WITH the impact of the 2012 Olympic Games it seems opportune to cast our minds back to 18 May 1963, which was the date of the Official Opening of the athletics track at The Dell Recreation ground, Brierley Hill.
In those days The Dell came under the control of Brierley Hill Urban District Council and in the Programme for the day the address is given as Brockmoor. Of course, Dudley MBC has long absorbed BHUDC.
Following the opening, by the Chairman of the Council, Councillor AG Skelding JP, there was an Athletics Meeting organised by The Midland Counties Amateur Athletics Association in association with Stourbridge, Wordsley and District Harriers.
The site was originally low lying waste land acquired by the Council before the war, and advantage was taken of the opportunity to fill and reclaim it when a mound was removed from land needed for house building on the other side of Bryce Road.
Restrictions on capital expenditure in the period immediately following the war. prevented the making of an early start on the development of the Recreation Ground, but work eventually began in 1957 on the first section of the scheme which involved the laying out of the playing field and the building of a pavilion. The playing area, which occupied about ten acres, comprised three football pitches, five tennis courts and a bowling green. There were three changing rooms with showers and lavatory accommodation and a common room opening on to a small loggia, which served as a tearoom or shelter. The total cost of developing the playing area, which was opened in June 1960 was £15600 and towards this the Council received grants totalling £6270 from the Ministry of Education and the County Council. Work began on the preparation of the site for the Athletics track early in 1961. The total cost of constructing the track, providing the facilities for field events and buying the apparatus for the events was £15312. Towards this expenditure some grants were expected from the County Council.
The first event of the afternoon was two laps of honour by Ken Matthews of Royal Sutton Walking Club. In 1962 Matthews had won the European 20km walk in Belgrade and in 1964 he was to become Olympic Champion.
Looking down the list of competitors for other events brings up some interesting names. The Two Mile Flat (Invitation) race included Basil Heatley of Coventry Godiva Harriers who won a Silver Medal in the Marathon at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. He later came to work for Dudley MBC.
In the 2000 Metres Steeplechase was entered Alan Rushmer of Oldbury C & AC. Alan won a Bronze medal in the 3 mile race at The Commonwealth Games held in Jamaica in 1966, Kip Keino of Kenya winning Gold and Ron Clarke of Australia taking the Silver- some field! Also in that race (at The Dell not Jamaica!) was Pat Butcher of Stourbridge, Wordsley & District Harriers who hails from Wall Heath and prior to taking up Athletics was a more than useful inside forward. Pat went on to make a name for himself as Athletics Correspondent for The Financial Times, covering events world wide, In the 1 1/2 Mile Ladies Invitation Walk the entries included Pam Horwill of the home club and also Anne Stokes of Lozells Harriers, but born in Kingswinford. The following year these two ladies together with Val Simpson (nee Oakes) became National Junior Road Walking Champions, Val finishing first overall on the day and Pam following in second place.