The Early Years
Highgate Harriers was founded in 1879 by 16 members of two local cricket clubs, the Magdala and Imperial United, who occasionally ran cross-country races and decided to form their own club. The name Harriers was used by many cross-country running clubs as the sport was based on the followers of hare hounds, or harriers. The club’s first run was reported in the Hampstead and Highgate Express on 22 nd November 1879.
The following year the Amateur Athletic Association was formed and in 1887 the first National Cross-Country championship was held but it was not until 1898 that Highgate Harriers golden period began when the club was 2nd in the Southern Cross-Country Championship. The following year it won both the Southern and National Championships. From then on until 1912it won the National 4 times, was second 4 times and third once and won the Southern 12 times, never being out of the first two. The most famous Highgate runner of that time was Albert Aldridge whose time of 51:49 for ten miles would still put him well up in the club rankings. Track meetings were held mostly at Finsbury Park at that time but references to “summer members” suggests that they were considered secondary to the main sport of cross-country.
WW1 & WW2
The club closed down at the outbreak of World War One but it was re-formed in 1919, thanks to the efforts of Harry Rothery, and they had reasonable success for a few years with fourth and fifth places in the National and a string of firsts and seconds in the Southern. However, more and more clubs were being formed and Highgate’s initial golden period had come to an end.
During World War Two the club was again dormant, the only activity of the club being race walking (possibly because some of the walkers tended to be older and may have missed conscription) and after the war a meeting was held to re-form the club. The walkers, led by ‘A D’ McSweeney, felt that they were the most successful part of the club and demanded that they should be a separate section of the club. As a result the club was split into two sections, the Running Section and the Walking Section, each with its own committee and finances, with a General Committee overseeing both of them, also with its own finances. The situation became even more complicated in 1954 when a Ladies Section, led by Charlie Warner, was formed. This clumsy arrangement subsisted for 26 years until 1980 when the club decided to reunite with all members being under the banner of Highgate Harriers as it is today.
Club Centenary & HQ Origins
The club’s centenary in 1979 was celebrated with an exhibition at Swiss Cottage Library and a banquet at Kenwood House which the Mayors of Camden, Barnet, Haringey and Islington attended together with Sir Horace Cutler, the leader of the Greater London Council.
Although the club started in Highgate its headquarters have roamed throughout North London. Mainly in pubs, sometimes as far away as Ponders End and Wood Green and including the Royal Oak, Golders Green, The Bull and Bush, The Freemasons Arms and the Load of Hay, Haverstock Hill. In 1939 the running track at Hampstead Heath was moved from its old location near the viaduct to Parliament Hill where an 8 lane cinder track was laid and where the club has been ever since. At that time night illumination was provided by oil lamps placed alongside the track. The present all-weather track with proper floodlights was laid in 1978.
Recent Team Success
In recent years the club has enjoyed superb team success with the men winning the iconic National 12 Stage Road Relays in 2016 for the very first time in the club’s history. The men won the coveted Southern Cross Country Championships in 2016 and since 2013 won back to back Metropolitan League titles. In 2014 they also won National Silver 6 Stage Road Relay medals and Bronze medals for the National Cross Country Relays. And in 2015 the men won the Southern 6 Stage Road Relays for the first time 25 years.
The women’s squad has also been on the podium winning the Southern 6 Stage Road Relays in 2016, the Southern Cross-Country Championship in 2004, finishing 3rd in the National Cross Country Championships in 2006 and retaining the Metropolitan Cross League Title in 2016 (9 titles since 1994).
The club has helped develop many athletes who have gone on to represent their country over the years, but more recent club ‘stars’ have include Simeon Williamson (2008 Olympics 100m), Ben Noad represented Great Britain at the 2007 World Cross Country Championships, Andy Maud represented Great Britain in 2016 at the European Cup 10,000m, Becky Penty & Richard Scott both gaining England vests for International Cross Country and Marathon duties, Shaun Dixon received two call ups for the England team in the 2013 cross country season and Georgia Fear (U15) gained an England Schools cross country call up in 2014.
Night of the 10,000m PBs
In 2013 the club created an annual celebration of 25 lap track racing in a bid to help boost the progression of club & elite runners, the event was called Night of the 10,000m PBs. In 2014 the club was asked to begin incorporating the British Championships, in 2016 we hosted the Rio Olympic Team GB trials and then in 2018 & 2019 we hosted the European Cup with 8,000 spectators and 500,000 watching via BBC2.
The not for profit event is made possible by volunteer support from Highgate club members and grassroots club friends.
We welcome you with open arms, whether a beginner or seasoned runner we very much look forward to sharing new history with you at the club very soon.
Up the Gate!