Running Past has covered several south east London athletes and athletics over the years – ranging from the late Georgian walkers including George Wilson, the Blackheath Pedestrian, to Tom Cook, the Greenwich Cowboy, a Victorian professional runner, to Charlie Gardiner, a professional distance runner just before World War One and the Inaugural Women’s AAA meeting in Downham. Of a similar era to Gardiner was Philip Kingsford who was one of the first English athletes to compete seriously at the triple jump.
Kingsford was important in that he paved the way for the likes of Phillips Idowu and Jonathan Edwards whose 1995 record of 18.29 metres still stands.
His parents were Philip William and Laura Jane (nee Cave) Kingsford who had married in Greenwich in mid-1890. Philip William was a merchant seaman, latterly captain of the SS Britannia probably from the Rotherhithe area, Laura hailed from Belfast.
Philip Cave Kingsford was born on 10 August 1891 in Lewisham. At the time of the census a few months before he was born his mother was living at 18 Sunninghill Road off Loampit Vale in Lewisham, pictured above. He father was not listed, presumably away at sea. His brother Reginald (Rex) was born the following year, again in Lewisham.
The family moved to 90 Addison Gardens near Shepherds Bush around 1900 – Philip William was on the electoral register from that year. Unsurprisingly, given his line of work Philip William was not listed in the census as he was presumably away at sea as he had been in 1891.
Philip William died in 1907 in Uxbridge, probably at what is now the Hillingdon Hospital; he is buried at Margravine (Hammersmith Old) Cemetery, Hammersmith with his younger son Rex who was ‘killed in advance of 1 July’, on the first day of the Somme (he is also remembered at Thiepval).
While his younger brother and mother were still at Addison Gardens in 1911, Philip had moved out, although is not obviously listed anywhere else in the census. After moving to Shepherds Bush, Philip and his brother went to the fee-paying Latymer Upper School where he seems to have been an outstanding athlete and played in the school’s football team. He moved onto St Mark’s College, Chelsea.
He joined the London Athletic Club, one of the oldest clubs in the country, which by that stage was operating out of Stamford Bridge, less than a mile from home. He began to specialise in the jumps, initially the long jump and the standing long jump.
His career doesn’t seem to have appeared in much in press reports other than a few mentions in 1912, 1913 and 1914.
He competed in the 1912 AAA trials at long jump, along with the standing long jump – coming second in the former to Percy Kirwan who had won championships for 3rd year clearing 6.86 to Kirwan’s 7.07. It was good enough to get Kingsford to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Philip had cleared 7.02 early in the season at the LAC spring meeting at Stamford Bridge (1).
He is believed to have started to try out the triple jump in 1912, As the athletics historian Ian Tempest noted ‘English triple jumping was in poor shape in the pre-WW1 period as the event was hardly ever contested. Like so many events, it had effectively been re-invented at the 1908 Olympic trials.’ (2)
Philip set what was the English record and what was to become a British record for the triple jump of 13.57 m (3) at a club event in June 1912. Sadly for Philip, the record seems to have been a few days after the trials at the AAA meeting which may well have been the deadline for decisions about the Olympic team. So despite being the best British triple jumper, Kingsford didn’t represent Britain in that event.
Kingsford wasn’t at his best in Stockholm (poster below (4) – his longest long jump was only 6.65 m placing him 15th from the 30 competitors. His season’s best would have seen him in 5th place. He was last in the standing long jump, the last time the event appeared in the Summer Olympics.
As for the triple jump competition in Stockholm, Britain was represented by the Irish athlete (this was before partition) Timothy Carroll who finished next to last, with a distance way behind that achieved by Kingsford a few weeks earlier.
Only one press report has been found for the 1913 season –Kingsford competed for the London AC in a match against Sweden in 1913 (5). 1914 saw him become the AAA Champion in the long jump with his best ever jump of 7.09 m. He was also the best British athlete in the triple jump in the AAA Championships, coming 4th behind three Scandinavians, including the Swede Ivar Sahlin who won in 14.03. He is pictured below at the AAA (6)
Soon after the AAA Championships he was a comfortable victor in both long and triple jump at a three way international between England, Scotland and Ireland in 1914 at Hampden Park (7)
Completive athletics, like most sports was effectively put on hold for the duration of the First World War, Philip gave up his teaching job at Addison Gardens School and served with the Middlesex Regiment in India. While Philip survived the war he died soon after in July 1919, whether it related to wounds or illness from the war, the ‘Spanish ‘Flu’ epidemic or something else isn’t clear.
Philip Kingsford’s legacy was that he was the first in a long line of British triple jumpers that led to the Jonathan Edwards’ jump of 18.29 m at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg.
- Daily Herald 13 May 1912
- Probably from Ian Tempest (2002) Triple Jump – Booklet produced for National Union of Track Statisticians (NUTS)
- There were longer jumps by Irish triple jumpers, notably 14.92 by Tim Aherne to win gold at the 1908 London Olympics at White City, but these seem to have no longer been recognised after partition
- On a Creative Commons via Wikipedia
- Pall Mall Gazette 17 June 1913
- On a Creative Commons via Wikipedia
- Nantwich Guardian 17 July 1914
A big thank you to Bob Phillips, both for making me aware of Philip and for helping to fill in some of the details about Philip’s education, and the location of his British record winning this post wouldn’t have happened without him.
Census and related information are from Find My Past.
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