Nostalgia: Our young people are champions over the centuries

Dan Gorsuch won diving gold for Havering, who added team bronze at their London Youth Games finals

Dan Gorsuch won diving gold for Havering, who added team bronze at their London Youth Games finals - Credit: Archant

London Youth Games Finals will take place at Crystal Palace on July 6 and 7. More than 100,000 competitors have taken part in events throughout the year.

Havering won netball gold at the London Youth Games

Havering won netball gold at the London Youth Games - Credit: Archant

Forty-four former London Youth Games competitors took part in the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, winning 14 medals.

London Youth Games have run annually since 1977. Havering has won them more times than any other borough.

Sports activities specifically for young people are first recorded in the late 19th century in Havering.

In 1890 Romford Grammar School Sports Day was reported on the schools field in Pettits Lane.


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Long jump, high jump, flat races, football and various cricket-related activities such as “bowling at wickets”, “running between wickets” and “throwing at wickets” were recorded.

In 1876 the former public schoolboy F. H. Thirlwell founded the first Romford Football Club, aimed mainly at boys who had just left school.

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The Education Act of 1880 broadened participation in education by making attendance at school compulsory for all five-10 year olds.

The Log Book of Albert Road School, Romford, records that pupils were drilled in 1895, but sport is not recorded until September 1903, when children had a half-day holiday “to have the swimming races at the Baths”.

A football team is recorded in 1906, children’s sports in 1908, running in 1914 and girls basketball in 1922.

By the First World War the benefits of taking part in sport were also extolled to pupils.

In January 1917 Rev. F. J. Simmonds “spoke to the children on the benefit of swimming” while in June 1917 Rev. E. Ruisling “gave the children an excellent address on the spirit in sport”.

In 1902 the new head teacher of Harold Wood School complained that “physical exercise seems to have been totally neglected”.

Drill is recorded at Rainham School in 1903 and organised games in 1917. Children started “military drill” at North Ockendon School in 1905 and a race is recorded in the village in 1911.

We have sparse records of children’s sporting activities outside school in this period, but Scout groups were founded in Romford in 1908 and 1913. In his book Scouting For Boys Baden-Powell, the founder of the movement, recommended that boys take part in boxing, wrestling, rowing, swimming, skipping, cock-fighting and climbing to develop “character” and strength.

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