The Birth of the Harrier in Bradford

By Rob Grillo


Leeds Intelligencier, 26th July 1845:

FOOT RACES – On Saturday last, a foot race came off on Bradford Moor, for £10 a side; distance 150  yards, between Henry Petty, of Horton, and Joseph Robinson, of Horton. A great number of spectators were present. At the commencement, Petty took the lead, which he maintained the first 40 yards, when his antagonist shot past him, and got to the winning post three yards ahead of him. On Monday, another race was run neat Queens Head, for £1 between Jarvis Jagger, of Clayton Heights, and James Crabtree, of Queens Head, distance 100 yards. The latter came off victorious.

Rugby School’s  ‘Crick  Run’,  one of the earliest examples of  cross-country  running,  began  in  1837. The course, run in December that year, was no less than 13 miles long, seven miles of which were across ploughed fields and meadows. The school is the setting of the Thomas Hughes novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays, which brought ‘hare and hounds’ running to the attention of many of its readers for the first time. The Thames Hare & Hounds was the first adult club to be founded, in 1868, by members of Thames Rowing Club. Its name derives from the tradition of hunting, ‘Hare and Hounds’ or a  ‘Paper Chase’, in which a pair of runners (the ‘hares’) lay a trail of paper to be followed by the other runners (the ‘hounds’ or the ‘pack’). The title also reflected the social status of those who were early pioneers of the sport.

By 1880, the sport had begun to take off in the rapidly growing industrial centres of Bradford and Leeds, and in that year three important clubs were founded, the Airedale Harriers in Bradford, Moortown Harriers (soon to be renamed Leeds Harriers), and Leeds St Mark’s Harriers.

The birth of ‘Hare and Hounds’ running packs signalled a huge shift in attitudes towards running. Whereas the sport had previously one of achievement, that is improving ones-self, winning the race, often at any cost, or by pleasing God – or of punishment, there was  a third dimension that was introduced to the sport. That third dimension serves what Keele University’s John Bale has termed a ‘trialectic’ of configurations, and that is of ‘running as a sensory experience’.

The pre-World War Two clubs in Bradford are listed below. Many have ecclesiastical origins, but others were village or neighbourhood clubs. As with other sports, such as rugby and association football, the latter rarely used local public houses are headquarters.

Airedale Harriers (Bradford): 1880 to date. The current Bradford Airedale Athletic Club is the second oldest club in the north of England. The roots of the club go back to 1878, however, when a group of young men from the Tetley Street Baptist School discussed the possibility of forming a ‘Hare and Hounds’ club. The discussions went on until formation of the club in 1880. For two years, the new club used local schools as headquarters, before transferring to the Coffee Tavern in Carlisle Road, Manningham. The first Hon. Secretary of the club was Stuart Watmough, who was well-known in local business circles.


Airedale Harriers, 1937

A new base at ‘The Church Institute’ was used in 1885, but by 1893 the Osborne Hotel on Kirkgate was being used (the hotel itself closed down in December 1952), and in 1908 the Peel Park Hotel in the north of Bradford.  The club benefitted when the successful Bradford Trinity Harriers pack was absorbed into the club in October 1894. By the 1920s, the Airedale club could boast members from a wide range of countries, including Canada, Belgium, France, and New Zealand

The club relocated to the south of the city when it took advantage of the opening of Horsfall Playing Fields in 1931, a venue that was more suited to the needs of the local running fraternity and since then has been based there. Before, various other venues had been used for the club’s track and field championships, including Bowling Old Lane in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and Valley Parade in 1895.

Club colours were originally black ‘drawers’ with royal blue vests, with the club badge on the back and that kit was certainly being used in 1900. The Yorkshire Cross-Country Association in 1891 described the club’s kit as maroon jersey and white knickers, however. By 1931 that badge was on the front of the vest, while in 1937 the blue vests were abandoned after the club’s sprinters complained that the dark vests left them at a disadvantage in close finishes in poor light. After that, a white vest with central blue hoops was adopted. The blue shorts were replaced by red shorts when Airedale merged with Spen Valley Harriers on 10th September 1965, the name of the new venture being Airedale & Spen Valley Athletic Club (ASVAC in short). A further change to Bradford Airedale AC was made in the 1990s. Antonio Fattorini was linked to the club in the early years, also serving as president of the Bradford, Yorkshire, Northern and English Cross-Country associations at various times between 1893 and 1911. Another former president of the club from the same period was Major Arthur Shepherd, who, like Fattorini, one of Bradford’s sporting pioneers, having also been heavily involved in association football in the city.

Airedale won the Yorkshire Cross-Country team title three times between 1891-99. George Cyril Ellis, gained international status in the mid ‘30s, finishing 21st in the International Cross-Country championship at Caerleon, Wales on 25th March 1933. A Women’s section was formed at committee meeting at the Sun Inn, Cottingley 1931, one of the first women’s sections in the north of England.  At the Women’s National Cross-Country Championship 1933 at Warwick Airedale Harriers took first place, also winning Northern and Yorkshire titles that year.

By the time the club had reached its Jubilee year in 1930, it had seen a number of distinguished individuals assume the role of President, these being; Messrs Antonio Fattorini, S Watmough, Percy Illingworth, Lord Barnby, Major Arthur Shephard, Messrs Henry Mason, T  Hopkinson, Percy Fell, G A Clark, A Boardman, and J W Lancaster.

Notable team titles (Cross-Country): Northern Junior: 1891, 1893, Yorkshire Senior: 1891, 1897, 1898, Yorkshire Youth: 1935, National Women’s: 1933, Northern Women’s: 1932, 1933, Yorkshire Women’s: 1933,

 Bowling Harriers (Bradford): 1886-99.  The Bowling club was said to have over 30 members in February 1896. On 21st September 1895, according to the Bradford Daily Telegraph, ‘Thirteen members of the club had a capital run on Saturday from the Upper Croft Coffee Tavern. The hares (J W. Hainsworth and A Rawnsley) were despatched at three o’clock. The trail led through Bradford Moor, Undercliffe, Idle, Calverley, Farsley, Fagley, and home, distance about nine miles. The slow pack followed five minutes later paced by K Lockwood with J George as whip. The fast pack followed three minutes later paced by N Firth,  whip W Verity. The first man in was J Gay (fast pack); 2. Verity (fast pack); 3. N Firth (fast pack). The club was present at the first Yorkshire Cross-Country Junior championship race at Rotherham racecourse in May 1893, but by 1895 was said to be a club with a very young membership, ‘I don’t think above one or two could be found as old as 18’, reported the athletics correspondent in the same Bradford Newspaper. The report also included the complaint that the Bradford Parish Church club had members as young as thirteen turning out for pack runs. It concluded, ‘Youthful Harriers should be given to understand that it is a privilege to run Cross-Country and should not be abused.’

Bradford Harriers: First club: 1882-1894. The club originally consisted mainly of members of the Manningham Bicycle Club which was founded around the same time, and which seems to have wound up within a couple of years of its formation.

It would seem that the club absorbed the Bradford YMCA Harriers in 1890, which itself had been founded in 1885. The Leeds Mercury correspondent, Penanink was gushing in its praise of the club in June 1890, ‘Those Bradford Harriers go in for Cross-Country for its own sake, and stick to it well.  They have the best average turn up in the field, wet or fine, of any of the Bradford clubs, and they take some god, healthy hedge-and-ditch runs. They make no show on the race ground, because they have not the necessary influence and prestige to ‘kidnap’ fancy runners, but they are working hard at training a few young recruits, and I think they will pull off a prize or two before the end of this season. As nearly all their members are hard working youths, and as they have no patrons, any success they may win will be all the more creditable.’

 It seems that the club, which attracted several former Bradford Trinity harriers to its ranks, finished before the end of 1894. The club’s AGM was held in September that year, with Antonio Fattorini elected president, and L J Pounds as captain, and the Athletic News reported that ‘The prospects of the club are very bright, and it strong in running talent as well as numerically’, but nothing else was heard from the club, which may well have thrown in its lot with Bradford Trinity Harriers, which itself became part of the Airedale Harriers in 1895.

Second club: 1895 – 1902. The new club was founded on 15th August 1895 at a meeting at Tyrell Street Coffee House. F W Milligan was elected the club’s first president, with J Hounam elected as captain, with the headquarters at All Saints School. Training headquarters in 1898 was at the Second West Hotel in Lidget Green, which was used every Wednesday evening during the winter from November, one assumes on account of its gym or similar. The club was accepted into the membership of the Yorkshire CCA and three or more club championship races were staged each year, including a novice handicap, an open handicap and a scratch race for the club championship, the Milligan Cup. The club merged with Bradford St Stephen’s in 1902 to form Bradford Athletic Harriers, after an initial approach to Bradford Athletic Club in 1896 had failed.

Notable team titles (Cross-Country): Yorkshire Senior 1884, 1885,

Bradford Athletic Harriers / Athletic Club:   1902-39. The Bradford Athletic Harriers organisation was created by a joining together of the Bradford St Stephen’s Harriers and Bradford Harriers clubs.

The original Bradford Athletic Club had been founded in the summer of 1865, the Bradford Observer on  Thursday 31st August that year giving us all a sneak preview of the facilities on Bath Street, off Leeds Road; ‘The Bradford Athletic Club. We had an opportunity last night of walking through the rooms which are shortly to be opened by this club, and, as far as we could judge, nothing has been left unprovided which could add to the comfort or convenience of the most fastidious student of muscular Christianity. The chest-expanding apparatus, recently patented by Messrs. Snoxell and Spencer, of London, is wonderful piece of mechanism. We understand that upwards of one hundred different exercises may be performed on it; and it will be their own fault if our young townsmen, whose business engagements will not allow of their taking sufficient outdoor exercise, do not avail themselves of the opportunities it will afford them of fully developing their muscles, and otherwise promoting their physical health. A committee of management has already been appointed, and the necessary arrangements are nearly completed for the formal opening of the club, of which due notice will be given by advertisement. We have heard it whispered that several gold and silver medals are to be competed for on the opening night, or shortly afterwards, on conditions to be agreed upon by the committee.


Photo: Bradford Athletic Harriers, 1908

The training of the body, as well as the mind, has for some time occupied the attention of the most eminent teachers of our day, and if it be of importance that we should each of us possess mens sana in corpore sano (A sound mind in a sound body), we think that the efforts of Mr. Lillywhite (Harry Lillywhite, a scion of the famous cricketing family) to provide a suitable school-room and suitable professors for such teaching, are worthy of every encouragement.’

 Athletics Festivals at Park Avenue began in 1878, and in 1896 the athletic club was approached by Bradford Harriers with regards to a merger of the two. However, despite the football section there being open to the idea, it was recognised that with both rugby and association teams already being catered for, the idea should be referred to cricket section, which was not as accommodating. The idea was put on ice, but certainly not abandoned, because, despite there being nothing in the press at the time, it would seem that the Bradford Harriers were incorporated into the club in 1902, along with those from the St Stephen’s Harriers. The club was initially referred to as Bradford City Athletic during the 1902 summer athletics season.

The new Bradford Athletic Harriers maintained the levels of success of its constituent clubs, winning the Yorkshire Junior Cross-Country title in 1903 – one year after the St Stephen’s club had done so –  with two pairs of brothers, the Dempsey’s and Priestley’s in the winning team. In another reorganisation, Bradford Athletic Harriers resigned from the Yorkshire Cross-Country Union in 1908, replaced by Bradford Athletic Club. The club’s annual eight-mile championship was known as the ‘Brogden Shield’ race, the winner’s trophy being donated by Isaac Brogden, and was first competed for in 1908 and 1908 before being thrown open to, first, all member clubs of the Bradford CCA, and then also to those in membership of the Leeds CCA. During the war, the race was made open to any runner from a club affiliated to the Bradford & District Cross-Country association, although, sadly, the inaugural winner, George Warrener was killed in December 1915 while fighting for his country.

Most club meetings were held at the George Hotel in Bradford (which George Hotel is not clear, as there were a number of similarly titled public house with this name in and around Bradford), as well as the Osborne Hotel on Kirkgate. Plans to organise a 25-mile Cross-Country marathon in March 1908 did not come to fruition, although other clubs were sounded out as late as February that year as whether they would be interested. The club committee that had considered it included one Antonio Fattorini, a man who was involved with virtually all of Bradford’s top sporting clubs at one time or another. Closing down in 1939 for the Second World War, it  would seem that the club was not revived afterwards.

In 1908, George Rhodes, one of several talented Bradford AC Harriers, earned selection for his country when he finished 10th in the English Cross-Country Championship at Newbury Racecourse on 7th March 1908. There were two further Bradford runners listed as reserves, J Smith (13th, only three seconds behind Rhodes), and G W Colcroft (15th). G F Atkins finished 16th in the same race, earning the team third place in the team event. The team had also finished second to Hallamshire Harriers in the Northern Cross-Country Championship at Haydock Park a few weeks earlier, with Colcroft 6th and Smith 7th. Rhodes himself went on to finish 16th in the International Cross-Country event  on 26th March, at Colombes, France.

Notable team titles (Cross-Country): Yorkshire Senior: 1905, 1908, Yorkshire Junior: 1903, 1904, Northern Women’s; 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, Yorkshire Women’s: 1935, 1936, 1937, Also finished second in the 1908 & 1909 Northern Cross-Country championship.

 Bradford Parish Church Harriers: 1893-99. On Saturday 11th November 1893, the club turned out ten members from Perry’s, Shipley Glen, and had a very pleasant run – one of its first –  over Baildon Moor. Perry’s would be used many times by the club. As referred to previously, the club was criticised in 1895 for having members as young as thirteen taking part in club runs. Unsurprisingly, given its ecclesiastical purpose, and its young membership, Saturday Cross-Country runs were from local coffee houses rather than public houses; The Royal Café, Saltaire for example, or even from local schools where changing rooms would have been utilised.

4The club resigned from the Bradford Cross-Country Association in September 1899, folding completely at the same time, which is something of a surprise given that less than two years earlier, October 1897, the club had won the silver whistle, donated by Antonio Fattorini, for the club turning out the most runners in the Association’s ‘monster meet’ from the Buttershaw Church School buildings. Parish Church runners made up twenty-seven of the total of 120 runners.


Bradford St Chrysostom’s Harriers: This club was admitted to the Yorkshire Cross-Country Association in September 1898, but it would appear that it was very short-lived and was possibly defunct by the time the county championship was held the following March. The St Chrysostom’s Church from which the club evolved can be found on Bolton Road.

 Bradford St Oswald’s Harriers: In October 1903, the Bradford Cross-Country Association invited this club into membership, but it would seem that this offer was not taken up. There seems to be no other reference to this club, which obviously wound up a short time after its formation.

 Bradford St Stephen’s Harriers: 1886-1902. Club colours in 1900 were black drawers, with a red jersey adorned with an SSH badge.

The successful club merged with Bradford Harriers in 1902 to form Bradford Athletic Harriers.  Notable team titles: Yorkshire Junior: 1902,

Bradford Trinity Sunday School Harriers:    1885-94. The Trinity pack was one of the leading clubs in the county in the early 1890s, the Yorkshire Cross-Country Association in 1891 describing the club’s kit as a white jersey with red badge, and blue knickers.

Having seen several of its former runners return in 1894 when the first Bradford Harriers club folded, the Trinity club threw in its lot with Airedale Harriers in October the same year, with its former members also turning out for Halifax Harriers in later years. The club’s final Cross-Country championship race in March 1894 had to be held at the Halifax Cricket and Athletic Club ground, Hanson Lane as there were no suitable facilities available in Bradford, Valley Parade being in use and Bradford CA&FC refusing to let its ground at Park Avenue for the day. It wasn’t the first time the club had to go ‘out of town’ for such events, with the Pudsey Britannia cricket field being used for its trial race (to select a team for upcoming championship races) in January 1893. A Carnelly finished nearly a lap in front of his closest rival that day.

Notable team titles (Cross-Country): Northern Junior: 1889, 1890, Yorkshire Senior: 1892, 1893, 1894,

 Bradford YMCA Harriers: 1885-89. First coming to prominence early in 1885, the YMCA club held its runs from hostelries such as the Willowfield Hotel on Legrams Lane and the Red Lion at Bankfoot. In 1887 the Athletic News described the club’s runners as ‘a young but likely-looking lot of Cross-Country runners’. No fewer than 33 members of the club took part in a run over Cottingley Moor on 28th September 1889, having set off from Heaton, but despite this healthy number the club was absorbed into Bradford Harriers in 1890.

However, on 26th October 1908 a report in the Yorkshire Post referred to a runner from Bradford YMCA Harriers being dispatched from Bradford to Keighley in order to relay a congratulatory message to the Keighley YMCA branch for the progress it had made since its inception. It is likely that the YMCA Harriers at this time was an informal group of runners, with no other indications anywhere that a formal club had reformed.

Daisy Hill Sunday School Harriers (Bradford): 1903-05. A short-lived club based in the north of Bradford, and linked to the local Primitive Methodist chapel. Occasional runs took place with other local clubs, and the club took part in the Bradford & District Cross-Country championship .

 Dirk Hill Church Harriers (Bradford): 1887. This was possible the most obscure of all the tiny clubs that emerged in Bradford, and one of the shortest-lived. In the last weekend of March 1887, the pack enjoyed ‘a good run up Legrams Lane, across Bentley’s fields, past Clayton Gasworks, into Queensbury, and thence for home, through Wibsey, down Beacon Hill, and across Southfield Lane. Distance, eight to nine miles’, according to the report sent to the Leeds Times. This was more likely to have been an informal bunch of runners rather than a properly organised club, from the Dirk Hill chapel in the Great Horton area.

 Horton Harriers (Bradford): 1900-03. The Horton pack took part in regular inter-runs with other local clubs but was always of a junior status and did little to promote itself in the local press, at a time when most of clubs were so keen to do so. It is only possible to trace it’s inter-runs through the fixtures published from the likes of the Bradford Athletic, Halifax and Ingrow clubs. The club’s brief history ended with its resignation from the Bradford CCA in October 1903, having recently folded.

 Idle Trinity Harriers (Bradford): 1903-05. This club had its roots in the ‘Idle Parish Church Junior  Mutual Improvement Association’, which possessed less than twenty members but which, through the efforts of Rev J J Beagley, evolved into Idle Trinity Harriers. The headquarters of the club was at the Idle Parish Church School, in what was previously used as a ‘lumber room’. The former storage room underneath the school was converted by the club members themselves, with the opening ceremony performed by a Mrs Marshall. Improvements were made to the facility the following year.

The north Bradford club joined the Yorkshire CCA in January 1905, and took part in the Bradford & District CCA championship, but at the club AGM in August it was recognised that the small turn out for club runs needed to be improved on. One month later the club was said to be defunct, after having substituted the ‘Harriers’ suffix with ‘Athletic’ and unsuccessfully attempting to merge with the local rugby club. Its promising young runner George Webster moved on to Airedale Harriers, with other members said to have taken up rugby instead.

A new Idle Trinity club emerged in the 1940’s, lasting over a decade, and of course there is the current Idle Athletic Club in existence.

Laisterdyke Harriers (Bradford): 1892-1905. Laisterdyke Cricket and Athletic club organised athletic festivals from the 1880s and the subsequent harriers club may well have had its roots in that organisation. In October 1894, the harriers took part in a fifteen-mile inter-run with Airedale Harriers from the Junction Hotel. Evidently ‘all the runners were too fagged to run in with much style,’ according to the Bradford Daily Telegraph.

J Smith won the Yorkshire Junior Cross-Country title in 1899, with the team finishing third. Captain in the 1899-1900 winter season was F H Crofton Jr, while club president W E Hinchliffe was also a running member. That season started off in dramatic fashion, the Bradford Weekly Telegraph reported that on 30th September 1899, ‘The War Horse of Laisterdyke, R Heaps, was chased by a bull,. It was said that the ‘Raggy’ ran faster than any of the ‘Yorkshire’ men just then, and finished up by jumping a very high hedge’.

Club colours in 1900 were black drawers, with a red stripe, white jersey with a black gate in a red diamond. The club resigned from the Yorkshire CCA in January 1905.

 Manningham Harriers: The township of Manningham was, in the nineteenth century, an area that was a distinct part of Bradford, to which it saw itself as a ‘rival’. This was manifested in the rivalry between the district’s two Football clubs, Manningham and Bradford, members of the Rugby Union and founder members of the break-away Northern Union (now known as Rugby League). The rivalry was less marked in the world of ‘Hare & Hounds’, however, with the original Bradford Harriers having had its roots in Manningham Cycling Club, and Manningham’s own clubs, listed here, being very much Junior in status.

First club: 1883-90. The original Manningham club commenced pack runs in the winter of 1883, and was still in operation in June 1890 in local athletic events during the summer, before folding up before the following winter season.

 Second club:  1911-14. A revived Manningham club joined the Yorkshire Cross Country Association in September 1912 (as Manningham Athletic Club Harriers) after having initially run as an unaffiliated body. It seems that the club, which shut down for the duration of World War one, was not revived afterwards.

 It is nice to know that running events take place to this day at the same venue in the form of the Park Run, Manningham (Lister) Park having also hosted many other running events over the past one-hundred years.

 Manningham St John’s Harriers: 1899-1903. The ‘other’ Manningham pack was admitted to the Bradford Cross-Country Association in 1899. Club colours in 1900 were dark blue pants, with a pale blue stripe, and a royal blue jersey, and its headquarters were on Wilmer Road. In  November 1899, runners were forced to run in one pack of twenty-one from the Coffee Palace at Shipley, after it was found impossible to procure enough paper for the trail. The pack that day was paced by G Glover, and whipped by A Horner. About eight miles of good country were traversed, a lengthy road finish resulting in G Pickles reaching the changing rooms first, G Glover being second, and Fred Wright third.

Rehoboth Harriers (Bradford): 1889. This informal pack represented the Bradford Rehoboth Primitive Methodist chapel in Bowling Old Lane which had opened in 1878. It does not appear to have lasted very long and was likely not more than an informal group of runners who were trying out the sport, which was rapidly growing in popularity at the time.

Shipley Harriers: 1892-1914, The Shipley club went under the radar for much of its existence, having little success in championship races but enjoying a busy schedule of inter-runs and handicaps as well as weekly pack runs. The club organised invitation meets, with the likes of Airedale, Bradford Athletic, Wibsey Park and Otley joining the club for an event on 16th December 1905 from the Shipley Cycling Club. Club colours in 1900 were black drawers, with a white jersey. The club’s eight-mile championship race took in a stiff route from Baildon Green through Charlestown to Esholt and Apperley Bridge, returning via Idle and Thackley to the starting point. Closing down for the duration of World War One, and resigning its membership of the Bradford Cross-Country Association due to the majority of its members having joined the army, the club was sadly not revived afterwards. Notable team titles (Cross-Country): Yorkshire Junior: 1895, 1898,

 Shipley St Paul’s YMA Harriers: 1898-99. This was a very short-lived club. The Shipley Times & Express reported, on 3rd December 1898 that ‘The first handicap under the auspices of the newly-formed harriers club in connection with St Paul’s Young Men’s Association was run on Saturday. From  the headquarters at the National Schools, the course was up Manor Lane, Bradford Road, through Heaton Wood, Cottingley Road, past the Bar House, Bingley Road, and Church Lane, home (about six miles).’ It seems that the club was not entirely successful as resigned from the Bradford Cross-Country Association in September 1899.

 Undercliffe Harriers (Bradford): 1885-86. This was a short-lived club from Bradford. The club ran a ten-mile route from its headquarters in November 1885, across fields to Bolton Woods, along the canal to Frizinghall, up Scotchman Lane and across fields to Shipley, skirting Windhill, then across to Wrose Hill, Thackley, and Idle Moor Quarries to Five Lane Ends. The club took part in the Kennedy Cup competition, then the county Cross-Country championship, in February 1886, but did not re-emerge for the winter following season.

 Wibsey Park Harriers (Bradford): 1897-1952. Wibsey Park Athletic Sports was a popular annual event in the late 1800s, held each July on the quarter-mile cinder track in the Bradford park. The track had been given ‘special attention’ during the months leading up to the 1896 event and it is no surprise that a club would be formed in the vicinity. That club became one of the best known, and most successful, in the district with success at northern, county and district level.

What was probably the first ‘monster meet’ for Wibsey Park Harriers was from the Buttershaw Church Schools, organised by the proposed Bradford District CCA on 2nd October 1897 where 120 runners congregated. The first man home on the eight-mile route via Royds Hall, Shelf, Queensbury, and back through Wibsey happened to be A Bowker of Wibsey Park, a man who would serve as secretary of the club. Inter-runs were a mainstay of the club’s weekend runs, with the occasional fixture with clubs from further afield; Lancaster Primrose Harriers making the trip to Bradford on 22nd December 1906. Club colours in 1900 were black drawers, with a back jersey and pink badge.

The first ‘annual supper’ of the club took part at the Foresters Arms on 7th February 1899 – as did many of the pack runs – with Antonio Fattorini occupying the chair following the supper. In 1912 the club became a founder member of the Halifax Cross-Country Association. Well attended and prestigious summer athletic festivals were held on the park track, some in conjunction with Bankfoot Cricket Club, and a walking section was formed on 17th July 1923 at the Alexandra Hotel, Wibsey Park Harriers Walking Club becoming the second such club in the Bradford district alongside Yorkshire Race Walking Club. The club therefore produced some fine individual walkers as well as runners.

5By 1909, Wibsey Park Harriers had two internationals, Michael McHale and Fred Lord. In the English Cross-Country Championship at Haydock park, Lord finished 10th in what were terrible weather conditions. The International event at Derby on 20th March saw Lord finish 7th, with Michael McHale, representing Ireland, finishing 25th. This was a rare instance of two runners from same club representing different nations.

Lord, who joined Wibsey Harriers in 1905, aged 26, was the only man to run in both 1908 and 1912 Olympic Marathon races. He finished 15th in the sweltering heat in 3-19-08 in the London race, and then 21st in 3-01-39 in Stockholm in 1912. One year later, he was the first English runner to finish in the 1913 Polytechnic Marathon in London on 31st May, where Ahlgren of Sweden ran a world best time of 2-36-06, Lord finishing fifth in 2-49-07.

In 1903 an eight-mile handicap race from Wibsey saw three brothers Edwin, George and Fred Foster take first, second and third place. Another brother, Len, also went on to compete for the club.

Notable team titles (Cross-Country): Yorkshire Junior: 1906, 1910, 1912, also runner-up in Northern Junior race 1908, 1909.

 Wilsden & District Harriers (Bradford): 1903-04. This short-lived club took part in the Bradford & District Cross-Country championship in 1904, and took part in inter-runs with local clubs such as Keighley and Windhill Harriers.

Windhill Harriers (Bradford): 1903-04. Another club from the Bradford district that was very short-lived. A run with the Wilsden pack took place on 9th January 1904, but the club did not compete in any competitive events, and was possibly not much more than an informal bunch of runners.

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This article is adapted from ‘Crusty Farmers With Pitchforks’, the forthcoming book from Rob Grillo, due out towards the end of the year. It is a history of distance running in West Yorkshire, starting when records began, and ending at the outbreak of World War Two in 1939. The historical account begins with a look back at the earliest examples of running, before moving on to the athletic sporting events of the mid to late 1800s, continuing on to the introduction of hare and hounds and trail running, and then reflecting on the subsequent clubs that were formed. The races that emerged are also covered, as well as some of the most notable international runners, and those individuals whose organisation and influence made a huge difference to the sport.

  • Earlier this year, Rob published ‘A Noble Winter’s Game’ which covered the early growth of association football in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and of course in 2019 wrote ‘Late To The Gamein the Bantamspast History Revisited series, which covered the origins and development of association football in Bradford up to the start of World War Two.
Future planned articles on VINCIT will feature variously Bradford’s England rugby internationals of the nineteenth century; the history of sports journalism in Bradford; the politics of Odsal Stadium; the history of Bradford sports grounds and the history of crowd violence in Bradford.
Contributions to VINCIT are welcome. We are code agnostic and feature any sport or club with a Bradford heritage. Links from the drop down menu above. Thanks for visiting!