British Skating Legends

Unsung heroes of British roller speed skating


In 1893 roller speed skating had become affiliated to the National Skating Association of Great Britain and in 1894 held its very first British Championship at Wandsworth, London.

The distance competed over was One Mile - a time trial event - and the winner was Charles J. Wilson from the Wandsworth St. George club.  The prize was the Benetfink Challenge Cup, a trophy still raced for today.

It would be another 12 years before a British Championship was held again.  In 1906 the second Championship was held at Crystal Palace - and again Charles Wilson (now racing for Willesden Roller Skating Club) won the event.  In fact he would also win in 1907 and 1908.  Between 1906 and 1909 the Championship increased to One and a Half Miles.  From 1910 it reverted to the One Mile (the distance that it would remain until 1970) and a second Championship was added in the same year, the Five Mile.

In 1914 G.S.Clarkson from Alexandra Palace R.S.C. became the first man to win both titles in the same year.

There were no events between 1915 and 1920 due to the First World War.  In 1921, the British Championships were resurrected with Thomas J. Wilson (Catford R.S.C.) winning both titles.

In 1923 the first Relay Championship was held at Holland Park, for the Burgoyne Shield.

In 1924 a third individual Championship was added, the "sprint" distance of Half Mile.  That year Benny Lee of Norbury R.S.C. became the first person to win all three titles in a single year.  1924 also saw the first British Championship event for women - the Half Mile Championship for the George French Challenge Shield.

Although another break between 1940 and 1945 resulted due to the Second World War, this Championship format continued until 1950 when a second ladies Championship, the Quarter Mile, was added.

In 1952 the Chambers Trophy was first awarded, although only southern teams were invited to take part that year.  This team event would stop, resurface, stop and resurface again between 1952 and 1992.

In 1970 the N.S.A. changed all of the old imperial distances over to the "new" metric system.  The mens Half Mile became the 500 metres, One Mile the 1500 metres and the Five Mile the 8000 metres.  The ladies Quarter Mile became the 500 metres and the Half Mile became 800 metres.  Over the years the distances would chop and change, as would the format of some of the racing.  Time trials were added, as were 1 v 1 knock-out competitions as well as eliminations and points races.

In 1972 due to low entry numbers the N.S.A. decided that no British Championships would be held.  This was the first and last time such a decision would be taken outside of the war years, where not a single senior British Championship would be held in any one year.

In 1961 the first Junior British Championship was held for boys aged between 12 and 16.  Not until 1977 did Junior Girls have their own British Championships.

In 1996 a new age category, Masters, was added to the British Championship list.

Before 2000 skaters changed age groups on their birthday, but from 2000 onwards your age on 1st January of the year of the Championships determined which age category you raced in.  In addition, on the 1st January 2000 the age groupings also changed.  Seniors were now deemed to be so if a skater was over 18 and junior categories were split into age groupings that better reflected a skaters ability due to age.  There were also new names for these age categories - Mini (6-9 years), Pupil (10-12 years), Cadet (13-15 years), Junior (16-17 years), Senior (18+ years) and Masters (35+ years).

Since 1910, in addition to to British Championships there were also County Championship events, whereby the country was split into three distinct regions - Northern Counties, Midland Counties and Southern Counties (the Northern and Midland Counties later merged to form one region).  By 2004 these were deemed to be outdated and their trophies were redistributed to acknowledge other national achievements within the sport.

Also in 2004, the last major change to the Championship format was made.  John C. Fry, the then Chairman of FISS determined that each age group, regardless of sex, should have an identical number of races as those of the opposite sex in the same age group.  Since 1894 the British Championships had favoured the male skaters in terms of numbers of Championships competed for in a single year, but from 2004 equality was bought into the sport in Britain for the very first time.

In 2017 the junior age groups were once again revised.  The introduction of the Scholar (12-13 years) meant a change to the Pupil and Cadet category.  Pupil, where previously it was for skaters aged between 10 and 12 years it was changed to be between 10 and 11 years.  Likewise, Cadets where previously it was for skaters aged between 13 and 15 years, it was now for skaters aged between 14 and 15 years.  In addition, 2017 saw the criteria for age group inclusion change from "your age on the 1st January of any given year" to "the year you was born" to fall in line with criteria used and recognised internationally.

Just 12 months later the Scholar age group was dispensed with and a Youth age group was introduced.

Over the years the British Championships have evolved but the kudos of being crowned Champion of Great Britain remains the pinnacle of may skaters careers. The aim to go into the record books along with the greats and the legends who have established themselves as Champions, since the first one was won in 1894, remains as strong today as it did more than a century ago.