P.M. Thornton Challenge Cup

Half Mile Challenge Cup. Presented to The Amateur Athletic Club by P.M. Thornton, Cambridge University

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

Photo credit: Ruth Brennan

Story of the Event

The winners of this trophy represent a Who’s Who of the 800m at a global level. The first athlete to achieve a half-mile and mile double was Walter George in 1882, a feat he matched two years later. The 1887 champion Francis Cross not only won the double but also became the first name on the trophy to set a world best performance of 1:54.6.

From 1900, several winners of this trophy continued to Olympic success. Alfred Tysoe was an Amateur Athletic Association champion twice before becoming Olympic champion in Paris in 1900. Albert Hill, AAA champion in 1919 won Olympic 800m and 1500m gold in 1920. Douglas Lowe, who won the first of his two Olympic titles in 1924 also won this trophy three years later in 1927. Competing in the 1930s Tommy Hampson, Olympic 800m gold medallist in 1932, lifted this trophy three times.

Arthur Wint was recipient of this trophy in 1950 and again in 51. Wint was a double Olympic silver medallist in 1948 and 1952, and Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medallist, winning the 400m at the 1948 London Olympics.He served as a pilot with the RAF in World War II and in 1953 graduated as a doctor at St. Bartholomew’s. He was made an MBE in 1954 and later was Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Britain.

After Olympic silver for Derek Johnson in Melbourne 1956, Steve Ovett’s 1980 victory in Moscow was the first Olympic gold for a AAA champion until William Tanui in 1992, although 1981 champion, Sebastian (later Lord) Coe won two Olympic silver medals and set two world records at 800m alongside his Olympic golds in the 1500m in Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984.

The Donor
The donor of the Half Mile, later 800m, Challenge Cup was Percy Melville Thornton, who won the first amateur championship for the event in 1866. On the trophy he associates himself with Cambridge University, where he enjoyed a successful athletics career at events from 100 yds to 1 mile, as well as the High Jump. He also served as Secretary of the Athletics Club, where he started the Cambridge and Oxford Inter Varsity competition for both athletics and other sports. The second President of AAA, Richard Alverstone, was a close friend.

Away from athletics, Thornton followed the career of his grandfather, who had been a colleague of William Wilberforce in the movement for the abolition of slavery, serving as MP for the same constituency of Clapham and Battersea. He was a prolific writer of history books, in particular on political figures of the nineteenth century and on the Stuart Dynasty. His thorough autobiography, entitled Some Things I Have Remembered, was published in 1911. His keen interest in aviation was shared by the donors of the trophies for the women’s steeplechase and discus, Mary Bailey and Sophie Eliot-Lynn.

History of the Trophy
AAA champions in the half mile received this trophy from 1880, after the trophies previously awarded to the winners of the AAC’s championship were inherited from J.G. Chambers The event was run as the 880 yards until 1968, becoming from 1969 until 1995 the AAA 800m champions. Since 2010 the trophy has been presented to the winner of the England Senior Championships 800m.

Previous Winners*

1866 P.M. Thornton1897 A.E. Relf1930 T. Hampson1967 J.P. Boulter
1867 W.J. Frere1898 A.E. Relf1931 T. Hampson1968 N. Carroll
1868 E.J. Colbeck1899 A.E. Tysoe1932 T. Hampson1969 D. Cropper
1869 R.V. Somers-Smith1900 A.E. Tysoe1933 C. Whitehead1970 A.W. Carter
1870 R.V. Somers-Smith1901 J.R. Cleave1934 J.A. Cooper1971 R.M. Browne
1871 Hon. A.L. Pelham1902 A.B. Manning1935 J.C. Stothard1972 A. Carter
1872 G.A. Templer/T. Christie   Tie1903 B.J. Blunden1936 J.V. Powell1973 (A. Carter)*
1873 Hon. A.L. Pelham1904 Rev. H.W. Workman1937 A.J. Collyer1974 S. Ovett
1874 E.A. Sandford1905 B.J. Blunden1938 A.J. Collyer1975 (S. Ovett)*
1875 E.A. Sandford1906 A. Astley1939 A.C.K. Brown1976 (S. Ovett)*
1876 F.T. Elborough1907 I.F. Fairburn-Crawford1946 F/Lt A.S. Wint1977 M. Sayic
1877 F.T. Elborough1908 T.H. Just1947 C. White1978 T. McLean
1878 H.A. Whateley/L. Knowles   Tie1909 H. Braun1948 H.J. Parlett1979 (S. Scott)*
1879 W.W. Bolton1910 J.M. Hill1949 H. J. Parlett1980 (O. Khalifa)*
1880 S.K. Holman1911 H. Braun1950 A.S. Wint1981 (S. Coe)*
1881 S.H. Baker1912 H. Braun1951 A.S. Wint1982 P. Elliott
1882 W.G. George1913 E. Wide1952 R. Bannister1983 W. Wuyke
1883 W. Birkett1914 H. Baker1953 B.S. Hewson1984 S. Cram
1884 W.G. George1915 – No Championship1954 B.S. Hewson1985 J.L. Barbosa
1885 L.E. Myers1918 (European War)1955 D.J.N. Johnson1986 S. Cram
1886 E.D. Robinson1919 A.C. Hill1956 M.A. Rawson1987 P. Elliott
1887 F.J. K. Cross1920 B.C.D. Rudd1957 R. Delany1988 S. Cram
1888 A.G. Le MaÎtre1921 E.D. Mountain1958 B.S. Hewson1989 Ikem Billy
1889 H.C.L. Tindall1922 E.D. Mountain1959 B.S. Hewson1990 Wm. tanui
1890 T.T. Pitman1923 C.R. Griffiths1960 T.S. Farrell1991 Tom McKean
1891 W.J. Holmes1924 H.B. Stallard1961 G.E. Kerr1992 Curtis Robb
1892 W.J. Holmes1925 C.R. Griffiths1962 C. Weisiger1993 (M. Steele)*
1893 E.C. Bredin1926 Dr O. Peltzer1963 N.J. Carroll1994 (C. Winrow)*
1894 E.C. Bredin1927 D.G.A. Lowe1964 W.F. Crothers1995 (C. Robb)*
1895 E.C. Bredin1928 D.G.A. Lowe1965 T.A. Farrell 
1896 W. Ade C. King1929 C.A. Ellis1966 N.J. Carroll 
2010 D. St Clair2013 M. Rimmer2016 M. Wharton
2011 Steven Fennel2014 M. Rimmer2017 J. McMurray
2012 J. Bird2015 J. O’ Hara2018 M. Lonsdale
  2019 J. Reid

*N.B. Names are as recorded on the trophy and are not always as recorded elsewhere.  Some results are not recorded on the trophy, they are shown here bracketed with an asterisk.