in terms of team management and coaching. Larry Garnham brought on a talented sprints and throws group in the 1990s and was the first to nurture Conrad Williams. His peer with a distance group was Ken Pike, who turned to coaching in 2000 after 10 years of managing the A track team. As a manager he did and does more than anybody to nurture the strong team spirit, is a walking database of team members’ and opponents’ pbs, developments and form and is one of the most enthusiastic, fairest and knowledgeable supporting spectators in athletics. He’s also most certainly the loudest; no cross-country course is too big, the only certain sanctuary is the turn on a long leg at the national 12 stage. As a coach he has a loyal and dedicated group of top class athletes, which included Jermaine Mays, AAA steeplechase champion and UK representative at the 2006 European Championships.
The club is also at the heart of the local athletics activity as since 2001 in partnership with Lewisham Council it has organised grass-roots events, such as the Lewisham trials for the mini marathon, Lewisham schools cross country.
The club does more than just compete. It has a healthy social life and in addition to the expected club championships puts on races. These included until 2014 the Sidcup 10 mile road race – an event with a reputation for being flat and fast, and friendly and good value. Since then it has taken advantage of the absence of golfers in Beckehham Place park to put on cross country championships.
The club is far from complacent. While it offers running coaching and competition for teenagers, it as yet has little for younger age groups and nothing for sprinters, jumpers and throwers. Its membership has grown since 2012, in large part due to park run, and a new challenge is providing training, coaching and competition opportunities for this larger and more diverse membership.
The club is entirely voluntarily run, which is always a fragile base, and is grateful to financial support from Lewisham Council, for whom it has organised schools’ track and cross country events. Its ambitions are to be consistently in the top dozen clubs in the country in all disciplines; to build on its position as the most successful club south of the River Thames with a genuinely local identity that uses and retains home-grown talent, and to do this without diluting the local focus and friendly character that has characterised it for over a century.
Scope and content
The records tell the story of the club most fully over the last four decades. The scope and content of each series is given in the description, below. The most comprehensive and regular source is the newsletter, which gives a balance of results and articles.
Since the 1990s there has been an active policy of collecting memorabilia and a large body of this, mainly results, is still held by the club. The clubs’ website is https://www.kentac.org.uk/
and previous versions can be seen in the UK web archive:
|The committee has generally met monthly and meetings have had a standard format: finance, membership, results and then particular items for discussion. Minutes tend to be full accounts of discussions. They were typed in early years and handwritten in the 2000s. See A/12/10/6/4 for notes taken from now lost minute book for 1946-1958|
|A/12/10/1/1/4||Titled ‘executive committee’ but this simply means main and only committee||Nov 1983-1985|
|A/12/10/1/1/5||December 1993 and February-May 1997 loose; volume 1997-2002|
|A/12/10/1/1/7||Includes committee meetings but also various agm agendas, minutes and reports, club rules (2015 version), correspondence and newsletters 46 and 52||2008-2015|
|A/12/10/1/1/8||Other committee papers|
|A/12/10/1/2/1||signature book of those at committee and agms||1974-1984|
|A/12/10/1/2/2||list of committee members||1980-1|
|A/12/10/1/2/4||Club records and rankings||1976, 1989, 1995, 1998|
|A/12/10/2||Annual General meetings||1967-2007|
|Calling notices, minutes and officers’ reports|
|The agm has traditionally attempted to be brief affair. The treasurer’s report is presented in a form of income/expenditure and a balance sheet and is audited. One or both of these officers has often been an accountant. The other officers’ reports usually give a full account of their area of responsibility. The records include an unpredictable mix of calling notices, minutes from the previous year, and officers’, usually the secretary and team managers’ reports. Note that for the period 1959-1990 there is some duplication with material having come from more than one source. Rather than try to sort and make one set they have been kept separate. The first set listed, A/12/10/2/A/1-24 came from a late addition to the records|
|A/12/10/2/A/1-35||There is an envelope for each year, variously containing agm calling notices, minutes, managers’ and captains’ reports, newsletters, including nos 2-9, fixture lists, plus results from AW and other sources. 35 envelopes, each with a contents list on the outside. These were compiled by Larry Garnham||1955-1990;|
|A/12/10/2/3||Extraordinary general meteing, correspondence about the subject and discussion paper on future of the club. This was an important and difficult period in the club’s history when the club was at its lowest and most vulnerable position. So low was its position that it was considering amalgamation with other local clubs.||1979|
|A/12/10/2/7-119||Also includes fixture lists; some duplicates with items above and below||1985-2007|
|A/12/10/3/1||Newsletters The newsletter is generally published twice a year It gives a comprehensive account of club activities and contains a mixture of articles and reports (many similar to those presented at the agm), lists of new members and results.|
|A/12/10/3/1//11-15||Issue 10- (see A/12/10/2/A/ for earlier editions)||1968-1978|
|A/12/10/3/1/2/1-27||No 2-no 25||1980; 1985-1999|
|A/12/10/3/1/2/54-65||Nos 54-63. With gaps; gaps have been left in the numbering sequence to reflect this||2013-2019|
|A/12/10/3/2||Fixture lists, with gaps||1968-2018|
|A/12/10/4||Photographs (see also 12/19/7/5)||nd [1960s] 1987-2001|
|Mostly of track teams, with names identified on the reverse, but also an envelope of very faded photostats.|
|A/12/10/4/2||Envelope of loose colour photos of track meets, assembly leagues||1990s|
|A/12/10/4/3||Envelope of loose colour photos of track meets,||1992 and 1994|
|A/12/10/4/4||Envelope of loose colour photos of track meets, assembly leagues and London Marathon||mid 1980s-early 2000s|
|A/12/10/5/1||Ring binder arranged alphabetically giving family and first name, date of birth, date of election, address an years in which subs were paid CLOSED: contains personal information: names address dob etc. Closed until 2060||1947-1974|
|A/12/10/5/3||An excel spreadsheet of members as at summer 2012 giving name, address, date of election, and if appropriate when left or struck off. CLOSED: contains personal information: names address dob etc. Closed until 2080||2012|
|A/12/10/5/4||Membership application forms and correspondence about membership (eg resignations) Forms give name, address, age, dob, athletic interest. There are two sequences of names in alphabetical order one for men, one for women. Not all new members are listed CLOSED: contains personal information: names address dob etc. Closed until 2070||1965-1987|
|A/12/10/5/5/1||Membership application forms and correspondence about membership (eg resignations) Forms give name, address, age, dob, athletic interest. Arranged alphabetically by surname A-G CLOSED: contains personal information: names address dob etc. Closed until 2090||1998-2013|
|A/12/10/5/5/2||Membership application forms and correspondence about membership (eg resignations) Forms give name, address, age, dob, athletic interest. Arranged alphabetically by surname H-O CLOSED: contains personal information: names address dob etc. Closed until 2090||1998-2013|
|A/12/10/5/5/3||Membership application forms and correspondence about membership (eg resignations) Forms give name, address, age, dob, athletic interest. Arranged alphabetically by surname P-Z CLOSED: contains personal information: names address dob etc. Closed until 2090||1998-2013|
|A/12/10/6/1||Volume compiled by Arthur Twinn, ex-president and press secretary. He joined in 1947 and was active in the 1960s and 1970s. Most reports are about Kent AC and taken from local newspapers, but there is wider Kent county and national and international material taken from national sources. Reports for years 1948-1961 have been pasted, thereafter they are loose and have been sorted into two year groups, 1960-1, 1962-3 etc||1948-1967|
|A/12/10/6/2||Volume taken from local newspapers, includes reports of Kent AC in the late 1940s and the club’s 50th jubilee celebrations; athletics in general in the 1940s and early 1950s; football especially Lewisham Argyle, Catford Invicta and Catford Youth Centre||1924-1953|
|A/12/10/6/3||Volume of cuttings, many lose. Many from the News of the World and by Joe Binks, focusing on the running styles of distance athletes||1937-8|
|A/12/10/6/4||Volume of cuttings about West Kent Harriers (one of Kent AC’s foundation clubs) taken mainly from the Sporting Life and covering period 1891-1893. Includes loose inserts of article written for Lewisham Borough News in 1938 and handwritten notes by Ken Pike made c 1995 taken from a now lost minute book for 1946-1958 Boards are detached||1891-1995|
|A/12/10/6/5||Folder of original cuttings and transcripts of them arranged chronologically. Often more than a dozen items per year; particularly strong on period 1970-. 21 folders||1930-2005|
|A/12/10/7||Results and memorabilia (but see also agms and newsletters)||1924-1967|
|Items A/12/10/7/1-3 are loose papers collected by club member Norman Fairbrass, including results of club and other’s races, race programmes and finishing certificates. Road races include Assembly leagues and the Guernsey Easter festival and cross country includes the county and south of the Thames championships|
|A/12/10/7/4||MS volume of results of winter and summer fixtures Most winter fixtures went from Mason’s Hill, Bromley and summer ones were held at Deptford Park track. Also includes annual subscriptions collected from named members||1929-1937.|
|A/12/10/7/5||Folder “Kent AC History” Compiled by Larry Garnham and is the fruits of his appeal of 2010 to members for information, memories and photos; the correspondence is included. Includes a typescript by Ron Hale on club history and one in three parts by Larry Garnham, also includes photos of women’s, men’s and mixed groups mainly from the early 1950s taken at Ladywell and copies or separate notes with names of those shown. Notable people featuring are Ron Hale and Fred Tregunno. Also transcripts from newspaper cuttings and programmes for races||1951-2010|
|A/12/10/8||Non-Kent AC material|
|Kent County officers and meetings||1981|
|2 cd of copies of some of the sources; content not investigated|