Woodford Green with Essex Ladies

Woodford Green with Essex Ladies is one of the leading British athletics clubs and is based in Woodford, London. The club topped Division 1 of the British Athletics League for the first time in 2005.

Woodford Green history

Woodford Green A.C. was founded in 1908, in the immediate aftermath of the London Olympic Games. The club was formed out of the Harrier section of the Woodford Green Men's Club established in 1904, but the origins go back to the 1880s as part of the sports section of the Woodford Green Working Men's Institute. The club colours of green and white hoops originate from that era in recognition of both the local name and the leafy environs of Epping Forest.

During the 1920s the club was thriving and regularly winning the Essex Cross Country Championships. The leading athlete was Harry Payne who went on to set a world marathon best, in 1930, which stood until beaten by England's Jim Peters in 1951. In the 1930s the success continued with numerous track athletes reaching international level and two race walkers, Alf Pope and Bert Cooper, setting many British and World records in the period prior to the outbreak of World War II.

During this period the Winter headquarters was at the Men's Club Woodford Green. Several grass tracks in the area were used but the main home in the 1930s was the County Cricket Ground at Leyton.

The post war period saw the club take advantage of the new cinder track at Ashton Playing Fields, Woodford Bridge, and by 1957 the club was arguably Britain's leading track and field club, in that year being undefeated in inter-club competition. In the 1950s and 1960s such names as Derek Johnson, Geoff Elliott and David Jones were household names and regular members of England and Great Britain teams.

In 1969 the club became one of the founder members of the British Athletics League and up to the present time is one of only six clubs that have unbroken membership of this league over thirtyone years. For the last eleven years the club has alternated between division one and two and has maintained its ranking amongst the top ten in the country and in 2005 topped Division One of the British Athletic League for the first time.

An ambition had always been for the club to have a permanent home and following the construction of the new all-weather track in the early 1970s and strenuous fund raising by a team of members, a new clubhouse was built at Ashton Playing Fields which gives the club a focal point and a venue for social activities.

Essex Ladies history

Essex Ladies A.C. was founded in 1921 and was therefore one of the earliest established women's athletic clubs in Great Britain. It was first known as Eastern Ladies A.C. but in 1922 it became Manor Park Ladies A.C. and had a total membership of six. The club affiliated to the W.A.A.A. in 1924 and adopted the name of Essex Ladies A.C. in 1934.

After World War II the club based itself at three training grounds, Victoria Park, Dagenham Old Park and Ashton Playing Fields. In the early 1960s it was decided to concentrate the memberhip at Ashton but in January 1987 the club moved to the newly laid track in the Borough of Waltham Forest.

Former internationals include the late Edith Peacock, a hurdler, and one of the founder members who, until her death in 1999 at 90 years of age, was still actively involved in the club; Dorothy Manley (now Parlett), 1948 Olympic 100 m. silver medalist and Jean Desforges (now Pickering), 1954 European Long Jump bronze medalist. In 1976, Sue Longden and Gladys Taylor (now Bird) became the clubs' first Olympians for 20 years when they were selected for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles both Gladys Taylor in the 400m hurdles and Kim Hagger, 8th in the Heptathlon represented Great Britain. Kim went on to win Commonwealth bronze in this event in 1986.

The club's most famous athlete, Sally Gunnell, who retired from the track in 1997, also won her first major championship in 1986 in the 100m. hurdles in the Commonwealth Games. She was 5th. in the 400m hurdles in the Seoul Olympics and won gold medals in the 1992 Olympics, the 1993 World Championships (with a World Record), the 1994 European Championships and 1994 Commonwealth Games. The club's most recent World Champion is 21 year old Julie Pratt who won the 100m. gold medal at the 1998 World Junior Championships in France.

In the past two decades, Essex Ladies have won the Guardian Jubillee Cup eight times - the highest number of times by any British club. By winning this cup, the club has represented Great Britain in the European Clubs' Championship eight times with the highest placing of 3rd. in Como in 1987. In 1987 and 1988 the club won division 1 of the UK. National League and the juniors have won the National Junior League four times and have represented Great Britain in the European Junior Clubs' Championship with a highest placing of 2nd. in Paris in 1994.

In December 1998, the two clubs amalgamated and the ladies moved back to Ashton Playing Fields with both clubs enjoying the benefits of the union and the ladies sharing in the use of the clubhouse.

Notable current athletes

Notable former athletes

External links

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