Club History - 1962 to present day


The '60s

 

In 1962, a small group of local enthusiasts, including Terry Haines and current Club member Ron Freeman, felt there was a need for the athletic club in the City to be revived from its slumber. A training course for young athletes was held over the summer of 1962, run by Mr Joseph, Mr M England and Mr G Cummings. The young athletes had responded well to the sessions and been very enthusiastic in taking up the idea of reviving the club and this effectively began the renaissance of Gloucester AC as an active club.

 

The initial successes came from the younger age groups in both sprints during the summer of ’62 and in cross-country in the ‘62/’63 season. The club’s fixture list initially comprised cross-country and road races and open track and field meetings.

 

The developing presence and success of the athletic club started to generate a great deal of interest amongst City youngsters and seniors alike and the Club started to rapidly expand. Initially the club found it hard to make ends meet financially, the biggest expenditure was for coaches to transport the club's athletes to all the fixtures they were attending.

 

Training was on Wednesday evenings, based at a small room at the Fleece Hotel at the top of Wootton Pitch (at the junction of London Road, Denmark Road and Cheltenham Road). The club needed to find a suitable venue for summer training, and were offered two venues in 1963, Plock Court and Blackbridge. The club selected the latter, and have been there ever since. A 6-lane 440 yard grass track, which it shared with the local Crypt School, was marked out by the Crypt School groundsman. The track was marked out half way up the present Blackbridge playing field and was on a slight slope. A 100 yard straight was marked out along the middle of the oval track. There were no training facilities for throwing and jumping events, so the parents of the Club’s members worked together and, with the use of a rule book that gave appropriate dimensions, produced areas for events such as hammer and discus, shot putt and the long and high jumps. Club stalwart Ron Freeman was able to acquire a rubber conveyor belt which was adapted for the long jump run-up. Some of these facilities still exist - you can see the throwing circles up the right hand side of the playing field, and near the corner by the housing estate, where the high jump fan was also situated. The long jump pit was where the dog waste bin now is near the end of the clubhouse!

 

Winter training was moved to the Sir Thomas Rich’s School Barton Buildings in Barton Street (now 72 Eastgate Street) for the ‘64/’65 season, where the distance runners went off on the road and the track athletes used the gymnasium and the long passageway for sprints and hurdles training. The Fleece Hotel was still being used as well by some of the male distance runners. The ladies got their own training venue at the Domestic Science College in 1966.

 

The club used Longlevens School for cross-country fixtures.

 

The club really wanted a proper artificial surfaced track facility that could be used in all weathers throughout the year. In 1963 the club lent its name to the new Gloucester City FC Horton Road Stadium project in the hope this might improve the chances of it being developed for athletics as well as football, as was the originally intended case for the stadium scheme. In 1965 the new Oxstalls Secondary School (the relocated Hatherley Road Boy’s School) project at Plock Court included proposals for an athletics track, and this became the club’s preferred option, and the pursual of the Horton Road involvement faded. Tenders were sought for the track at Plock Court, but the club were unhappy with the proposal for it being Redgra (Redgra was a mixture of fine stone and clay only found in the Forest of Dean, commonly used as a multi-sports surface at the time), saying it would be unusable and recommending other options. As it happened, the scheme was shelved in 1968 due to the country’s worsening financial crisis.

 

The club organised a number of events, including a very successful road relay on 6th June 1963 from Buckingham Palace in London to Gloucester in aid of the Gloucester Deaf and Dumb House, carrying a message from a celebrity in London to a celebrity in Gloucester. John Rose was elected to run the first leg and Terry Haines the last. 26 members comprised the team and they finished in 8h40m; Ron Freeman instigated the Xmas morning road race in 1963, starting at 10.00am at the Fleece Hotel. This race is still being organised to this day. The club organised its first Carnival road race on 28th July 1965 and it proved to be very successful, and, the following year, organised a 1000 lap of Gloucester Park relay during the carnival fortnight. The club also entered a float in the 1967 carnival procession. The club took part in the Prince of Wales Investiture Relay in 1969 from Caernarfon Castle to Windsor castle, Ron Freeman and Jayne Walden carrying the baton from the Dog at Over to the Walls roundabout.

 

At the club's AGM on 5th December 1962 the officers elected were: President - A Rich; Chairman - P Leach; Secretary - T Haines; Treasurer - P Leach. A constitution had been drawn up by T Haines and was adopted at the AGM. Subscriptions were set as: at school and under 15 - 2s6d; at school and over 15 - 5s6d; at work - 7s6d.

 

The club adopted the white vest with diagonal red sash for the first time in 1962, with the ladies being the same but with the colours switched. The club logo was designed in 1963 and went into production with a few minor tweaks in 1965 – this is the same logo as we use today.

 

Competition was mostly trophy meetings, championships and local leagues and open meetings and road races. The club was attending these more or less on a weekly basis, often with two coachloads of athletes travelling to the fixtures. One of their best performances came in the Harry Secombe Trophy meeting at Swansea in 1967 where the club beat all the major clubs from Wales and the South West to seal a win.

 

The club entered the Birmingham & District Cross Country League, regarded as the best league in the country, in 1969.

 

Club members gaining international honours in the '60s included

  • Robert Phelps - Great Britain - Modern pentathlon

The ‘70s

 

Another proposal for an athletics track came for Holmleigh Park in 1970 where the Beaufort Community School was going to be built, but the club rejected this for a number of reasons – it was believed to be too far from the city centre and of no benefit to other schools as well as having restricted availability. It was also proposed to be Redgra, which the club again believed to be unsuitable. The club enquired about the possibility of Blackbridge being developed as a permanent athletics facility and the Holmleigh proposal was dropped in 1971. Although the local authority gave consideration to the clubs Blackbridge proposal, it was decided that no money was available for further development of athletics facilities in the city. In 1973 the club started up an appeal fund to raise £30,000 to build an athletics track in Gloucester.

 

In 1975 Cheltenham & County Harriers suggested that a track be built at Staverton, but the club did not find favour with this proposal. The club subsequently investigated the possibility of siting a track at the Saintbridge School, but the school were against the club’s proposals to develop athletics there.

 

The need for a proper track was highlighted in 1976 when the club hosted a Midland League fixture at Blackbridge in May, but it proved to be a disaster and the MCAA banned the club from hosting any future league fixtures, declaring the May fixture null and void and rescheduling it for September.

 

The year after, the club applied for a grant to try and kick-start the track appeal, and increased the publicity for the venture. The Council were still looking at the options, but the pursuit of a track at Oxstalls, originally the club’s first choice venue, proved fruitless and the council looked at siting it at Blackbridge, not on the playing field that the club was using, but on a bit of land below the Crypt School (the site of the present track). The council costed two options, one for an 8-lane Redgra at £46,000, the other for a 6-lane Redgra with synthetic home straight at £27,000. Due to government cutbacks, the process was delayed and the decision made to go with a 6-lane Redgra track.

 

During the early 1970s, Gloucester Athletic Club staged many open track & field meetings that included 880yds and one mile races in which U13 and U15 girls could enter, and 3000m races where senior women could enter. These were all against the rules at the time as they were considered “over-distance” and the Club was involved in a well-publicised battle against the authorities for many months, arguing that they were recognised outside the UK. Common sense eventually prevailed and the events are now an integral part of the racing programme.

 

In 1973 the club initiated an annual match between Gloucester AC and the athletic club representing Gloucester's twin town of Gouda in the Netherlands - this involved the clubs alternating as hosts and was held in the summer with the visiting club camping at their home host's facilities and having a week of athletics and social activities (drinking, dyke running etc.......). This fixture continued throughout the ‘70s and right through the ‘80s to the early ‘90s.

 

Throughout the 1970s (and 1980s), Gloucester AC staged more open road, cross-country and track & field events than any other club in the country and its events were well-known for their simple, but effective, structure. Results were swiftly produced within moments of the event finishing, entries usually ran into the hundreds and the track meetings very rarely, if ever, ran late.

 

The club entered the Midland Mens Track & Field League in 1974, winning each division in successive years to reach Division 1 in 1979.

 

Steve McHale placed 51st in the National Cross Country Championships in 1972 and 44th in 1977, the two highest-ever placings by Gloucester AC athletes in this prestigious event.

 

The mid '70s to mid '80s proved to be the peak times for the club as we were performing to a very high level in the track and field, road races and cross-country leagues and events, becoming one of the top 30 clubs in the country. Membership stood around the 800 mark.

 

Club members gaining international honours in the '70s included

  • Sarah Rowe - Wales - Pentathlon / Heptathlon
  • David Rowe - Wales - High jump
  • Geraint Griffiths - UK & Wales - High jump
  • David Abrahams - England - High jump
  • Richard Samuel - Wales - 5000m
  • Crayton Phillips - Wales - Hammer
  • Candice Phillips - Wales - Hammer
  • Ian Larrard - Scotland - 200m

Main League performances in the '70s:

Birmingham & District Cross Country League
Season Division Position Notes

1969-70

3  (3 divisions) 2nd  (11 teams) Promoted
1970-71 2  (3 divisions) 3rd  (9 teams)  
1971-72 2  (3 divisions) 3rd  (9 teams)  
1972-73 2  (3 divisions) 1st  (9 teams) Promoted
1973-74 1  (3 divisions) 6th  (8 teams)  
1974-75 1  (3 divisions)

7th  (8 teams)

Relegated
1975-76 2  (3 divisions) 1st  (9 teams) Promoted
1976-77 1  (3 divisions) 3rd  (8 teams)  
1977-78 1  (3 divisions) 7th  (9 teams)  
1978-79 1  (3 divisions) 7th  (9 teams)  
Midland Mens Track & Field League
Midland Womens Track & Field League
Season Division Position Notes Season Division Position Notes
1974 6 1st Promoted   3    
1975 5 1st Promoted        
1976 4 1st Promoted   2    
1977 3 1st Promoted   2    
1978 2 1st Promoted (B team Div 8 1st)        
1979 1   Relegated (B team Div 7 1st)   2    
 

Some photos from a Tredworth Road Race in the '70s. No 1 is Steve McHale, Gloucester vest man at start is John Mitchell, vertical black and white vest at start is Terry Haines. Anybody recognise any of the others, or the year?


The ‘80s

 

The new track finally became a reality, and the new facility was ready for the 1981 season. The club had to take out a loan of £13,500 to help pay for the facility, and this was finally paid off in 1989.

 

The club staged some high profile events on the new track, including the famous 24 hour race in May 1982 when Dave Dowdle set a world record for the time of 176 miles, and the 48 hour race the following year where Dave Dowdle set another world record for that time of 238 miles.

 

Being a Redgra track, the condition of the surface was somewhat weather-dependant. When dry it was very hard, and with poor maintenance, as the decade progressed, it became rutted and uneven, making running quite dangerous at times. At a Midland League match, many of the visiting teams’ athletes refused to run due to the state of the track. The club campaigned to have the track upgraded to a synthetic surface.

 

The opening of the new synthetic track with its floodlighting at the Prince of Wales Stadium in Cheltenham in 1982 resulted in a number of club athletes leaving and joining Cheltenham for their better facilities.

 

The running boom in the early ‘80s, given the springboard by the first London marathon, led the club to organise its first People’s Marathon in October of 1981. Starting and finishing in the Park, well over 2000 runners took part.

 

The club won the Southern Shield Competition at Hendon in 1982. Also in 1982, the club's ladies team was ranked 63rd overall in the country. In 1985, the club competed in the BAL Qualifier for the sixth time in nine years. The club reached the BAL Plate Final in 1986, finishing 5th at Cwmbran.

 

Club members gaining international honours in the '80s included

  • Steve McHale - England - Marathon
  • Sarah Rowe - Great Britain Juniors, Wales - Heptathlon / High jump
  • Gerald Neely - Northern Ireland - Cross country / 3000m
  • Richard Phelps - Great Britain - Modern pentathlon

Main League performances in the '80s:

Birmingham & District Cross Country League
Season Division Position Notes
1979-80 1  (3 divisions) 7th  (9 teams)  
1980-81 1  (3 divisions) 7th  (9 teams)  
1981-82 1  (3 divisions) 7th  (9 teams)  
1982-83 1  (3 divisions) 6th  (10 teams)  
1983-84 1  (3 divisions) 7th  (10 teams)  
1984-85 1  (4 divisions)

7th  (10 teams)

 
1985-86 1  (4 divisions) 8th  (10 teams)  
1986-87 1  (4 divisions) 10th  (10 teams) Relegated
1987-88 2  (4 divisions) 2nd  (12 teams) Promoted
1988-89 1  (5 divisions) 8th  (10 teams)  
Midland Mens Track & Field League
  Midland Womens Track & Field League
Season Division Position Notes   Division Position Notes
1980 2       3    
1981 2   Promoted        
1982 1            
1983 1 2nd          
1984 1 2nd          
1985 1 2nd          
1986 1 3rd     8 1st Promoted
1987 1 2nd     7 2nd Promoted
1988 1 6th     6   Promoted
1989 1 6th     5 2nd Promoted
 

The ‘90s

 

The ‘90s was an eventful decade for the club. The quest for a synthetic track came to fruition, and the old Redgra facility was relaid and upgraded to a fully synthetic surfaced facility in 1993, the first event being an open meeting on 16th September.

 

The club reached the BAL Plate Final in 1992, finishing 7th at Derby.

 

With several hundred members, there was turning out to be some friction between groups and many were unhappy at the way some things at the club were going. Performances started to fall off in the early ‘90s until matters came to a head in 1994 when a new club was set up in the city and a number of the top senior athletes left Gloucester AC to join the new club. This left the club with a much weakened squad with only a handful of senior track and field athletes. The club failed to compete in one of the Midland League fixtures in 1995, resulting in demotion to the bottom divison, 7, for the 1996 season. With the club not being able to be competitive, it withdrew from the league. The team also slipped down the Birmingham League, dropping from Division 1 down to Division 4.

 

All was not doom and gloom, however, as the juniors continued and were very successful, the boys gaining promotion to division one of the Young Athletes League at the end of the 1996 season.

 

The annual match vs Gouda also fell by the wayside due to the split, the last one being in 1993.

 

It was left to the remaining members to keep the club going, and the club gradually pulled itself together and began to rebuild. Sterling efforts by the likes of the Club Secretary, Sandra Ennis, helped keep the club afloat. The introduction of David Farrow as a coach in 1997 led to an influx of some very talented athletes, mostly juniors, and this kick-started the recovery. Over the coming seasons, many of these athletes gained national and international recognition – names such as Emily Pidgeon, Richard Davenport, Ryan Preddy, Liam McGowan and Adam Davies putting the club firmly back on the map.

 

A club trip was organised in 1995 to the Great North Run, and the concept of a regular club trip took hold. In 1996 we went to Nottingham in September for the Robin Hood Marathon and Half Marathon; in 1998 we went over to Ireland in March for the Ballycotton 10; in 1999 we went over to Holland and stayed in Amsterdam to do the Eight Castles races at Vorden – a choice of 10K, half marathon and 30K. Doreen Phillips won the ladies half marathon, setting a course record in the process.

 

The club vest was updated in 1997 from the plain white with red sash to the current design with red piping and the club name.

 

Club members gaining international honours in the '90s included

  • Lloyd Pritchard - Welsh Schools
  • Adam Davies - Wales; Welsh Schools
  • Liam McGowan - Northern Ireland
  • Simon Kellie - Welsh Schools
  • Lorraine Shaw - Ireland; Great Britain & England - Hammer (Lorraine held the UK Women’s Hammer record for over 17 years. She first broke the record on 1st April 1994 with 59.92m and went on to break it a further 15 times, culminating with her personal best of 68.93m on 8th June 2003. This record stood until 1st May 2011. In her career, Lorraine represented Britain at two European Championships, three World Championships and two Olympic Games, and England at three Commonwealth Games, becoming Commonwealth Champion at Manchester in 2002).

Main League performances in the '90s:

Birmingham & District Cross Country League
Season Division Position Notes
1989-90 1  (5 divisions) 10th  (10 teams) Relegated
1990-91 2  (5 divisions) 6th  (12 teams)  
1991-92 2  (5 divisions) 4th  (12 teams)  
1992-93 2  (5 divisions) 9th  (12 teams)  
1993-94 2  (5 divisions) 11th  (12 teams) Relegated
1994-95 3  (5 divisions)

10th  (12 teams)

 
1995-96 3  (5 divisions) 11th  (12 teams) Relegated
1996-97 4  (5 divisions) 10th  (12 teams)  
1997-98 4  (5 divisions) 10th  (12 teams)  
1998-99 4  (5 divisions) 6th  (12 teams)  
Midland Mens Track & Field League
  Midland Womens Track & Field League
Season Division Position Notes   Division Position Notes
1990 2 1st Promoted   4 2nd Promoted
1991 1 7th Relegated   3 4th  
1992 2 1st Promoted   3 2nd Promoted
1993 1 7th Relegated   2 5th Relegated
1994 2       3 3rd?  
1995 2 or 3   Demoted   3   Relegated
1996 7   Withdrew   4    
1997 -       -    
1998 -       -    
1999 6 1st Promoted   -    
 

The 21st Century

 

The club ushered in the new millennium with a New Year’s Eve party held at John McClean’s house in Parkend Road. The club swiftly got the 2000 fixtures off to a start with the New Year 10 mile road race on January 2nd.

 

The club’s first update to bring itself into the new century was its first website. Set up by Andy McKenzie, taken over by Bogdan Jochym in 2006, and then again by Andy McKenzie and Tom Randles in 2013, the site carries information for both existing and prospective new members, together with an archive of club history, results and news reports.

 

After a few years gap, the club continued with its annual trips abroad – to Torrevieja in Spain in February 2006 for the Torrevieja Half Marathon, to Lisbon in Portugal in March 2007 for the Lisbon Half Marathon, to Prague in Czechoslovakia in March 2008 for the Prague International Half marathon and to Malta in March 2009 for the Malta Half Marathon. Since then, each year in the spring we have done warm weather training trips to Monte Gordo in Portugal.

 

The track started to deteriorate due to insufficient maintenance, and the lack of floodlights made training difficult in the winter – parents were parking their cars near the gate and using their headlights to try to illuminate the track; also portable floodlights were brought out, plugged in via an extension lead to the clubhouse. The track eventually lost its licence due to its poor and continually deteriorating condition. The City Council had a pot of money put aside for doing up the facility, but it was insufficient for a full upgrade, and they were keen to rid themselves of the responsibility for the track. Sterling work by Bob Purcell resulted in a new company being set up to take the track off the Council’s hands and manage it independently. With a grant from the South West Region and a donation from the club and various other firms and individuals, the track was upgraded to what we have today, complete with an eight-lane home straight. It was formally opened on 21st February 2013 by HRH The Princess Royal.

 

For a comprehensive record of how we have performed since the millennium, please refer to the News Archive pages on the website.

 

Club members gaining international honours in the 21st Century so far included

  • Lloyd Pritchard - Welsh Schools - 800m
  • Adam Davies - Wales & Welsh Schools - 400m
  • Liam McGowan - Northern Ireland - 400m
  • Alex Felce - Great Britain Youth & England U17 - 1500m
  • Ryan Preddy - Great Britain Youth - 400m; Great Britain Juniors - 4x400m relay
  • Peter Kellie - Great Britain Juniors & Youth - Steeplechase; Wales Juniors - Steeplechase / Cross country
  • Emily Pidgeon - Great Britain Juniors - 5000m / Cross country
  • Sarah Hopkinson - Great Britain Youth - 1500m / Steeplechase; England Youth - 1500m
  • Richard Davenport - Great Britain - 4x400m relay; Great Britain U23 - 4x400m relay; Great Britain Juniors - 400m / 400m hurdles / 4x400m relay; Great Britain Youth - 400m / 4x100m relay; England U17 - 400m / 4x400m relay
  • Kate Goodhead - Great Britain U20 - Biathle
  • Sarah Waldron - England U20 - Cross country
  • Jeremy Mower - Wales - 100K
  • Gemma Turtle - Great Britain - 3000m
  • Rose-Anne Galligan - Ireland - 800m / 1500m
  • Gareth Winter - Great Britain Juniors - Shot put; Wales Juniors - Shot put / Discus

Main League performances in the 21st Century:

Birmingham & District Cross Country League
Season Division Position Notes
1999-00 4  (5 divisions) 7th  (11 teams) League restructure, 3 up, 3 down
2000-01 4  (4 divisions) 2nd  (16 teams) Promoted
2001-02 3  (4 divisions) 3rd  (13 teams) Promoted
2002-03 2  (4 divisions) 6th  (13 teams)  
2003-04 2  (4 divisions) 12th  (13 teams) Relegated
2004-05 3  (4 divisions)

3rd  (13 teams)

Promoted
2005-06 2  (4 divisions) 11th  (13 teams) Relegated
2006-07 3  (4 divisions) 4th  (12 teams) League restructured to 3 divisions
2007-08 2  (3 divisions) 12th  (18 teams)  
2008-09 2  (3 divisions) 4th  (18 teams)  
2009-10 2  (3 divisions) 2nd  (18 teams) Promoted
2010-11 1  (3 divisions) 15th  (16 teams) Relegated
2011-12 2  (3 divisions) 6th  (18 teams)  
2012-13 2  (3 divisions) 4th  (16 teams)  
Midland Mens Track & Field League
  Midland Womens Track & Field League
Season Division Position Notes   Division Position Notes
2000 5 1st Promoted   -    
2001 4 3rd     -    
2002 4 6th     -    
2003 4 7th Relegated   -    
2004 5 1st Promoted   6 2nd? Promoted
2005 4 4th     5 3rd  
2006 4 2nd Promoted   4   Relegated
2007 3 1st Promoted   5 1st Promoted

Mens and Womens Leagues combined for 2008 season onwards into a single League

Midland Track & Field League
Season Division Position Notes
2008 3 1st Promoted
2009 2 3rd  
2010 2 3rd  
2011 2 1st Promoted
2012 1 6th Relegated
2013 2 3rd