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Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers

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NeilsYard
Coventry
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46 of 65  Tue 5th Nov 2019 2:57pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2010  Total posts:2754

Yes Prof I can see that on a 1937 map by Palace Yard opposite St Mary St but who owned the land where the Tech College Sports grounds were and the pavilion? Looking at images of that by the bridge it was a large building. Edited by member, 5th Nov 2019 2:57 pm
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Harrier
Coventry
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47 of 65  Tue 5th Nov 2019 4:06pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:220

The 'sports' pavilion pre-dates WWI as it was used for changing rooms for cross country races and receptions for the various regiments which were billeted in Coventry before being sent to the front. Presumably it was built by the council when the Coventry Cricket Club Company [sometimes referred to as the Coventry Cricket Ground Company] folded in the mid 1880s and the facilities were bought by the council and leased to the Rover Cycle Company on a long lease - the CCCC may also have leased the land if it was in Council ownership already. The company (the CCCC) had built the cycle track in response to the Midland Cycle and Athletic Company which had operated the first cinder banked cycle track in Earlsdon in late 1878 and made a good few bob staging cycle meetings [with a very occasional running race on the grass inside the cinder path]. When the lease ran out about 1932, the Council took charge again and improved the facilities which the Rover had let deteriorate. I have some photos of the council laying the first tarmac surface at this time. The large stand on the home straight was multi purpose eventually replacing the stand on the left in a recent NeilsYard photograph of the start of a cycle race, the 'home' straight for the cyclists was also switched at the same time. A representative rugby match was the first event staged at the newly opened facility in 1880, the stand was built soon afterwards along with the slightly banked cinder cycle path. The Butts opened in April 1881. The stand also provided shelter for the cricket officials (scorers etc) [it was by the Cricket Company in charge]. In those days the stand had windows (seen in the aerial shot at the back of the stand) which overlooked the cricket square which was relocated nearer the rail line (as in the photo) when the Technical College was proposed, releasing a chunk of land for building. I featured the pavilion in 2012 (27th Nov post 21/25 when British Restaurants => Civic Restaurants post 1946 were discussed). Godiva Harriers used the building in the interwar years for changing / refreshments when sports meetings were held on the grass track. Post WWII, the club used the facilities for the Annual Club Dinner and Prize Presentation, so presumably the cooking kitchen was functioning efficiently to cater for over a hundred guests. Documents suggest we hired it from the Council at the time of WWI. As a substantial building its use must have been for other uses than just cricket? Much confusion surrounds the dates of the 'Butts' opening, local historians quoting different months and years, the confusion arising because of determining what each historian refers to as the Butts. The first rugby ground? the stand? the cycle track? the running track? the whole green area fronting Albany Road, with the Bullfield and the Earlsdon track thrown into the melting pot for good measure.
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
NeilsYard
Coventry
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48 of 65  Wed 6th Nov 2019 9:14am  
Member: Joined Aug 2010  Total posts:2754

Brilliant information, Harrier - thanks. That Sports pavilion amazes me as it was so big! Wonder why it never lasted as it looked a wonderful building to leave neglected - maybe its size was the reason why. If OK I'll pass that information on to the True Coventrian FB page as a friend asked me about it - I will credit you of course. Think I mentioned before, I remember what remained of the stand on the cycling home straight from the early 80's as my brother-in-law at the time raced there frequently. It was mainly wooden in construction - would probably not meet any modern safety requirements as I recall looking through the wooden slatted steps underneath and there was always a collection of rubbish and fag-ends piled up! I have added this before to the Coventry Music / 2-Tone threads but there is a great site recording the Coventry Music scene, called thisisthen hosted by Mark Osborne (so credit to him). His section in there from The Specials shows a selection of images from the Rock against Racism gig at The Butts in June 1981. I rode in to it unchallenged for 10 minutes before I got bored as my grandparents lived in Newcombe Road. Anyway thought you might like this one Harrier if not seen already - Edited by member, 6th Nov 2019 9:21 am
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
NeilsYard
Coventry
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49 of 65  Tue 10th Dec 2019 10:04am  
Member: Joined Aug 2010  Total posts:2754

Harrier - just came across these two from the Stilltime Collection. I'm not totally sure on the issue of copyright with that site, so adding the links here. Interesting to see the topshops on Butts in the background here. I have seen this one before (in case you hadn’t). Edited by member, 10th Dec 2019 10:05 am
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Harrier
Coventry
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50 of 65  Tue 10th Dec 2019 11:13am  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:220

Thanks for those NeilsYard. In fact I have about half a dozen original photographs of this activity. The resurfacing was taking place following complaints from top riders that the track was unsuitable and in places actually dangerous. With a threatened boycott of good national and international riders, action was taken because the income from several thousand spectators from upwards of several meetings per season could not be dismissed lightly. The 'stadium' on the right is where the original grandstand was built when the Butts was constructed with the start line for the cycle races in front. Note there is no running track, athletics being a poor second best to cycling. For athletics races a temporary track was marked out on the grass, but of course, only measured 360 yards which was unacceptable for championship racing. The cycle path was 440 yards, the standard distance for a track - both cycling and athletics. The part of the stand nearest the camera, is where the entrance to the tunnel under the track was built (see my previous posting)
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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51 of 65  Fri 3rd Jan 2020 12:58pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3703

Harrier, thought you may be interested. In the 1980 jogging became the 'thing' and took off in a big way, so councils took an interest. I believe the 1983 Coventry Marathon was the first people’s jogging marathon in Coventry. The Brighton European Veterans Games was a great honour for the country. The 80 miles South Downs Way was a one-off race, they cannot get the drinks stations and ambulance cover since.
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Harrier
Coventry
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52 of 65  Fri 3rd Jan 2020 6:14pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:220

Thanks for that Kaga. As Peacehaven where you live is only about 5 miles from Lewes, you may be interested to know that some of the photos on these Historic Coventry pages were taken by a Lewes born and bred photographer!! For example:- Number 13 in the 'Coventry Mystery Photos'! His name was Charles Winterbourne. There are several references to him on the forum - however to add a little more… Born in 1873, he got a job as an assistant to a photographer in Brighton (I have dates and names somewhere if there is an interest). He also joined the local running club and became a good county class cross country runner, so much so that when he realised that he was not going to progress much in his trade in Brighton, he up sticks and moved to Birmingham in 1897 to become an assistant manager in a photographic shop. Despite his having to work many Saturdays, his athletic ability progressed, benefitting from his joining Birchfield Harriers, the premier club in the country. In 1899 he was 4th in the Midland Cross Country Championships. In the next few years he won a team National Championship Cross Country medals when he finished in the counting six runners for Birchfield Harriers. He moved to Leamington in the early years of the century. Pressure came from raising a family and opening his first shop in Coventry, and, although he joined Godiva Harriers, Saturday photographic assignments meant that his athletics had to take a back seat. When Godiva were financially bailed out by the Triumph founder, Siefreid Bettmann, in 1908, Winterbourne was hired for many years by the industrialist to photograph the winners of the perpetual solid silver trophy he donated to the club. Bettmann's generosity meant that the winner of the Annie Bettmann Trophy won a solid gold medal, a framed portrait of himself (measuring about 2ft by 1ft) and a dozen replicas in postcard format. The Godiva Harriers club was given a slightly larger version to hang in their current pub headquarters. 2nd and 3rd placers of the season long cross country competition were awarded solid silver medals - each of the winter series of cross country competitions took the format of handicap races whereby, the slowest runner started first, followed at intervals by faster runners, the fastest (the scratch man) setting off last giving as much as 10 minutes start to the first starter, depending on the distance to be run. I must have well over 50 of Winterbourne's photographs depicting runners either in races, posed in groups, or Bettmann award winners.
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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53 of 65  Sat 4th Jan 2020 10:47am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3703

Harrier. Thanks for your reply. Interesting - I never really understood the difference in the cross-country runs and the old paper chases, but in either case there were no drinks or checking in stations to my knowledge? Long ago before all this computer era I checked some old races down here for a northern guy asking about his granddad running in Sussex it was really interesting, but the years have passed and the papers lost. In 1983 I believe was Coventry's first peoples marathon run, the badge was unusual, it was 'outward bound' what was that about? Regards, Kaga.
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Harrier
Coventry
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54 of 65  Sat 4th Jan 2020 3:49pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:220

I do like those circular badges, Kaga - would you mind if I copied them for my records please? The marathon race has a curious background in Coventry. I have written a few notes about it before, the marathons of the 60s around eastern Coventry. In 1979 as part of the Coventry Godiva Harriers Centenary Celebrations, the club organised the Amateur Athletic Associations national marathon championships in Coventry - it was the premier marathon race of the time. The route was four laps which started from the race headquarters at Woodlands School, up Broad Lane, then Back Lane, left on the Meriden road towards Berkswell, then Tanners Lane and up Banner Lane, finishing near the school. This was just before the jogging boom started. When the jogging boom unexpectedly burst onto the surprised athletics world, all kinds of organisations jumped on the marathon running bandwagon as a cheap, easy way to raise money for charity with very little effort. As a result, many races left a lot to be desired, many putting the health and safety of their entrants at risk, many organisers being gung-ho and didn't care too much, sad to say. They had no restrictions to comply with and few sought advice from experienced running clubs who themselves had a strict code of conduct to follow before they were allowed by their governing body to promote any type of road race. Back then, established running clubs faced all kinds of difficulties, mostly to do with the road traffic! Most had the advantage of financial clout and connections in the community which running clubs lacked. In Coventry, it was the Outward Bound who facilitated the joggers' urge to run 26 miles. The Outward Bound Trust is a not-for-profit trust, established to create better people, better communities and a better world. The course they chose for their race was unfortunate as it took in a very hilly route. The date was equally inappropriate as summer conditions of sweltering heat is not in the best interests of competitors, especially those not used to the rigours of a marathon. The race did not last more than a couple of years because of the trying conditions. I do not know who chose the course but it involved a regular training spin used by the Godiva lads. Now it is one thing for a group of highly trained world class athletes as was the case at Godiva, to run over such a difficult course on a weekly 22 mile Sunday morning run but quite another for an untrained jogger to spend four or five hours suffering on the hot tarmac, quiet country roads to the south of Coventry. What a missed opportunity! Coventry could have had the chance to have had an iconic marathon race on a par with the London Marathon or the Great North Run if only the clubs like Coventry Godiva Harriers and Massey Ferguson Runners had been consulted and involved in this promotion. It is hardly surprising that the Coventry Marathon failed, not only because of the heat and the route, but also because of other events being promoted at that time - who would shell out a wad of cash to suffer the lonely countryside lanes getting a sun burn when the alternative was to run around the historic roads of London supported by huge crowds of enthusiastic supporters?? As to your first sentence Kaga - cross country is the generic term used to cover that type of activity. Originally the 19th century newspapers headlined the reports on the sport with 'Across Country' which is precisely what the competitors did, they ran across the countryside, climbing fences, leaping streams and ditches, struggling through hedges, all being par for the course. Specific types of runs could be classified, often each type merging in with another. 1. A ‘Paper Chase’ saw a couple of runners set off a good time before the other runners, carrying bags of shredded paper waste, laying a trail for the persuing group to pick out and follow. As the tickertape was white and more than one club was using the same area of countryside, trails could cross and confusion caused, often leading to abandonment of proceedings! A strong wind was another hazard, the tape being scattered before the chasing pack arrived! 2a. A ‘Hare and Hounds’ was almost the same but the idea was for the hounds (the following group) to catch the hares (the paper trail layers) if possible. The hares were not given much start and it was up to them to use all kinds of tricks to avoid being caught. A 'Fox and Beagles' was a lower middle class name variant!! The 'Tally Ho' was a middle class term. In Scotland it could be 'Stag and Hounds'! 2b. Similar to above but the hounds were split into two or three packs depending on athletic ability. The 'slows' were first to set off after the hares, say 5 minutes, the 'fast' pack after ten. The 'through' pack (mostly a Yorkshire term) set off at 15 minutes and were the elite runners. ...... and of course, it all ended up at the pub headquarters for a Saturday night booze up. The church and non conformist clubs, often had a café to attend for the evening concert. All were a working class imitation of the upper class Fox Hunt, even to the extent of using a hunting horn, a whipper in and hunting cap for the equivalent of the Head Huntsman. This paraphernalia was soon abandoned although local historians writing on the subject like to cling onto the Victorian image! As kids we had a similar game with a stick of chalk used by 'two rats' to mark with an arrow on the pavement the direction they took from each street corner. They were allowed to use multiple arrows on an occasional corner (number agreed before the start of the game). The rats decided where the chase ended with a symbol chalked on the pavement; the actual symbol used I cannot for the life of me recall, meaning the rats were hidden close by. The cats set off later and attempted to find the rats. In fact we could not afford chalk and used plaster board instead!!! Was there a similar game in Coventry used by the kids? I am talking 70 years ago in the slums of industrialised Yorkshire. Apologies, Kaga - I get carried away sometimes…. THE IMPORTANT BIT FOR YOU July 24th saw the usual start of frenetic activity with the period of the Bank Holiday, and the plethora of flower shows coming on stream, all vying for the maximum number of paying spectators. Foleshill Flower Show kicked off proceedings - having an interesting finale. Mile.- 1. A.H. Maning (120) (Brinklow), 2. A. Simpson (165) (Hawkesbury), 3. H. Jones (163) (Walsgrave). (11 starters). ‘In this event, the first home was a competitor whose name in the programme was given as ‘T.J. Ward’ of Glascote. He was disqualified however, the allegation of the officers being that he ran in a fictitious name. The incident gave rise to a ‘scene’, a crowd gathering around the officials and at one period, there was a promise of a disturbance. Eventually the decision of the officials was accepted without resort to disorder.’ Strong reporting! Presumably the reason for the crowd unrest was a result of bets placed and payouts not being in accord with expectations... speculation of course, but a member who was with Coventry Birchfield before they folded in the late 30s, recalls a similar incident in which he was involved as the guilty party while on holiday away from the city and confirms it was the bookies who were the instigators of the unhappiness, fearing that they would be hit hard in the pocket. The athlete lived for years in fear of being exposed in Coventry for his ‘crime’ and only felt a little relief when he became a Godiva member, feeling the severance with Birchfield somehow expunged his misdeeds! Edited by member, 4th Jan 2020 4:05 pm
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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55 of 65  Sun 5th Jan 2020 2:29pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3703

Harrier. Brilliant! That had to be my dad - thank you. Please use whatever suits you. So do I, get carried away, so much so I would like to tell you of that 80 mile race on the hottest day of the 20th century, with the mods’ permission. SOUTH DOWNS WAY. Petersfield to Eastbourne The wild and natural beauty of the range of hills betwixt sea and Weald is as ancient as can be recorded, the green of the turf, the miniature flowers, the yellow/gold of the gorse, the blue of the scabious and rampion, the scent of wild thyme. The course was as beautiful as any in the world. We would race through farmsteads, hamlets, across four tidal smugglers’ rivers, through cemeteries, churchyards, scores of bridal gates, deer parks, across centuries old bridges, tumuli, Saxon burial grounds, past dew ponds, the oldest barns, plantations, up hill and down dale, windmills of unknown date, across a few roads. We assembled on a field near Petersfield at 9am, the sun already up and in the high 70's. The first 12 miles, a lot of woodland, emerging through the trees the spire of Chichester Cathedral and beyond the harbour were clearly visible. Crossing the 15th century bridge over the Arun we arrived at Amberley railway station and our second drinks and checking in point. Here, our first ambulance casualty, many exhausted and blisters. We had covered well over twenty miles, the temp way up in the 80s now. Up Rackham Hill (634ft), along the top, through farms to Chanctonbury Ring - people now dropping out. The sun relentless, passing the wooded slopes of Wiston deer park, and so the panorama of the Adur valley and Tinpots Cottage, dropped down to the River Adur and a road across a rickety bridge, another field gate and up Beeding Hill and Truleigh Hostel. Here there were meals and drinks provided. It was now in the evening and only approx halfway. I ate beans and sausage, rice pudding and a number of cups of tea, but the worst was over for me - the sun was going down. Exhausted, loss of weight and over a score of people around me dropping out, I needed all my willpower to get going again, the food and the 15 mins rest I needed to complete this. Past Devils Dyke and onward, the power of the sun now dropping, I felt more energy flowing, this was now my practise ground and I knew every inch of the way. At the side of Newmarket pub the drinks/check in station on the Lewes Road, my family had left me my track suit and torch. Up another monster hill and on to the old ancient Jugs road from the bronze age, it was now dark and a number had lost the way. I called to them as we passed a dew pond and windmills to Ditchling Beacon. On through a cemetery where owls hooted and by a Norman church across the River Ouse to Blackcap, both in front and behind at long distance were the bobbing torches of competitors. We stumbled through cattle, sheep and wildlife, up and over Windover Hill and the Long Man, all the time the sea breezes swept over the Downs. Down into Jevington, a quaint village of considerable age, up and over the golf course and Eastbourne lay in the valley and I collapsed in a schoolroom chair at the finish. I had lost about 14lbs in weight.
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Harrier
Coventry
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56 of 65  Sun 5th Jan 2020 5:18pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:220

Sorry Kaga, I never mentioned the year.... 1920. The handicap start of 165 yards for the mile indicates that your dad was not a bad runner. He would have held his own in a club situation. More later.
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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57 of 65  Tue 7th Jan 2020 2:52pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3703

Harrier. Wow! My dad was in a 'fixed' race, stewards were right to throw the winner out. Wonder if he got paid before the race?
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Prof
Gloucester
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58 of 65  Tue 16th Jun 2020 10:59am  
Member: Joined Jul 2014  Total posts:1507

Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Harrier
Coventry
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59 of 65  Tue 16th Jun 2020 1:59pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:220

I suppose the view was from the early '20s'? No technical college yet. The substantial building on the corner near the front was used as a British Restaurant. Any one got any ideas as to why such a substantial building was built there, when and for what function? The white stand next to the track had rear windows which was used by the cricket scorers and the athletes and rugby players had the track changing rooms just off picture to the left so that seems to rule out those three sports - the bowling green also had its own little hut and the tennis came later. I am assuming the building was sports related.
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers
Annewiggy
Tamworth
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60 of 65  Tue 16th Jun 2020 3:01pm  
Member: Joined Jan 2013  Total posts:1815

Looking through the newspapers the British Restaurant was in Butts Pavilion. It must have been quite a large building as dances were held there. Looking at the old maps the building is not there in 1912 but appears on 1923 maps. It is then called Rover Club House and the cycle track is shown as a football ground. An article in 1919 says the Rover Company had acquired the land 1914. In the 1930's they were known as the Rover Recreation Rooms, Albany Road Edited by member, 16th Jun 2020 3:41 pm
Butts Stadium and Godiva Harriers

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