The City of Wakefield has a long standing athletic tradition with records showing the first organised athletic club being in existence as far back as 1867.
The first athletics club in Wakefield was formed in the year 1867 to promote rugby football, athletics, gymnastics and other sporting pursuits and was called ‘The Young Mens Society’, it was founded and run under the auspices of the Holy Trinity Church, which used to stand in George Street until it’s demolition in 1952.
The club operated until 1880 when, after much discussion about The Young Mens Society devoting too much time to sporting activities to the detriment of their Christian and spiritual duties, the young men broke from the Church and formed their own football club which they called Wakefield Trinity Football Club, in respect to the Church that initially gave birth to the club, and Trinity’s first headquarters were located at Holly Lodge, Wakefield. There was also a second athletic club formed at St. Georges Church Outwood. They went under the name of ‘Outwood Church Athletic Club’ and they also held an annual athletics meet at The Coach Road Ground, Outwood.
At the start of 1894, with more and more of the northern rugby union clubs moving towards the idea of paying their players and with the suspension of Wigan and Salford rugby clubs for “professionalism”, it was decided by the members of the club that it would be imprudent to carry the club on in the same all embracing format and draw the attentions of the athletic ruling bodies to the fact that members of the club were paid rugby players, and so in early 1895 the club was split into two separate self governing bodies, namely Wakefield Trinity Rugby Football Club and Wakefield Trinity Cycling and Athletic Club.
In 1895 came the momentous split from the Rugby Football Union by the northern rugby clubs which eventually led to the formation of the Rugby League and in 1896 a limited company called the Wakefield Athletic Company was formed. Wakefield Trinity Rugby Club which had hitherto played their home matches on fields in the Belle Vue area, somewhere near the Alexander public house, had the site on which the now famous Belle Vue rugby ground stands purchased for them by the new company and Wakefield Trinity Cycling and Athletic Club had a new base.
The first evening sports meeting to be held at the Wakefield Trinity Cycling and Athletic Club headquarters at Belle Vue was held on Wednesday June 24th 1899 with a “fairly large attendance” being noted by the local Wakefield Express newspaper. Spectators paid admission fees of ‘6 pence and one shilling’ and such meetings with athletic entries of up to 600 competitors became a regular occurrence.
This is a brief history of how the club was originally formed.
The complete history of Wakefield District Harriers is now available in a book entitled
The First 100 Years!
326 pages and written by Martin Cunnane, chronicling a century of sporting achievements by Wakefield Harriers’ Athletes locally, nationally and internationally. This book is a must for anyone who has a history with Wakefield Harriers.
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