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    The Manchester milers 1850-1870

    Oldfield, SJ (2013) The Manchester milers 1850-1870. In: British Society of Sports History Annual Conference, 06 September 2013 - 07 September 2013, Crewe, UK.


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    During the mid-nineteenth century, as pedestrianism became an entrepreneurial venture, both the number and types of events increased to satisfy promoters and audiences alike. With pedestrian events regularly attracting large crowds, entrepreneurial publicans promoted and provided land for competitive races, relocating the sport from the turnpike roads and racecourses of Britain to the purpose built stadia attached to rural public houses, whose owners now had control over the sport. Industrial cities became hubs for specific pedestrian events, creating communities for athletes who wished to specialise and become one of the many “champions” advertised and promoted. Whilst London featured a variety of entertainments, it specialised in the long-distance traditional “wobbles” made popular in the early nineteenth century. However, as sprinting (from 110 to 880 yards) and the “miler” became the events of choice for most athletes and spectators alike, due to their fast-paced nature and athlete-friendly training regime, other cities lay claims to their origins. Sheffield became home to the sprinters, with the Hyde Park grounds endorsing many sprinting competitions, whilst Manchester became known as the mile capital, with the top “spinners” of the period venturing to the city to perform, many of whom then settled in and around Lancashire and proceeded to enter the publican trade. The mile championship was held in Manchester annually, and the record for the fastest mile was set in 1865 between two pedestrian publicans who resided in the city. The venues designed for the sport in the 1850s and 1860s only reinforced the importance of such endeavours, attracting further athletes and supporters. This paper will examine the Manchester pedestrian circuit 1850-1870, considering the individuals who contributed to the vibrant “miler” scene that transformed Manchester into a well-respected hotspot for athletic entertainment.

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