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.
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 is still standing and is a cafe bar and restaurant situated between London King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations
Amateur Gymnastic and Fencing Association formed. (this is an English Gymnastic Association)
Scottish Amateur Gymnastic Association formed.
Irish AGA formed in Dublin.
1st English Championships for Men’s Artistic. This Championship was open to all amateurs.
AGA headquarters move from London to Birmingham.
1st international held in Dublin, England Scotland and Ireland.
The Welsh Amateur Gymnastic and WrestlingAssociation formed.
1908 London Olympics
Wallter Tysall (Birmingham Athletic Institute) – SILVER
First Olympic medal for GB. 45 gymnasts listed in the team that came 6th
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.
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.
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
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)
London and Metropolitan Counties AGA publish The Gymnast magazine. After 4 issues the AGA takes it on.
1924 Olympics Paris – British Men’s Team competed.
First British Championships held for Women in Swindon.
Women compete for the first time. GB Ladies Team (12 gymnasts) – BRONZE (team event only for women)
Photo shows the GB Men’s Team comprising gymnasts – E. Warren, H.J. Fischett, Gilbert Charles Raynes, W. Cronin, E. Walton, T.B. Parkinson, A.J. Whitford and S. Humphreys.
Leading up to the war, men’s gymnastics carries on with their programme of English Championships and the Adam Shield.
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.
A Welsh team attend the 1st ever Gymnaestrada in Rotterdam.
GB V Germany at Harringay Arena North London (the event was a financial disaster).
Frank Edmonds becomes honorary secretary of the AGA from his home in London.
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.
Championships of North West Europe held at Nottingham Ice Rink (the event is another financial disaster).
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.
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.
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.
700 people subscribe to The Gymnast magazine.
Women trampolinists take part in British Championships at the Albert Hall.
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.
Nik Stuart retires from competitive gymnastics and becomes the first paid National Coach for the BAGA.
Jim Prestidge becomes the first paid general secretary for the BAGA. Head office Park Crescent Central, London.
First World Trampoline Championships takes place at the Albert Hall, promoted by Nissen Corporation USA & in conjunction with Nissen GB & the BAGA.
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.
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.
A large British team takes part at the Basle Gymnaestrada.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1st assistant National Coaches Conference for men held at Lilleshall.
First Coca Cola International held at Brighton in December.
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.
Over 2 million Sunday Times Award scheme badges issued. Including growth in the number of disabled children taking part.
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)
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).
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) celebrates its centenary.
The Sports Acrobatics Award Scheme reaches 50,000 badges by December.
Men’s Artistic Award Scheme launched in January.
The BAGA technical administration is established at Lilleshall. The other part of the BAGA is still at Slough.
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.
Lloyd Readhead appointed as National Coach for men.
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.
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.
BAGA celebrates its centenary year with a mass display at Wembley arena.
Seoul Olympics – 2 women and 2 men take part. 1 rhythmic gymnast competes.
Princess Anne opens the new dedicated gym at Lilleshall.
Mathew Todorov from Bulgaria is appointed National Coach for Acrobatic Gymnastics. This proves to be a turning point for this discipline.
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.
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.
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.
There are below 60,000 members within the association.
Atlanta Olympic Games – 2 men and 2 women represent GB.
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.
UK Sport begin awarding Lottery funding to British Gymnastics for the development of elite sport programmes.
The British Trampoline Federation joins British Gymnastics uniting the disciplines ahead of the 2000 Olympics. The BTF was formed sometime in the 1960’s.
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.
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.
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.
Athens Olympic Games – a team of 6 women represent GB.
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.
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.
Dan Keatings wins the silver medal on pommel horse at the European Championships.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.