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Brass bands, acrobats and Olympians – in the hey-day of Hingley Athletic Club

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: January 14, 2014

  • Rare medals from Hingley Athletic Club's golden years

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OVER recent weeks we've been able to take a good look at a selection of rarely seen aerial photographs of Hingley's Ironworks at Netherton, Old Hill Ironworks, and some recent photographs relating to the former Harts Hill Ironworks site near Brierley Hill.

This week we turn our attention once again to Hingley Athletic Club (HAC) in follow-up to last year's articles on the club's history, which appeared in editions 1016 to 1020.

As previously mentioned it is believed that land surrounded by Bluebell Road, Halesowen Road, Mousesweet Brook and the old GWR Netherton & Halesowen railway embankment at Old Hill had been acquired by Hingley's in 1914 for the future development of Hingley Athletic Club. The club, comprising bowling green, tennis courts, cricket pitch, football field and clubhouse, is believed to have been officially opened by former Olympic athlete David Burghley in 1926. Burghley had participated in the Paris games of 1924 and in later years participated in the Amsterdam games of 1928 and the Los Angeles games of 1932.

The clubhouse, which included residential accommodation for the groundsman, a bar, billiards room, smoke rooms, events hall, kitchen, changing rooms, showers, toilets and pavilion, was host to numerous social gatherings and sporting events for approximately fifty years.

In 1969/70 the club was acquired by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, and in 1972 was home to Warley Football Club. Sadly the clubhouse was closed and demolished in the 1980s, however the grounds are still in use today and are known locally as Hingley Fields. The fields, including a modern sports changing facility, are now leased from Sandwell Council by the Ormiston Academy of Cradley Heath.

It is worthy of mention that Hingley Athletic Club is now known to have been established some years before the development of the club located at Old Hill. A few weeks ago I acquired a photograph of a cricket team sitting/standing in front of a small wooden cricket pavilion which clearly belonged to N. Hingley & Sons Ltd Athletic Club in 1919. The picture is reproduced here. Furthermore, pencilled notes on the back of the photograph suggest that the pavilion was located at a cricket ground that Hingley's leased from M & W Grazebrook Ltd of Pear Tree Lane, Dudley. The cricket ground, situated at the rear of Grazebrook's works, was accessible via Hall Lane, Cinderbank, Netherton. The lane, which passed by Corbetts Motor Co Ltd and Hall Lane Farm (also known locally as Allport's Farm) still exists today, albeit relegated to a pathway.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone who can identify a member or members of the cricket team shown.

Earlier this year I obtained a copy of a Competitor's Sports Programme that was issued to participants selected for the Third Annual Athletic Sports Competition hosted by Hingley Athletic Club on Saturday 23rd July, 1927. The programme, reproduced here, included 16 pages of text listing names of sports officials, number and name of events, names of athletes and cyclists, competitors' handicaps and names of local athletic clubs represented.

Much of its content is worthy of closer examination and comment. The front cover features a route map, which informs the reader as to which Midland Red bus route they should take in order to reach Hingley's Recreation Ground (Sports Field) at Old Hill. There is also an indication as to which railway services were available for those readers who were likely to be travelling from further afield i.e. the GWR Dudley Blowers Green to Old Hill & Halesowen line passing through Darby End Halt and Old Hill Halt, and, the GWR Stourbridge to Birmingham line passing through Old Hill Station.

One other mode of transport referred to on the map, is the electric tram which ran from Blackheath to Old Hill Cross. The tram line, opened in 1904, was operated by the Dudley, Stourbridge and District Electric Traction Company prior to its closure in late 1927. An electric tram typical of those that operated on the Blackheath to Old Hill line, has been preserved in working order at the Black Country Living Museum.

It is interesting to note, on page 2, that the Programme Of Music by the Band of the 7th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, is 'by kind permission of Lieut. Col. E. F. Du Sautoy, T.D., and Officers'. In 1905, Edward Frank Du Sautoy (1886-1962) joined the firm of Walter Somers Limited of Halesowen, and was appointed Estimating Director.

In 1910, Walter Somers forged the steel shank that was fitted to the large foredeck anchor destined for RMS Titanic. It is believed that Hingley's, who were commissioned by Harland & Wolff of Belfast to supply the anchor, were unable to forge such a large shank at that time and so Walter Somers were approached. Somers had a steam hammer large enough to produce the shank required and it is highly probable that Lieut. Col. E. F. Du Sautoy was directly involved in establishing the forging costs for such a prestigious component.

Sports Officials listed on page 3 included members of the Amateur Athletic Association, members of the National Cyclists Union and members of Hingley Athletic Club.

The A.A.A. was the oldest national governing body for athletics in the world having been established in 1880; the N.C.U. was an association established in 1878, its purpose to defend cyclists and to organise and regulate bicycle racing in Great Britain.

Of the officials listed, the following have been identified as being associated with HAC and N. Hingley & Sons:

C.E. Lloyd,Chairman; H.J.Peart, Director; Col. J.S. Trinham,Director; Major C.G. Elkington, Director; Major G.C. Edwards, Company Secretary; G.F. Simms, Director; Frank Dunn, Manager, Netherton Ironworks; Fred Keeling, Office, Netherton Ironworks; G.H. Clemson, Office, Netherton Ironworks; Ralph H. Smith, Cashier Head Office Netherton Works; G. Howard Keeling, Office, Netherton Ironworks; Ben Guest, Weighbridge, Netherton Works (and Captain of HAC 1st XI Cricket Team); Laurie Grainger, future Company Secretary & Director; Walter Hodgetts, Staff Member, Netherton Works (and son of Ben Hodgetts, chainmaker).

Also listed areArthur Ford, Chauffeur, Head Office, Netherton Works; W. Bill Timmington, Steward, HAC; Jim Glazebrook, Secretary/Licence HAC; Sgt. Deakin, Caretaker of Offices, Netherton Works (and Member of the Corps of Commissionaires. The Corps of Commissionaires, founded in 1859 by Captain Edward Walter, is the oldest security company in the world, currently trading today as 'Corps Security'); Vic Lucas, Chief Estimator, Netherton Works; Harry Wakeman, future Chauffeur, Head Office, Netherton Works; Ernie Kendrick, Head Office, Netherton (also Secretary of HAC Football Section HAC) and S.J. Astbury, General Secretary of Hingley Athletic Club.

On page 8 there is mention of 'General Handford and Troupe'. Frustratingly the form of entertainment they provided is as yet unknown; maybe the Troupe was a circus act or specialist group of acrobats? If any reader has knowledge of the Troupe then I'd be pleased to hear from them.

On page 11 is printed the line-up to Event 10, the Three Miles Scratch Race (Flat), which was clearly a celebrities race between two former Olympic Athletes, namely Ernie Harper (of Hallamshire Harriers, Sheffield) and J. Eddie Webster (of Birchfield Harriers, Perry Barr, Birmingham). Eddie, a member of Birchfield Harriers' Wollaston Branch, was a local man from Colley Gate, Halesowen, and appears to have won the race in 15 minutes and 20.4 seconds, as the results were pencilled in by hand.

HAC's Annual Athletic Sports day was undoubtedly one of the highlights, if not the highlight, of the 'sports and family entertainment' calendar; a summer's day of excitement and enjoyment for Black Country folk!

I would like to thank the following for their permission to publish copies of HAC photographs and sports programme:

Sandwell Council Community History & Archive Service for photographs, and Chris Holloway, Archivist of Tipton Harriers, for the copy of the sports programme.

If anyone has past associations with HAC, has an interest in Hingleys, or has further information, then Stuart and the Bugle would be pleased to hear from you.

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