Waddell Trophy

2 Miles Steeplechase Trophy, presented to the Amateur Athletic Association by James and William Waddell

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

Athletics trophy, large silver cup with two handles and foliage carved at the base.
Photo credit: Ruth Brennan

Steeplechase makes its first appearance in records in 1834, when it was introduced at Rugby School. The name refers to the practice of running between the most obvious points in the British landscape, the steeples of churches. Since this involved jumping obstacles such as ditches and streams, the event continued to include barriers and a water jump when it was first held on the track, most likely as a two-mile event at the University of Oxford. Steeplechase was not included in the Amateur Athletic Club Championships (1868-1879), whose programme was set by the donor of the walk trophy, J.G. Chambers. Its inclusion in the first Amateur Athletics Association championships in 1880 is owed to the trophy’s donors, the Waddell brothers, see below.

The event was dominated by British athletes in the early years of the twentieth century, with seven medals Olympic medals between 1900 and 1920. including a gold, silver and bronze for GB in Paris 1900. NB: there was no steeplechase at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, it was reinstated for the 1916 Games in Berlin.

Interestingly, of the British athletes of this period, the only Olympic medallists to also lift this trophy are Sidney Robinson and Percy Hodge. A name that appears only once on this trophy, in 1922 but who had immense Olympic success is Finnish athlete Paavo Nurmi; nicknamed “the Flying Finn” Nurmi won nine Olympic golds, three silvers and set 22 world records in the 1920s. Fellow Finnish athlete Volmari Iso-Hollo also lifted this trophy is 1933, and was the first man to win the Olympic Steeplechase title twice, in 1932 and 1936.  

In the 1950s saw British athlete John Disley win Olympic bronze in Helsinki 1952, along with this trophy on three occasions. The 1960s was dominated by Maurice Herriott, silver medallist in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and nine times winner of this trophy. After that, it would be another 24 years before a British AAA champion, Mark Rowland, would gate-crash the Kenyan party to take bronze in Seoul in 1988 in a time that remains the British record.

The Donors
James and William Waddell make their first appearance in Peter Lovesey’s Official Centenary History of AAA with the intriguing description; “as infamous a pair as you would find in any Victorian melodrama”. The brothers competed to no great success in middle distance races held at the London Athletic Club in the 1870s but it was in administration that they would make their mark. Through their positions as treasurer and secretary of the LAC they organised and acted as team managers for the first international match, when a team from England and Wales took on Ireland in Dublin in 1876. At the LAC championships, which rivalled those of the Amateur Athletic Club AAC, they introduced the steeplechase and 10 miles to the standard programme. 

One of the main differences between the LAC and the AAC was their attitude to the background of athletes. The Waddell’s were keen to remove class barriers from athletics, although there was still no question of allowing professional athletes to take part, and it is always possible that they had their eye on the increased revenue and influence a bigger championship might provide. By 1880, athletics was in danger of becoming highly complex in its organisation, with at least four different championships planned by various organisations. A solution was found through the diplomacy of Sir Montague Shearman, donor of the men’s 400m hurdles trophy, who brought together the different groups to form the Amateur Athletic Association in 1880. The Waddell’s achieved their aim of allowing male athletes from a broader range of backgrounds to compete, as well as the inclusion of the steeplechase to the championship programme, commemorated in the donation of the steeplechase trophy, however by 1884 they had fled the country, leaving debts of over £30,000.

History of the Trophy
AAA champions in the steeplechase received this trophy from 1880 until 1995, following its donation by the Waddell brothers to the Amateur Athletic Association for the inaugural championships. Since 2010 the trophy has been presented to the winner of the England Senior Championships steeplechase. 

Previous Winners*

1880 J. Concannon1911 R. Noakes1950 P. Šegedin1981 K. Martin (USA)
1881 J. Ogden1912 S. Frost1951 P. Šegedin1982 R. Hackney
1882 T. Crellin1913 C.H. Ruffell1952 J.I. Disley1983 C. Reitz
1883 T. Thornton1914 S. Frost1953 E.G. Ellis1984 D. Raymon
1884 W. Snook1915- No Championship1954 K.E. Johnson1985 B. Diemer
1885 W. Snook1918 (European War)1955 J.I. Disley1986 E. Wedderburn
1886 M.A. Harrison1919 P. Hodge1956 E. Shirley1987 E. Wedderburn
1887 M.A. Harrison1920 P. Hodge1957 J.I. Disley1988 Mark Rowland
1888 J.C. Cope1921 P. Hodge1958 E. Shirley1989 Colin walker
1889 T. White1922 P. Nurmi1959 M. Herriott1990 Philip Barkutwo
1890 E.W. Parry1923 P. Hodge1960 E. Shirley1991 Colin walker
1891 E.W. Parry1924 C.E. Blewitt1961 M. Herriott1992 Colin walker
1892 W.H. Smith1925 J.E. Webster1962 M. Herriott1993 Colin Walker
1893 Geo. Martin1926 J.E. Webster1963 M. Herriott1994 J. Chaston
1894 A.B. George1927 J.E. Webster1964 M. Herriott 
1895 E.J. Wilkins1928 J.E. Webster1965 M. Herriott 
1896 S.J. Robinson1929 E.H. Oliver1966 M. Herriott 
1897 G.H. Lee1930 G.W. Bailey1967 M. Herriott2010 S. Stokes
1898 G. Worton1931 T. Evenson1968 D.G. Bryan-Jones2011 J. Taylor
1899 W. Stokes1932 T.Evenson1969 J. Jackson2012 G. Watts
1900 S.J. Robinson1933 V. Iso-Hollo1970 J.A. Holden2013 J. Wilkinson
1901 S.J. Robinson1934 S.G. Scarsbrook1971 J.A. Holden2014 J. Wilkinson
1902 W. Martin1935 G.W. Bailey1972 S. Hollings2015 G. Watts
1903 S.J. Robinson1936 T. Evenson1973 S. Hollings2016 T. Horton
1904 A. Russell1937 W.C. Wylie1974 J. Davies2017 D. Musson
1905 A. Russell1938 J.H. Potts1975 A. Staynings2018 C. Perry
1906 A. Russell1939 J. Chapelle1976 A. Staynings2019 T. Horton
1907 J.C. English1946 M. Van de Wattayne1977 D. Coates 
1908 R. Noakes1947 H. Hires1978 D. Coates 
1909 R. Noakes1948 T.P.E. Curry1979 H. Tuwei 
1910 J.C. English1949 F.T. Holt1980 R. Hackney 

*N.B. Names are as recorded on the trophy and are not always as recorded elsewhere.