The Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham holds the National Athletics Archive, a sizeable collection charting the history of UK athletics throughout the 20th century.
As Birmingham is the host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, now seems like an appropriate moment to explore some of the stories contained within this fascinating archive.
The Mighty Atom
In addition to organisational collections, such as the papers of the Amateur Athletics Association, the National Athletics Archive includes various discrete collections of individual athletes. These include papers relating to Sydney Wooderson MBE, 1914-2006. Wooderson was an English athlete who was dubbed ‘The Mighty Atom’. His athletics career peaked in the 1930s and 1940s and he set the world mile record of 04:06:40 at London’s Motspur Park on 28 August 1937. This record stood for nearly five years.
Audrey Brown, 1913-2005, a University of Birmingham alumna, won a silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. This was the same year as she was awarded a BA Honours degree in Social and Political Science. Her personal papers, held at the Cadbury Research Library, include medals relating to her sporting success at the ‘Jeux Universitaires Internationau’ in Paris in 1937, as well as badges, photographs and newspaper cuttings.
The Commonwealth Games
The collection also includes ephemeral and grey literature relating to various athletics clubs, meetings and events. Papers relating to major athletics championships include material generated during the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Cardiff. These Games introduced the ‘Queen’s Baton Relay’ which has been conducted as a prelude to every Commonwealth Games since.