The Society holds an invaluable collection of archive material including the Minute Books.
In March 2019 those items of the archive that have been digitised were released on the internet. These include early photographs of the games and William Penny Brookes as well as images of documents and letters all of which can be downloaded. The archive can be viewed here WOS Digital Archives.
A few text extracts from the books are listed below and you can also view selected scans of the original pages here.
The original objective of the Olympian Class was to “promote the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the Town and neighbourhood of Wenlock”.
In 1850 the Class separated from the Reading Society and was called the Wenlock Olympian Society.
Book 1 covering Period 1850 – 1861
At a public meeting in Much Wenlock on Monday 25th Feb 1850, held in the Reading Room – see web page on Agricultural Reading Society – it was Resolved unanimously ;
“That it was desirable that a class should be established in connexion with the Agricultural Reading Society for the promotion of the moral, physical and intellectual improvement Of the inhabitants of the town & neighbourhood of Wenlock and especially of the Working classes, by the encouragement of out-door recreation, and by the award of Prizes annually at public meetings for skill in Athletic exercise and proficiency in Intellectual and industrial attainments.” (Mb1 p2)
The Minutes continue;
“That this section of the Wenlock Agricultural Reading Society be called ” The Olympian Class”. (Mb1 p2)
A Committee was then established to (promote) the first annual Meeting held on the Racecourse on 22nd & 23rd of October 1850.
The financial statement covering the first Meeting shows an Expenditure and Income of £10.15s.0d. (Mb1 p5)
A graphic account of this historic event was subsequently printed in “Eddowes’s Journal” Shrewsbury, Wednesday, October 30th 1850. (Mb1 p6a)
Minutes of subsequent annual Meetings of the Members of the Olympian Class are chronicled along with editorials from local newspapers reporting on the sporting spectacle.
On the 10th anniversary of the (sports) Meeting in 1859 the Shrewsbury Chronicle stated,
“Never, probably, in the history of Wenlock has such a pageant been witnessed as that which took place on Wednesday last”. (Mb1 p53a)
“The preparations which had been making for weeks, if not for months, for the celebration of the Olympian Games, were that day to be consummated”. (Mb1 53a)
Following a celebration dinner at the Wynnstay Arms for ” 50 gentlemen members of the body corporate and friends present”, it is recorded that ;
“Mr Alderman Nock, in an appropriate speech, proposed the health of the mayor, which his worshipfull gratefully acknowledged, expressing himself happy at meeting them on that occasion. He proposed success to,
“The Working Mens Recreation and Olympic Society”. (Mb1 p54a)
The prizes for the 10th Anniversary meeting were distributed at the Corn-market and the days Gala was brought to a close.
The article concludes:
“Long will the Olympian Games of 1859, in Wenlock, be remembered”. (Mb1 p56d)
At a meeting in the Reading Room Dr W.P. Brookes read portions of a correspondence between himself and Sir Thomas Wyse, H M Plenipotentiary at the Court of Greece, with reference to a prize of £10 which the Wenlock Committee had forwarded to be competed for at Athens.
The extract is as follows;
“Athens, February 2nd 1860. Dear Sir, – I have the satisfaction to transmit to you the accompanying papers, copies from those of the Greeks, in Greek and translation, which will put you in possession of the manner in which this first attempt at the renewal of Athletic Exercises in Greece has been conducted, and how the contribution which you and the Members of your local Institution, for similar purposes, at Much Wenlock, have requested me to present to the Greek committee, has been disposed of ….”. (Mb1 p64a)
It was also recorded at the Meeting ” that Olympian Games took place at Athens last November – the winner of the Wenlock prize being Petros Velissarios, a native of Smyrna”. (Mb1 p64b)
An article in The London Review, September 15th, 1860 refers to “Revival of the Olympian Games” stating:
“….At the revived, that is the modern, Olympian Games …. The largest prize was contributed by a committee of gentlemen in England, and in their honour was designated “The Wenlock Prize”. This prize was assigned to ” the best runner in the longest race”. (Mb1 p74c)
Further documents are archived relating to the close relationship developed between Dr W. P Brookes and the Greek authorities in promoting Olympianism. (Mb1 pp 82b – 95c)
Book 2 covering Period 1862 – 1890
The meeting of members of the Wenlock Olympian Society was held at the Raven Hotel, on 21st March 1877. The programme for the 27th Festival was considered and agreed to (Mb2 p1).
Minute Book 2, P7c records that in his address to the Tilters (of the games) Mr W P Brookes states:
“…..Were the judges in Olympic Games of old permitted to re-visit earth they would hasten to this classic ground, your Linden Field, and if they could not here behold their favourite chariot race, they would gaze with wonder and delight, upon your tilting contest which display the spirit, strength, and skill of our dashing Wheatland horsemen.”
A copy of the programme for the 37th Annual meeting of Wenlock Olympian Society, on Whit Tuesday May 31st 1887, is shown (Mb2 p119)
Minute Book 2, P169 is a print from “The Wellington Journal” and “Shrewsbury News”, Saturday October 25th 1890:
“A special or autumn festival in connection with Wenlock Olympian Society was held on Wednesday, under the presidency of Mr R. B. Benson, of Lutwyche Hall. The object of the festival was chiefly to enlighten Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French gentleman, who desires to introduce athletics more largely amongst his own countrymen, upon the methods adopted for the training of athletes in England. Dr Brookes, who is an untiring advocate of physical education among the young, was on this occasion largely instrumental in bringing about this meeting…..”
Baron de Coubertin was “so pleased” (with the triumphal arch erected at the Linden Field in his honour) he requested that he should be allowed to take it home with him.
On August 9th 1890 Dr Brookes was sent a letter from Pierre de Coubertin, at the Union Des Societies Francaises de Sports Athletiques, expressing thanks for the photograph sent by Dr Brookes and at the same time returning one of his own. (Mb2 p173 a/d)