(updated Jan 2023)
Birmingham Running, Athletics and Triathlon Club (also known as BRAT), was formed in 2010 and is a relatively new club in the UK (West Midlands) but as a result of previous mergers by former athletics clubs in Birmingham and Black Country area, the club has over 100 years of athletics heritage. Here is a brief synopsis of our history:
From Smethwick to BRAT – a brief history
Smethwick Harriers (1921-1966)
It all started with the creation of Smethwick Harriers in 1921, with club president, C. E. Lindsey and club secretary, R.W. Allen. Other early members included Fred and Frank Cull, C. H. Bird, Jack Oliver and C. W. ‘Wally’ Hammond. Many of the younger members went to either Holly Lodge Grammar School or James Watt Technical School. The club’s original headquarters was at the Cape of Good Hope pub on Cape Hill in Smethwick. They also trained from the Cock and Magpies pub from the 1960s. Frank Cull later became a major figure in Midland athletics and went on to be involved in the sports administration as well as club chairman for subsequent associated clubs.
The club’s logo was a red star and wings and featured on a blue vest with a gold hoop across the chest. Smethwick Harriers was also one of the founding clubs of the Birmingham & District Invitation Cross Country League which started 1925 and is still going today. The club had many great runners over the years. These included Herbert ‘Bert’ Swindells who was the inter-counties cross country champion in 1948. Mike Farrell who eventually moved Birchfield Harriers and finished 5th in the 800 metres at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. Mike also became a leading figure at the Midland Counties Athletics Association.
Other great athletes included: Clarence ‘Cal’ Bonehill, Austin Mooney, Tony Penny, Daryl ‘Mac’ McWhirter, Fred, Alan and Patricia Myatt, Roy Capewell, Arthur Stokes, Geoff Stott, Brian Bird, Ken Westley, Bud Baldaro, L. N. Green and John Alger. John sadly passed away recently (2021).
Harborne Harriers (1924-1993)
In 1924, Harborne Harriers was originally created as a 2nd claim club for members of Sparkhill Harriers and other athletics clubs in the Birmingham area but lived in the Harborne area of the city. Joe and Fred Peace were the most notable runners in the 1920s, living in Harborne and encouraged to join the Sparkhill club in 1921. By 1925, Harborne Harriers became affiliated as a 1st claim club and both Joe and Fred moved clubs to join Harborne following a team selection dispute.
The clubs original ‘Speed’ logo was taken from a advertising poster displayed at Birmingham New Street Station and produced for the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), The poster showed a relief sculpture of a flying winged man, by the famous sculptor Sir Bertram MacKennal. Fred Peace, the Club’s chairman, approached the LMS Headquarters at Derby and asked their permission to use the image as a vest badge and obtained this on payment of 5 shillings and a copy of the advertising poster.
In the 1930s, the club newsletter was also named ‘Speed’ but was renamed ‘Spike’ in the 1960s. The vest was Cambridge light blue and white trim, inspired by the Club president, Arnold R. Churchill after his time at Cambridge University.
Following the completion of the outer circle bus route in 1926, a 27-mile (43km) route which still operates today as the West Midlands No11 bus route. Harborne Harriers organised the famous Outer Circle road relay which began in 1927. This became a major event for the athletes of the Birmingham & Black Country area and was keenly contested. Henry A. Butler of the Butler’s Brewery family donated a solid silver trophy for the relay.
The Butler family were also instrumental in the development of Women’s athletics in the area.
There were many notable names at the club. Those included Ted Hutchings, George Carr, Lilian Weaver, Joanne Smallwood (nee Hancox), Clive Weston, Peter Worrall Bernard Pressdee, B. Hurley, Stan Hawkesford and R. F. Brant.
During the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Harborne Harriers was one of the leading race walking clubs in the country and had many leading national and international walkers, such as Pamela Branson, Audrey Hacket, Jacqueline & Joanna Wickham, Natalie Griffiths, Joan Wallis, Margaret Lewis (nee Billingsley), Sandra Smith, Stephen & Mike Miley, Bill & Russ Rawlins and Niall Troy.
Oldbury Athletic and Cross Country Club (1947-1966)
Oldbury A&CCC was founded in September 1947 by former Tipton Harrier and Welsh international athlete, R.W.D. ‘Taff’ Hier. At the time, the club was reported to be one of several Midland clubs that came into being, due to the growth of ‘athletic enthusiasm’ in the area. The club had many notable members, including Allan Rushmer and Dennis Pearsall and Bob Bratt. They eventually moved to Tipton Harriers and Allan became one of the all-time greats in British athletics. Other notable names include P. A. Jacob, originally from Trinidad and Mildred Bissell. The club trained at the Brades Works Recreational Ground on Brades Road in Oldbury and the club’s logo was a terrier’s head, chosen because of the Taff’s pet terrier and club mascot, Cello. The club magazine was also named ‘The Terrier’ and the club’s colours were a green vest with a white hoop across the chest. Taff Hier also owned the ‘House of Sports’, a sports shop in Bearwood, Birmingham.
The Broadwell Cup is a magnificent silver trophy, donated by Sidney Smith, a former chairman of Oldbury A&CCC. The cup was first presented in 1956 and is still used as an annual award today for the ‘Most Outstanding Performance in a Championship’.
There is very little information known about Oldbury Athletic & Cross Country Club and we would love to hear from any person who might be able to share some details with us. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Warley Athletic Club (1966-1987)
On the September 2nd, 1966, Warley Athletic Club was born from the amalgamation of both Smethwick Harriers and Oldbury A&CCC. It was seen as a natural for the two clubs to join forces, following boundary alterations in April 1966 and the merger of the boroughs of Oldbury, Rowley Regis and Smethwick to form the new, enlarged County Borough of Warley. A number of club members from the two amalgamated clubs took the opportunity to leave and join other athletics clubs in the area, without serving a strict suspension ban for changing clubs. These athletes included Bob Hughes, who joined Royal Sutton Coldfield Race Walking Club, who went on to walk for Great Britain at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games in the 20km walk. Other racewalkers included Bob Carr and Allan Smallwood who both initially moved to Harborne Harriers. There was also James ‘Jim’ Harvey, Ken Westley, Brian Clifton who all moved to Tipton Harriers. The result of athletes moving, meant it took time for Warley AC to establish itself. This was greatly assisted with the construction of a new all-weather athletics track at the Hadley Stadium in 1972.
At the time, it was the only the 3rd all-weather track in the UK along with Edinburgh in Scotland and Crystal Palace in London. The Manager of the stadium was David Denton, who ran for Tipton Harriers and was an innovative promoter of athletics events and a long serving administrator. Frank Cull, from Smethwick Harriers, was elected Chairman and R. F. Robinson, from Oldbury, was elected club secretary.
By the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s, there were new, exciting athletes emerging from Warley, including Keith Stebbings, Nic Piotrowski, Yvonne Stewart, Val Mullins, Andy Myatt, Scottish International, George Fraser; Mike Plummer, Alan Price and many others.
The club vest colour was tangerine and the club logo was Pegasus, the Greek mythical winged horse. The club newsletter was also named ‘Pegasus’.
Borough of Sandwell Athletic Club (1988-1995)
In 1974, the Borough of Warley merged wth West Bromwich to form the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell. On the 1st October 1987, Warley Athletic Club changed their name to the Borough of Sandwell Athletic Club with the ambition to create renewed interest for the club with declining membership but also to encourage further investment by the Borough Council in the Hadley Stadium track. All Warley AC members were automatically transferred to the new club, including notable athletes included Rob Alves, Andy Booton, Andy Brittan, Baljit Dosanjh, Mike Dwyer, Trevor Gladwin, Colin Leiper, Ken Little, Cyprus International, Michael Loizias; Darren Parke, Mike Plummer, Mike Trevor, Maura Quill, Matt Clarkson (who eventually joined Birchfield); and Henryk Piotrowski (who later joined Tipton). The club retained the ‘Pegasus’ logo but the club colours changed to a white vest with a gold and green hoop.
The name change was not universally accepted within the club and sadly, investment in the facilities did not materialise and the famous Hadley all-weather athletics track deteriorated. In 1994, the club reluctantly moved to train at the University of Birmingham’s Munroe athletics track. At the time, this was also used by athletes from Rowheath Harriers.
Rowheath Harriers (1980-1993)
Rowheath Harriers was formed at the end of 1980 and were based at the Rowheath Pavilion in Bournville, Birmingham, close to the Cadburys chocolate factory. The club started as an enthusiastic running club but soon established itself as a strong force in the region over cross country and road. The first chairman was Dr Ian Cockerill, who was a lecturer in sport at the University of Birmingham. The club Secretary was Cathy Baker. There were a number of members including the late John Llewellyn (running for Wales) and the late Colin Cartland who both became international athletes as Masters’ athletes.
Other members included Brian McEvoy (who ran for England over the marathon in 1990); Richard Carney, Eddie Twohig, Nick Price, Steve Hewett, Alan Harding (who ran for Ireland); Richard Gray, Sally Johnson, Karen Gurney, Mary James and Martin Ludford. Many of them are still involved with the club today.
The club logo was an oak tree and the club vest colours were green with two narrow blue hoops. They had a regular newsletter throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
Rowheath Harriers (incorporating Harborne Harriers) (1993-1995)
Harborne Harriers were arguably the most successful and longest established club (69 years) within our history. In 1993, Harborne Harriers were finding it increasingly difficult to continue as a viable athletics club and eventually decided to amalgamate with Rowheath Harriers. The ‘new’ club was renamed Rowheath Harriers, incorporating Harborne Harriers. One of the legacies that continued was the Harborne road relay, which started in 1927. The new merged club continued this tradition until 1996. Harry Fowler was the club chairperson. One of the club’s most notable members was Lesley Turner, who ran for Great Britain in the marathon at the 1994 European Athletics Championships in Helsinki and she still holds the Ladies club record for the marathon!
Birmingham Rowheath Athletic Club (1996-2010)
Borough of Sandwell AC and Rowheath Harriers who were both training at the same athletics track, decided to amalgamate on the 21st March 1996 to form Birmingham Rowheath Athletic Club. The club logo was the oak tree logo overlaid with the logo of the Pegasus horse. Harry Fowler (Rowheath Harriers) was nominated as its first club chairman with George Fraser (Borough of Sandwell AC), as vice chairman. The club’s colours eventually became a blue vest with a green and two yellow side panels.
It was the belief that the ‘harrier’ tradition in road and cross country by Rowheath, together with the track and field strength of Borough of Sandwell AC, made the amalgamation a positive combination.
Athletes from both clubs transferred to the new club with notable athletes such as Karle Ford, Jack Gray, Paul Thompson and many others.
In 2000, after an unfortunate dispute between club members and the committee, a small group of members resigned and formed a new club, Bournville Harriers, based at the Rowheath Pavillion. Once it was established, more members moved over to the new club. Bournville Harriers is a strong ‘community’ club that continues today.
Birmingham Running and Triathlon (2000-2010)
In 2000, Birmingham Running and Triathlon (BRAT) was established. The club enjoyed the success of a relatively new sport and were able to attract a rich talent of students at the University of Birmingham.
Chrissy Wellington was encouraged to take up triathlon whilst at the University and joined BRAT. She ultimately became World Triathlon Champion. Triathlete, Jodie Stimpson also enjoyed success as a BRAT member. The club’s vest was black with city of Birmingham city skyline printed in red and grey. For a number of years, there was an agreement with Birmingham Rowheath AC that enabled BRAT members to race for the athletics club in cross country and road relays. It also enabled Birmingham Rowheath members to experience triathlon.
Birmingham Running, Athletics & Triathlon (2010-today)
Both Birmingham Rowheath AC and Birmingham Running & Triathlon agreed to merge in 2010 to create Birmingham Running, Athletics & Triathlon. The club retained the vest colour and design as the original BRAT club. Today, the club has running, swimming and cycling training sessions throughout the week and continues to be one of the leading athletics and triathlon clubs in the region.
from Smethwick to BRAT: CAN YOU HELP US?
This is just a brief story of the club’s amazing athletics heritage. We are always on the look out for more details and information and CAN YOU HELP US?
We are really interested in contacting anyone who might be able to provide us with information on any of the clubs mentioned. Any information would be gratefully received. Items such as photographs, race results, minutes from club meetings and club newsletters would be of particular interest.
If you were a former member or know of friends or family who were associated with Smethwick Harriers, Harborne Harriers, Oldbury Athletic & Cross Country Club, Warley Athletic Club, Rowheath Harriers, Borough of Sandwell AC, Birmingham Rowheath AC and BRAT, we would love to hear from you.
Please contact us at email@example.com