Hackwood 1860…. ish.
Racing has forever been a favourite form of amusement among us. For many years, till within a generation of the present time, it was a regular and time-honoured custom, as sure as every “Saint Monday” came round, to get up impromptu footraces along the streets and lanes of the town ; for this purpose some localities were affected, more than others, for various reasons.
The suitability of the path for instance, or the contiguity of a public-house kept by a landlord of congenial tastes, ensured the establishment of a running ground. There was then a “Ten Score Lane” across the Old Field admirably suited to two hundred yards races ; as regards the public-house element, that has since developed into Harding’s Recreations Grounds.
In the records of professional pedestrianism, the name of Edward Whittaker, of Wednesbury, takes a prominent place. This runner, who was commonly known by the name of “Butcher,” and who found a generous patron in the late Mr. James Hunt, won Sheffield Handicaps in 1867 and 1871, always accomplishing the distance “inside of even time.”
When Amateur Athletic Meetings took such a firm hold on the public fancy some nine years ago, Wednesbury was amongst the first of the towns of this neighbourhood to hold one of these gatherings.
It was got up by the original Town Football Club and was held at Crankhall Lane Grounds, in September, 1875 ; and had the weather been propitious it would have been highly successful.
From that time to the present, amateur runners of exceptional abilities have been forthcoming, and amongst those who have made the name of the town famous on the “cinder path” may be mentioned the well-known sprinters George Nicholls, Samuel Powis, and G.H. Jones.
The long-distance men of the town have formed the “Wednesbury Harriers Club,” and in the contests of Cross-country-Paper-chasing already distinguished themselves. The amateur runners alluded to, and nearly all others of the same class, were brought out in connection with one or other of the various football clubs of the town