1873 – The Inaugural Athletics Day

Another in our series on Cricket Club Athletic Festivals, telling the story of the very first one at Lowerhouse in 1873.

Read Part 1 and Part 2  and Part 3 here

Athletic Festivals – 1873 Up and Running

On 23rd August 1873, Lowerhouse held their first ever annual Athletics Festival, the sun shone, and the event was a great success , with the club making a nice profit, spending about £19 and taking about £30. Comparative values are tricky but it may be around £900 profit in modern terms.(www.measuringworth.com) Both local newspapers, The Advertiser and The Gazette of 30th August 1873 reported the event in identical words, as they did a report on Burnley CC going all the way to Oldham just to be all out for 26, so they were probably just reprinting information sent to them by the club.

There were said to have been 238 entrants, and upward of 1500 people present. (Bacup CC’s festival the same day attracted 3000 to 4000). Prizes were items like silver medals, silver pencil cases, and gold plated Alberts. (A watch chain something like this, made popular by Victoria’s Dear Albert) but the report doesn’t give their value. Probably worth a fair bit now though, if you still have one…

The report only tells us where the winners and runners-up came from, so the only competitors we know who definitely weren’t local, were Tom Fielding of Cloughfold and Alfred Yates of Blackburn, both of whom were “scratch” athletes. Fielding had already won events elsewhere and went on to compete successfully for several years. All competitors were however amateurs. The festival combined village sports type events with “proper” athletics.

The Cricketers’ Race (six runs between the wickets members only) was won by Moses Starkie with Chris Ingham second. The 100 yards for members was also won by Moses Starkie, who obviously had a turn of speed, with G. Hargreaves second. W. Hargreaves won “Throwing the cricket ball (open)” with 103 yards, 2 feet, and G. Hargreaves was second. We can put faces to some of these players using our 1872 team photo. L-R Moses Starkie, George Hargreaves, Chris Ingham.

Lowerhouse stalwart Adam Wolstenholme (left) won the Shot put which involved putting two weights of shot, 16 lb and 28 lb . (he threw 38 ft 2 1/2″ and 22 ft 3″) . T. Heap of LHCC came a distant second. Burnley CC boy G. Chadwick had the cheek to win the junior 100 yards with A.C. Kenyon of Habergham second.

However, it was the main running and jumping events for which Fielding and Yates had travelled from Clough Fold and Blackburn. They met with mixed success. Yates, the “scratch man” only came second in the 440 yards to Foulds of Burnley. He then came second in the 200 yards hurdle to W. Bridge of Gannow. Fielding, scratch, was second in the 200 yards flat to the same W. Bridge of Gannow, who also won the half mile open, so the handicapper may have got Bridge’s form badly wrong, which might have upset both the betting men, and the losers.

However, Tom Fielding did win the running and “stand” jumps with 20 ft 4″ and 10 ft 4″ with Rawson of Wood Top second. The winner was the one with the highest combined jumps and this was Fielding’s speciality event. In the stand, or broad, jump, the athlete takes off from a standing start, and lands on both feet with bent knees. Versatile Edward Rawson of Wood Top won the “Gathering 30 stones open” event.

The band of the 84th Lancashire Rifle Volunteers from Padiham played throughout the day and a successful inaugural Festival closed at 8.30 pm.