History of the Club
The early history of the club is not well recorded, but it appears that the original men’s Oxford City AC grew out of the YMCA athletics club and the Oxford Harriers AAC, which was revived in 1921 after the Great War.
What we know for sure is that in 1944, a member of the Harriers, Monty Hillier, received a letter from a Dutch refugee living in London, a Mr Albert Milhado, who suggested a match between Oxford and a team from the continent as a way of building friendships and alliances once the war had ended. The offer was made on the following terms – that an athletic club be formed in the City of Oxford; that a team should travel to the continent to compete; that the Lord Mayor should be the president; and that the youth of Oxford should be encouraged to take part.
At the same time Monty Hillier was involved in setting up the Oxford Ladies Athletic Club in 1944. The first meeting of the Ladies Club was at 10 Norrey’s Avenue, Oxford, the home of the one of the athletes, Eileen Owen.
So it was that in early 1946 the men’s club was formed, 17 months after the founding of the Ladies club. In the same year the amalgamation of the two clubs was agreed, but it was to be another 30 years before the Ladies and Men’s teams finally merged.
In the same year the twin town of Leiden in the Netherlands, also an ancient university town, became the first destination for the Oxford team to compete on the continent.
In 1948 Maureen Gardner represented GB at the Olympic Games in London, winning the silver medal in the women’s 80mH, and being narrowly beaten by Fanny Blankers-Koen, despite clocking an identical time. Four years later Diane Coates won her GB vest at the Helsinki Olympic games where she made the final of the javelin competition (the javelin she used at those Olympic Games still hangs in the club house).
Over the next three decades athletics steadily grew in significance in Oxford. Training was at the Iffley Road track, although the women moved to Barracks Lane and then to the cinder track at Horspath which was built in the 1960s. The men remained at Iffley Road until 1976 when the two clubs finally merged. The Horspath track remained a cinder track until the first synthetic track was laid, and opened by the Rt Hon. Andrew Smith, MP in 1996.
Meanwhile the men’s team won promotion to the British Athletics League in 1976 and had six years in the League before returning to the Southern League. All this time both the men’s and ladies clubs produced numerous athletes who competed for England and GB at youth and senior level – details can be found in our Hall of Fame.
The Youth section was inaugurated in 1976 and a team organised by Mike Tait made the final of the National Youth League in three consecutive years.
The Club celebrated its 70th Anniversary with a party at Horspath, attended by more than 200 people, in September 2016.
The Club has been firmly based at Horspath since 1976, and continues to provide a home for athletes of all abilities to enjoy the sport.
HONORARY LIFE PRESIDENTS: Barry Symonds, Paul Kelsey
This is a brief summary of the history of Oxford City Athletic Club. A full history can be found in THE HISTORY OF OXFORD CITY ATHLETIC CLUB, written by Barry Symonds, which was published to coincide with the club’s 60th Anniversary celebrations in 2006. Copies of the book can still be purchased from the club.