Was this a sporting field of dreams?

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WAS this a field of dreams on which a forebear of yours ran or pedalled to glory?

This picture is a little out of our usual territory. This was the opening day of the Ashbrooke Sports Club, in Sunderland, in 1887.

It’s celebrating its 125th birthday this summer and it would love to hear from descendants of – what turns out to be numerous – South Tyneside sportsmen, who displayed their prowess there.

Thanks to a hand-written book which has come to light, revealing details of the cyclists and athletes who competed in events between 1893 and 1904, it’s known who many of them were.

Says club historian Keith Gregson: “From what is now modern South Tyneside, for example, athletes turned up for the 1893 sports in a handful of colours of local clubs – four from Jarrow, two from Tyne Dock and one each from Whitburn, Westoe and South Shields, including Tyne Dock Harriers.”

At that time, nearly all the competitors from what is now the borough were runners.

They included James Anderson, a fish curer from 113 Alfred Street in South Shields.

Also Henry Swainston, a teenage apprentice fitter from Charlotte Street in the town, and a medical student from Princess Street in Jarrow called James McLarney.

Among the athletes in 1893, Keith also found George Taylor, a highly-rated runner in his early 20s.

He was a clerk and the son of a waterman from Corbridge Street in the town. An engineer from Henry Street called Lancelot Lambert entered for the Ashbrooke races on more than one occasion.

Other competitors included engineer’s apprentice Robert Spoor and glass worker Adam Goldie – two young lads from Tyne Dock.

The following year there were two athletes from South Shields called John Blenkinsop, one a shoe dealer and the other a blacksmith.

From Ashbrooke Terrace in East Boldon came cyclist Edwin Clarkson, elder brother of rugby player Phil, and from the same street a young runner called John Ladbrook.

“Some of the competitors have been difficult to trace in the 1891 census,” Keith says. “It is possible that they were moving about. I would like to find out more about athletes FA Magnan, who gave his address as 55 Hibernian Road, Jarrow, also H Maughan and W Telfer from Albert Road and Wear Street in Jarrow respectively.

“Intriguingly there was also one D Jeffels who gave his address as the Globe Inn, Thrift Street in South Shields”

Keith is keen to hear from anyone who recognises an ancestor as an Ashbrooke competitor. He can be contacted via his web site, www.keithgregson.com