HISTORY OF BRITISH GYMNASTICS

From 1888 onwards, British Gymnastics has grown from humble beginnings helping to forge the shape of what we now see as gymnastics worldwide.

1865

Pre the AGA

The German Gymnasium, which opened in January 1865, was later to be the  venue for the 1888 inaugural meeting of the Amateur Gymnastic and Fencing Association. Four London clubs set up the meeting, the German Gymnastic Society, the Orion Gymnastic Society, St James Athletic Club and Stepney Gymnasium. We know that Northampton Athletic Club (still in existence) was invited to the meeting but know of no others.

The German Gymnasium 1865

The German Gymnasium is still standing and is a cafe bar and restaurant situated between London King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations

The German Gymnasium now

1888

Amateur Gymnastic and Fencing Association formed. (this is an English Gymnastic Association)

1890

Scottish Amateur Gymnastic Association formed. 

1895

Irish AGA formed in Dublin. 

1896

1st English Championships for Men’s Artistic. This Championship was open to all amateurs.

1897

AGA headquarters move from London to Birmingham.

1899

1st international held in Dublin, England Scotland and Ireland.

1902

The Welsh Amateur Gymnastic and WrestlingAssociation formed.

1908

1908 London Olympics
Wallter Tysall (Birmingham Athletic Institute)  SILVER

First Olympic medal for GB. 45 gymnasts listed in the team that came 6th

1908 Walter Tysall

Photo courtesy of Linda Russell

1909

The English Championships are held in Birmingham. 12 gymnasts compete from England and Wales. 4 disciplines only make up the event, P bars, H bar, Pommels and a choice of jump or rope climb. This does not conform with the Olympic programme, which in 1908, was P Bars, H Bar, Pommels, Rings and Rope Climb, and in 1912 in was the same minus the Rope Climb. Only one judge officiates at this event. It seems that everything is marked out of 20.

Programme - 1909 English Gymnastics Championships

Programme – 1909 English Gymnastics Championships

Results sheet - 1909 English Gymnastics Championships

Results sheet – 1909 English Gymnastics Championships

1910

The AGA headquarters move back to London and Charles West becomes the Honorary Secretary for the next 20 years – seemingly keeps the association going from 1910 – 1930.

Charles West honorary secretary of the AGA

Charles West honorary secretary of the AGA. Photo courtesy John West & ADTRV videos.

1912

1912

Stockholm Olympics
6th – 15th July
Individual competition included high bar, parallel bars, pommels and rings.
Team GB 23 men Albert Betts, Harry Dickenson, Samuel Hodgetts, Alfred Messenger, Edward Pepper, Charles Vigurs, Samuel Walker, John Whitaker, Sidney Cross, Bernard Wallis Franklin, Edward Potts, Reginald Potts, George Ross, Henry Oberholzer, Charles Simmons, Arthur Southern, Ronald McLean, Charles Luck, Herbert Drury, William McKune, William Tilt, William Cowhig, Leonard Hanson

Men’s Team – BRONZE

1913

Introduction of a 1d membership fee required from each gymnast.
It’s estimated that this brought in £26 to the association (possibly 250 clubs averaging 25 members each = 6,250 members)

1920

Antwerp Olympics. British Men’s Team competed.

1920 Antwerp Squad of 24 group exercise. JJ Cook coach at front

Photo shows – GB 1920 Antwerp Squad of 24 performing a group exercise with coach JJ Cook at front.

1923

1923

London and Metropolitan Counties AGA publish The Gymnast magazine. After 4 issues the AGA takes it on.

1924

1924 Olympics Paris – British Men’s Team competed.

1924 Men's team left JJ Cook coach extreme right Charles West Leigh brothers Ernest & Stanley centre front.

1924 Men’s team left JJ Cook coach extreme right Charles West Leigh brothers Ernest & Stanley centre front.


First British Championships held for Women in Swindon.

1928

Olympics Amsterdam
Women compete for the first time. GB Ladies Team (12 gymnasts) – BRONZE (team event only for women)

1928 GB Olympic Gymnastics Team

1928 GB Olympic Gymnastics Team with Arthur the 3rd gymnast from the left

Photo shows the GB Men’s Team comprising gymnasts – E. Warren, H.J. Fischett, J.C. Raynes, W. Cronin, E. Walton, T.B. Parkinson, A.J. Whitford and S. Humphreys.

1930

Leading up to the war, men’s gymnastics carries on with their programme of English Championships and the Adam Shield.

Adam Shield Flyer 1933

Adam Shield poster 1933

Men's Amateur Gymnastics Championships of England Programme 1935

Men’s Amateur Gymnastics Championships of England Programme 1935

1936

Team GB compete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Last Olympics before outbreak of World War II.

Edna Earl at the 1936 Olympics. Edna was part of the British team

Photo shows Edna Earl competing on the Uneven Bars.

1936, the men training at Sutton Coldfield in preparation for Olympics; they never went

GB men training at Sutton Coldfield in preparation for Olympics, but in the end, they did not travel.

The Gymnast magazine ceases. 

1948

1948

1948 Olympic Games in London – 2 teams represent GB. Much of their training is done in poor conditions including in Hyde Park. German POW Helmut Bantz helps the men’s team with their training.

1950

First residential gymnastic course Bisham Abbey which continued for 15 years.

Bisham course circa 1957

Photo shows Bisham Abbey course circa 1957

1952

British team train at Bisham Abbey prior to 1952 Olympics Helsinki.

1952 Olympic women hopefuls at Bisham

1953

A Welsh team attend the 1st ever Gymnaestrada in Rotterdam.
GB V Germany at Harringay Arena North London (the event was a financial disaster).

1955

Frank Edmonds becomes honorary secretary of the AGA from his home in London.

Frank Edmonds with Max Bangerter

Frank Edmonds, President of British Gymnastics with Max Bangerter, Secretary General of the FIG.

1957

Evidence of coaching examinations taking place, in this case for Intermediate Diploma in Coaching awarded by the Amateur Gymnastics Association.

A Welsh team takes part in the Gymnaestrada in Zagreb.

1958

Championships of North West Europe held at Nottingham Ice Rink (the event is another financial disaster).

1959

The Gymnast magazine is re-introduced. The editor is Jim Prestidge.

1960

Two full teams selected for the Olympics in Rome. At the last minute, funding is withdrawn for the 2 coaches, Frank Turner and Edna Gross. They pay their own way.

British 1960 Men's & Women's Olympic teams on their way.

British 1960 Men’s & Women’s Olympic teams on their way.

First schoolboys course held at Swaylands Kent.

London, Manchester & Liverpool YMCAs and The London Gym Club ( a total of 65 male gymnasts) perform before the FA Cup at Wembley performing on High bar, 2 vaulting tables and floor work with hand balancing. Date 23rd April.

FA Cup 23.4.60 YMCA gym clubs Manchester, Liverpool London & London Gym in display before the match at Wembley

1961

1st British Championships held at a major venue, The Royal Albert Hall. The event is over subscribed with an audience of 6,000 plus standing room. This event continued until 1971, before changing to the Champions Cup which continued in the Albert Hall until 1974 by which time the venue had really become unsuitable for such an event.

British Championships for Men’s trampoline took place at the Albert Hall along with MA & WA.

Proficiency Award Scheme set up. 1,000 gymnasts participate but only 60 schools participate.

First time GB has entered the European Championships women, held in Leipzig East Germany.

GB is represented at the Gymnaestrada in Stuttgart by a Welsh team, Fulwell School (Monica Rutherford’s school), Bexley Girls Gym Club and Openshaw Technical School Manchester.

1962

700 people subscribe to The Gymnast magazine.

Women trampolinists  take part in British Championships at the Albert Hall.

1963

The Amateur Gymnastics Association which was seen as the governing body for the UK becomes the British Amateur Gymnastics Association.

Regional boundaries are re-drawn inline with the Central Council for Physical Recreation.

1964

Nik Stuart retires from competitive gymnastics and becomes the first paid National Coach for the BAGA.

Nick Stuart in 1964

Photo shows from far right Nik Stuart, Jack Pancott, Bill King, Ken Buffin, Dick Gradley.

Jim Prestidge becomes the first paid general secretary for the BAGA. Head office Park Crescent Central, London.

Jim Prestidge & Len Gross 1973 Europeans

Jim Prestidge & Len Gross at the 1973 European Championships

First World Trampoline Championships takes place at the Albert Hall, promoted by Nissen Corporation USA & in conjunction with Nissen GB & the BAGA.

1965

400 gymnasts from all parts of the country take part at the Vienna Gymnaestrada.

The Perfectionists Visit by Soviet Gymnasts takes place at the Crystal Palace. BBC film the event.

1966

Men & Women take part in their first ever World Championships in Dortmund. Both teams travel by mini bus and stay in unofficial accommodation as the official 4 star hotel is too expensive.

Brit men team Dortmund 1966 460

British Men’s Team – Dortmund 1966. L-R. Dick Gradley, Jack Pancott, Stan Wild, Bobby Williams, Mike Booth, Brian Hayhurst, Bob Trenholm, Bob MacLeod. Possibly Nik Stuart bending over.

The first British Women's team to compete in a World Championshi

The first British Women’s team to compete in a World Championships pose in their uniforms before leaving for Dortmund. Left to right Pauline Prestidge (coach), Mary Prestidge, Ann Simmons, Diane Lodge, Rita Francis, Maria Gough, Margaret Bell.

1969

A large British team takes part at the Basle Gymnaestrada.

Gymnaestrada Basle 1969

Gymnaestrada Basle 1969

English Schools team at the Gymnaestrada Basle

English Schools team at the Gymnaestrada Basle

The first Champions All event is held at Fairfield Hall  Croydon.

The first National Judges Women’s Artistic gymnastic course is held, course and examination for Area and National; judges.

Gymnastics for Youth, a national boys course takes place at Luton Youth Centre bringing together leading men’s coaches as well as gymnasts.

1970

First National Conference takes place involving Board of Control members, regional secretaries and members of the technical committees.

Girls 3 year Plan has to be divided into North and South to cope with the demand. Record entry of 300 gymnasts.

Reports of club membership averages between 30 – 100 members.

BAGA membership fees amount to £677,16 and affiliation fees £12,500.

Men’s Artistic Judging course and examination held.

1971

1971

The Sunday Award Awards Scheme is set up. £25,000 sponsorship deal with BAGA from the Sunday Times.  A badge scheme programmed to introduce young children to the sport of gymnastics floor and vault. 6 months later the 100.00 award is given.

Annual coaching course in WA, 11 club coaches and 5 assistant coaches receive their awards.

WA gymnastics have a total of 70 assistant coaches, 200 club and 4 senior coaches. Also 6 honorary coaches.  The level of Area coach is to be introduced

Fees for the BAGA. Life membership £22.50 Annual membership £2.50 Junior £1.25 & 50 p school member.

The Sunday Times sponsor Champions All at the Crystal Palace. Highlights were shown on BBC Grandstand the following week.

1st Champions All programme

Champions All 1971 programme

 

A national syllabus is set for coaching, men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics. Prior to this although exams took place, the syllabus seemed very haphazard.

1972

Champions All Event is held at Fairfield Halls. Because of the constraints of the venue vault was omitted from men’s and women’s programmes.

The British Championships Men & Women is held at Darlington. Room for 300 spectators only. The event at the Albert Hall is now the Champions Cup. 

A record entry of 470 girls take part in the 3 Year programme of set exercises introduced by the Women’s Technical Committee in 1969.

1973

The 9th European Championships for Women are held at the Empire Pool Wembley. It’s a sell out.

3 National Coaches appointed. John Atkinson, Mick Haynes and Margaret Tipping.

Photo shows John Atkinson with Jeff Davis and Mitch Fenner

Photo shows John Atkinson with Jeff Davis and Mitch Fenner

Tony Murudock is appointed to the new post of Director of Development.

Russian displays held  at the Empire Pool.

300 girl gymnasts attend a residential schoolgirls’ course at the Sobell Centre Islington London. Gymnasts were accommodated at Goldsmith College South London. 6 sets of apparatus were set up in the venue.

The Boys 5 Year Plan is introduced.

1974

The first course held for Gymnastique Moderne in the UK  (Rhythmic gymnastics ) 90 gymnasts attend along with 25 interested coaches.

Morgan Smith & Jeff Davis excel at the 1st IFSA World Acrobatic Competition.

1975

1st World Cup event held at Wembley Empire Pool. This is the famous event where the Asymmetric bars collapsed as Ludmilla Tourischeva finished her exercise. 

The Bars famously collapse at the end of Tourischeva's bar routine

The Bars famously collapse at the end of Tourischeva’s bar routine

1975 Tourischeva and Andrianov win first World Cup held in London

1975 Ludmilla Tourischeva and Nikolai Andrianov win first World Cup held in London

1st assistant National Coaches Conference for men held at Lilleshall.

Carl Dodd & Susan Cheesebrough are first ever Russian Scholarship winners

Carl Dodd & Susan Cheesebrough are first ever Russian Scholarship winners

1977

First Coca Cola International held at Brighton in December.

1st Coca Cola Champs Brighton 1977

1st Coca Cola Champs Brighton 1977

The first pits appear in UK clubs.

Annette Stapleton becomes Women’s Director of National Training.

Leeds Athletic Institute win Adam Shield (British Team Championship) with disabled team member Jim Brogan.

Jim Brogan member of Leeds Adam Shield winners 1977

Jim Brogan member of Leeds Adam Shield winners 1977

 

1978

Over 2 million Sunday Times Award scheme badges issued. Including growth in the number of disabled children taking part.

2,000,000 Sunday Times Gymnastics Award Scheme badges

2,000,000 Sunday Times Gymnastics Award Scheme badges

Entries to the Girls NDP competitions has grown 6 fold which would mean 1,800 gymnasts.

BAGA membership has grown 6 fold.

Number of gymnasts in the London area has been estimated to have risen from 1500 in 1967 to 8000.

Administration of Women’s coaching awards are centralized at Lilleshall following a national workshop for coaching examiners. In a year the number of coaches double. A list of recognized examiners set up. (Prior to this coach examination could be done at a national course or done within the regions but by asking another coach of a higher level to examine the candidates)

Lilleshall National Squad

Lilleshall National Sports Centre

1980

Obligatory individual gymnast membership introduced. All affiliated clubs had to register all individual members. Made a huge change to the finances of the BAGA.  A national insurance scheme was introduced (approx. year 1980).

1981

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) celebrates its centenary.

The Sports Acrobatics Award Scheme reaches 50,000 badges by December.

1982

Men’s Artistic Award Scheme launched in January.

1983

The BAGA technical administration is established at Lilleshall. The other part of the BAGA is still at Slough.

1984

Los Angeles Olympics – 2 teams of 6 take part. 2 Rhythmic gymnasts take part. 

GB Men & Women gymnasts participate in the Alternative Olympics Czechoslovakia. (The Eastern Block Olympics as they boycotted Los Angeles).

British Gymnastics aims to give all disabled people regardless of impairment or ability the chance to participate in every form of the sport. Disability Gymnastics recognised as an official discipline.

John Atkinson appointed Technical Director.

Colin Still becomes full time National Coach for women, a post he had held in an honorary position since 1981.

Susan Cheesebrough with Colin Still at the World Championships

Susan Cheesebrough with Colin Still at the World Championships

Lloyd Readhead appointed as National Coach for men.

1985

Eddie Van Hoof becomes a national coach for men.

Wolfgang Bohner appointed a national coach for women.

John White appointed National coach for Recreational Gymnastics.

Helen Roberts appointed as National Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach.

1986

An English committee formed to support and select gymnasts for teams for Commonwealth Games. The event in 1986 in Edinburgh did not include gymnastics so a Commonwealth Gymnastics Championships took place at Falkirk with teams from Scotland, Wales, and England plus other commonwealth countries.

1988

BAGA celebrates its centenary year with a mass display at Wembley arena.

BBAGA Centenary stamp 1988

BAGA Centenary stamp 1988

Seoul Olympics – 2 women and 2 men take part. 1 rhythmic gymnast competes.

Princess Anne opens the new dedicated gym at Lilleshall.

1989

Mathew Todorov from Bulgaria is appointed National Coach for Acrobatic Gymnastics. This proves to be a turning point for this discipline.

1992

Barcelona Olympic Games – a team of 6 men and 2 women represent GB.

Some male gymnasts are centralized with their training at Lilleshall.

Adrian Stan from Romania is appointed National Coach for women’s artistic gymnastics.

Aerobic Gymnastics introduced in Great Britain.

1993

Birmingham hosts first Artistic World Championships in Britain. Neil Thomas wins silver medal for the floor exercise; the first world medal for the UK in artistic gymnastics.

Neil Thomas 2x British Gymnastics Champion

Neil Thomas 2x British Gymnastics Champion and Britain’s first World Championships silver medallist

Adrian Stan increases the difficulty of the range and condition exercises for the Women’s NDP which begins to revolutionises the performances within women’s gymnastics.

The first closed English Championships is held in Liverpool for men’s & women’s artistic gymnastics. The Open Championships of England 1896 was always the opportunity for all UK gymnasts to take part, thus taking on the mantle of The British Championships

1995

There are below 60,000 members within the association.

1996

Atlanta Olympic Games – 2 men and 2 women represent GB.

1997

British Gymnastics is awarded the rights to host one of the prestigious Artistic Gymnastics events – originally called a Grand Prix this is now called a World Cup. This was held in Glasgow who was to play host for numerous Grand Prix.  A televised, international competition, featuring the worlds’ best gymnasts, and is still held in Britain each year.

1998

UK Sport begin awarding Lottery funding to British Gymnastics for the development of elite sport programmes.

1999

The British Trampoline Federation joins British Gymnastics uniting the disciplines ahead of the 2000 Olympics. The BTF was formed sometime in the 1960’s.

2000

Sydney Olympic Games – a team of 6 women and 1 man represent GB.

Alan Somerville becomes CEO for British Gymnastics following a variety of General Secretaries.  BG finances are in a poor state. Alan Somerville changes this around.

British Gymnastics membership now up to 100,000.

2002

Beth Tweddle wins a bronze medal on bars at the European Championships – the first ever for a women’s artistic gymnast. At the Commonwealth Games in the same year she wins gold for England on the bars.

2003

First World medal for a British Artistic Woman, Beth Tweddle wins bronze on the bars at the World Championships.

John Atkinson retires from British Gymnastics as men’s Performance Director.

2004

Athens Olympic Games – a team of 6 women represent GB. 

2005

Britain announced as host for 2012 Olympic Games. British Gymnastics launches new strategy to host a European or World Championships each 4 year Olympic cycle.

2006

Beth Tweddle becomes World Champion on bars for the first time at the World Championships in Aarhus Denmark.

Eddie Van Hoof becomes men’s national coach for the 2nd time.

2007

Dan Keatings wins the silver medal on pommel horse at the European Championships.

2008

Beijing Olympics – a team of 6 women and 2 men represent GB. 100 years after Walter Tyslall wins a silver medal, Louis Smith wins Britain’s next Olympic medal, winning bronze on pommel horse.

The Junior men’s team wins gold at the European Championships beating Russia.

2009

Dan Keatings wins silver medal in the all-around World Championships in London. Beth Tweddle wins the floor exercise.

Beth Tweddle wins gold on the bars at the European Championships.
Beth Tweddle Bars Gold Medal Routine 2009 European Championships

2012 Olympic Bid postcard

Bid postcard for London 2012

2010

Sam Oldham wins the Gold in the all-around title at the Junior European Championships in Birmingham & Max Whitlock wins silver.

The senior women’s team take the silver medal at the European Championships in Birmingham with Beth Tweddle winning the bars and floor individual championships.

2012

The Senior men’s team wins gold at the European Championships.

The Olympic Games is held in London with gymnastics at the O2 Arena. GB men win bronze medal in the team event.  This is followed by 3 individual medals, silver and bronze for Louis Smith & Max Whitlock on pommels and Beth Tweddle wining bronze on bars. Behind the scenes, British Gymnastics’ events team run the gymnastics competitions in the 02 Arena and Wembley stadium for the rhythmic gymnastics.

2012 GB men's team Bronze

2012 Olympics GB men’s team Bronze

British Gymnasts are now more popular than any other time in our history. TV audiences are higher than ever and our top gymnasts achieve recognition off the competition floor

Gymnastics as a sport is more popular and membership numbers exceed 300,000 for the first time

2014

Max Whitlock wins silver medal in the all-around competition at the World Championships.

Launch of the British Gymnastics Foundation which aims to help the underprivileged.

2015

British Gymnastics recognised as a leader in Disability Gymnastics and invited to train other nations on delivery of the sport.

GB men take the silver medal in the team competition at the World Championships in Glasgow.

Max Whitlock wins gold on the pommel horse at the World Championships.

2016

Rio Olympic Games – GBR wins 2 gold medals, Max Whitlock wins floor exercise and pommel horse. Louis Smith wins silver on pommels, Amy Tinkler wins bronze on floor and Nile Wilson wins bronze on high bar. Max wins bronze medal in the all-around. Bryrony Page wins the silver medal on trampoline.

British Gymnastics wins Governing Body of the Year award.

2017

Max Whitlock successfully defends his title as world champion on pommel horse at Montreal.  

The content on this site is curated by Meg Warren, with input from Keith Warren and Warren Slingsby. We are always interested in learning more and gathering more historical content, so if you can contribute to this page or any others, please get in touch with the links below.

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