Updated: Jan 13
Update - January 2021
Unfortunately we are unable to open the running track this January as planned. This is due to the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown which states that all outdoor sports facilities must close.
We appreciate that this is disappointing news for so many members of the community who have been really looking forward to making use of the newly restored track. Hopefully it won’t be too long until we can open it for you all to enjoy.
In the meantime, here’s a quick look at some of the track’s fascinating heritage…
Athletics at the former News of the World running track
The running track was originally constructed in 1920 as part of the News of the World Sports Ground (the newspaper occupied Park Place at the time). The track was the home of Mitcham Athletics Club until 1960 when it moved from Mitcham to Carshalton Sports Arena. In 1985 the Mitcham club merged with Sutton and Cheam Harriers to form the Sutton and District Athletics Club.
The track was restored in 2020 as part of the Canons House & Grounds lottery funded project, 100 years after it first opened.
Back in the mid-1900s, the Mitcham track was renowned in the world of athletics because of the many top athletes who trained or worked there.
Joe Binks (1874-1966) was News of the World athletics correspondent for 54 years and was a key player in putting the track and club on the athletics map. Binks was a brilliant athlete himself and for twenty years held the British amateur record for running the fastest mile (4 minutes 16.8 seconds).
Walter George (1858-1943) was a professional athlete who ran the fastest mile (4 minutes 12.75 seconds) in 1886. He held this record for 29 years and was very famous as a result of it. George and his wife lived in Tooting, but moved to Mitcham when George took on the role of Groundsman and Coach for the Mitcham track. George held this position until retirement in 1937.
Muriel Cornell (née Gunn; 1906-1996) was a Mitcham local and trained at the club. In 1926 Cornell broke the world record for long jump at the British Games with a jump of 5.48 metres. Cornell became the world record holder again in 1927 (jump of 5.57 metres) which she held until the following year. Cornell held the British record for longest jump (5.80 metres) for 23 years.
Dorothy Tyler (née Odam; 1920-2014) was another top athlete who trained at Mitcham. Tyler competed for Great Britain in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin and won silver medal in high jump making history as the first British woman to win an Olympic medal. Tyler won another silver medal at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. In 1939 Tyler broke the world record for high jump with a jump of 1.66 metres. Tyler also competed in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics.
Brian Hewson (born 1933) is a middle-distance runner who trained at Mitcham and went on to represent Great Britain in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. Hewson won gold in the 1500 metres in the 1958 European Championships and was the fifth man in the world to run a mile in under 4 minutes.
If anyone has any memories of the track and Mitcham Athletics Club that they would like to share please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org.