New work shines light on exploits of walking stars

George Wilson
George Wilson

It’s not every day that you discover that your late relative is a record holder.

But that’s exactly what happened to a Belford author, who found out that his great, great uncle was something of a celebrity in his time. The late 19th century to be precise.

To Paul Marshall’s amazement, his relative George Littlewood set the six-day world record for walking in 1882 – trekking 531 miles. It has never been beaten!

Littlewood, known as the Sheffield Flyer, also set the British six-day race record of 623 miles 1,320 yards. This feat, set at Maddison Square Garden in 1888, wasn’t beaten for 96 years.

This fascinating discovery sparked Paul’s interest in the historical sport of pedestrianism, a form of competitive walking which rose to popular distinction in the late Victorian era.

Following exhaustive research, he published the book King of the Peds in 2008; an encyclopedic look at some of the legends in the sport and tales of pain, pride, glory, corruption and scandal.

And now he has produced a new piece of work, entitled Richard Manks and the Pedestrians, which in part shines the historical light on Alnwick; namely the town’s former racecourse, which was located on the outskirts of the town, at Hobberlaw Edge on Alnwick Moor.

According to a contemporary advert, reproduced in Paul’s latest title, the venue was to host renowned pedestrian George Wilson. The esteemed Newcastle-born walker was set to hike 90 miles in 24 successive hours, starting on July 16, 1822.

And Paul is keen to draw attention to the fact that the town had a racecourse, which held its last meeting in 1793.

He said: “I think it is really interesting and a lot of people might not know that the racecourse existed there.

“Unfortunately I can’t find anything about the walk at the racecourse, but as well as Alnwick, George Wilson undertook a 90-mile walk in 24 hours near Hexham in June 1822.”

The work is available in PDF form and will be sent free of charge to anyone who requests it. Instead of a book fee, Paul is asking that the reader might consider sending a donation to the charity of their choice.

He is also keen to expand this work with the help of anyone who would like to make a literary contribution towards it.

For more information and to get a copy of the book, visit www.kingofthepeds.com