Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)ATH/AN
TitlePapers of Arthur Newton
Extent8 standard boxes (comprising 5 volumes, 39 files and 21 items)
Date[c 1904]-[c 1990]
Thumbnail (Click this image to open a larger image)



DescriptionPersonal papers compiled by the athlete, and 'father of ultra distance running', Arthur Newton. The collection includes a substantial volume of correspondence, including letters from Walter George, Wilf Richards and Joe Binks. There are a large number of typescript articles written by Newton and concerning various aspects of athletics racing and training. There are also a number of scrapbooks and other newspaper cuttings which provide a comprehensive account of long distance running in both the United Kingdom and South Africa during the 1920s to 1950s.

In addition, the collection includes a number of photographs sent to, or collected by, Arthur Newton. These images feature Newton himself, often during races, but also feature other contemporary athletes including Vic Clapham; W. [Bill] Cochrane; Hardy Ballington; John Jewell; and Reg Allison. Across the collection there is much material relating to the Comrades Marathon in South Africa; the London to Brighton races in England; and various other ultra distance races including some held in the United States of America. There are many papers relating to 'The Newton Case' concerning Newton's land disputes with the South African government during the 1920s, due to the creation of segregated farming areas. His decision to obtain publicity for his cause through ultra distance racing is featured heavily in the collection.

Taken as a whole the collection is a valuable research tool for athletics historians as well as researchers studying the history of South Africa and farming and racial tensions in the early 20th century.
NotesOld references: AN; NCAL XXV.A687
ArrangementThese papers have been arranged into the following 6 series:

articles and draft writings;
newspaper cuttings, scrapbook and collected papers;
programmes, results and fixture lists;
photographs, slides and negatives;
miscellaneous papers
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers.
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue, or view the catalogue as a PDF file by clicking in the document field below. A paper copy of this catalogue is also available for consultation in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department.
Access StatusOpen
Creator NameNewton, Arthur Francis Hamilton (1883-1959), athlete
Administrative HistoryArthur Francis Hamilton Newton was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, on 20 May 1883. The fifth of eight children, he was the son of Reverend Henry Newton and his wife, Selina Elizabeth Saunders. The family moved to Brighton when he was a few months old, his father being appointed vicar of St Mark's, Kemptown. When aged six, Newton attended a Dame's school as a day boy, becoming a border there one year later. He subsequently attended Talbot's House, Beford School and then completed his education in a private establishment in Banham, Norfolk.

In 1901, aged 18, Newton travelled to South Africa where his elder brother lived, and was employed in clerical work in Durban before becoming a teacher at Hilton College, Natal, then at a private school in Maritzburg and subsequently as a tutor on a private farm. His family were not supportive of his teaching career and, in 1909, his father sent for him to work as an assistant on a tea plantation in Ceylon, a country where he himself had spent many years as a civil engineer before becoming a minister. The offer fell through and whilst in England, Newton joined the cross-country running club Thames Hare and Hounds. He then persuaded his father to allow him to return to South Africa permanently on the proviso that he would consider alternative career paths. Once in South Africa, he became a Justice of the Peace and also tried his hand at farming: in 1911 he acquired a 1350 acre farm in Natal from the union government. He focused on growing cotton and tobacco crops.

During the First World War, Newton served as a trooper in the Natal light horse, an irregular regiment of the South African Armed Forces, and as a despatch rider providing his own motorcyle. He joined up on 1 September 1914 initially serving in South West Africa and then later in the Transvaal at Potchefstroom headquarters. Following the end of the war he returned to his neglected farm where his implements had been destroyed and his pasture land burnt. Some sources state that he found himself in dispute with the South African government regarding a compensation claim against those who had damaged his property in his absence. However, autobiographical details included in ATH/AN suggests a different cause to the dispute. News had reached Newton that all the land in the area would soon be declared a 'black area'. Although he held the freehold title to his farm, he chose to leave rather than 'living an isolated life'. He asked the authorities to either buy his land or to exchange it for land in a designated 'white area'. The South African government refused. As Newton thought the public would not permit such an injustice he decided to make his case widely known and thought good publicity could be made via athletic competitions. Vic Clapham's Comrades Marathon had started the year before, in 1921, and so at 39 years old Arthur began to train for the 1922 marathon. He felt an early finish in this race might give him an opportunity to discuss his plight with the press and provide him with a political platform.

In 1922 he therefore entered and won the Comrades Marathon, a 54.5 mile race between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, which had attracted considerable interest when it had first been held the previous year. Newton won in the record time 8 hours 40 minutes. He was 30 minutes ahead of his closest rival: the other competitors having started too quickly, some of them on empty stomachs. Although this victory made an impression, Newton then decided to train without any break for the next year's race. Again he won and achieved further publicity for his cause. He then left for England to compete in the London to Brighton race. He won the race and the English newspapers featured him, and his plight, heavily. In 1924 he made two attempts on Len Hurst's London to Brighton record, establishing a new record on both occasions.

Newton won the Comrades Marathon in 1922, 1923, 1924 and 1925 with a best time of 6 hours 24 minutes and 45 seconds. In 1926 he came second to H. J. Phillips after having spent the previous three days and nights travelling by train and this, coupled with a sudden change of altitude, is believed to have caused the defeat. He did win again in 1927 and also attempted a special record for the course, establishing the time 6 hours 14 minutes and 30 seconds. He eventually left South Africa, unable to obtain compensation from the authorities for his 'lost' farmland. He sold his land for a third of its former government valuation and after paying off a loan, he had very little money to his name. In need of starting a new life and perhaps still courting publicity, he 'disappeared' from South Africa in mysterious circumstances and was reported missing in a number of South African newspapers. He was, in fact, embarking on a walk and cycle journey to Rhodesia, modern day Zimbabwe, where he was able to obtain work in one of the copper mines. Before long, the Caledonian Society at Bulawayo asked him to improve athletics in the town and so the Bulawayo Harriers came into being. Within a couple of years the Harriers had some 250 members and held every record on the Rhodesian books for cycling, swimming, running and track events. At this time, Newton tackled his first 100 mile race which he completed in 14 hours and 42 minutes. Following this the locals subscribed and sent him to England where, under somewhat adverse weather conditions in January 1928, he took a further 20 minutes off the time.

In 1928 he began competing as a professional as he entered a race in America with substantial money prizes. The American Trans-Continental Footrace, starting in Los Angeles and finishing in New York, totalled some 3422 miles with competitors averaging about 50 miles per day. His entry in this race meant him leaving the amateur ranks. The press had made him the favourite and he built up a substantial lead over the first 550 miles but he was forced to quit after 10 days due to achilles tendon problems. He competed again the following year, this time New York to Los Angeles, but was knocked down by a car and sustained a broken shoulder. Several professional races in Canada followed and with his partner, the Anglo-Italian Peter Gavuzzi, he was almost always the winner. Both Newton and Gavuzzi were swindled by race promoters and, in part, neither athlete achieve great kudos during the lifetimes.

By 1934, aged 51, he held almost all the world records above the marathon distance except the 100 miles. Joe Binks made the necessary arrangements and on 20 July 1934 Newton set off from Bath to Hyde Park Corner. This would be his final attempt on the record and he succeeded with a time of 14 hours 6 minutes, some 16 minutes faster than his 1928 time, although stomach problems slowed his time in the closing miles. In retirement he became involved with the development of road running, acting as an honorary coach to the Road Runners Club and writing a series of influential books and articles on training. He set a large number of world records for distance running throughout his career and was widely acknowledged as the father of modern ultra distance running. The legendary athlete Walter George described him as 'the most phenomenal distance runner the world has ever known'. He had, at one time, broken all amateur records from 30 to 100 miles running on South African roads. After Newton's retirement, Hardy Ballington, a South African, began to break a number of Newton's ultra distance records. Ballington, and then Jackie Mekler, were both encouraged by Newton.

Newton's training approach was viewed as somewhat unorthodox: he never used oils or other preparations and was not a supporter of massage, instead preferred a quick rub-down with a rough towel. He was a smoker and was often seen smoking before and after his record-breaking runs. His training mode was to run approximately 20 miles each morning in the early hours and always carried out at a slow pace. He was concerned solely with acquiring the rhythmic action necessary in running long distances and left speed itself for the actual races. In races he adopted a fast start although many experts considered that this prevented him from accomplishing even better performances. He ran in the lightest shoes possible, ordinary plimsoles and his stride was very short, his feet skimming the ground, and the further he went the shorter the stride became. His diet for long distance treks comprised minced beef, salt, fizzy lemonade and lump sugar. It is said he always had a mental fortitude developed through studying the teachings of yogi.

In retirement he settled in Ruislip, Middlesex, still performing early morning runs and touring the countryside on bicycle. From 1951 an annual race was held between London and Brighton, and the trophy was awarded in Newton's name. In old age, as his eyesight failed, he would stand and listen to the runners in the annual Polytechnic Marathon. A lifelong batchelor, Arthur Newton died at Hillingdon Hospital on 7 September 1959, aged 76.

Sources: papers of Arthur Newton, reference: ATH/AN; papers of Wilf Richards, reference: ATH/WR; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography accessed 5 September 2014 from:; review of 'Running for their Lives' by Mark Whitaker accessed 5 September 2014 from:; review of 'Tea with Mr Newton' by Rob Hadgraft accessed 5 September 2014 from:; article on Arthur Newton accessed 5 September 2014 from:
Custodial HistoryThis collection was previously in the custody of Bill Clark; the Road Runners Club; John Jewell; and the National Centre for Athletics Literature (NCAL).
AcquisitionThis collection was bequeathed under the will of the late John Jewell and was deposited alongside John Jewell's own personal papers (reference: ATH/JJ).
Archival NotePapers arranged and described by Mark Eccleston, September 2014, in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; and in-house cataloguing guidelines.
Related MaterialOther archive collections, formerly held as part of the National Centre for Athletics Literature (NCAL), are catalogued as collections distinct from this collection. They comprise both institutional archives and collections of personal papers of athletes, athletics administrators, journalists and others associated with the athletics world.

Catalogues of the institutional archives available on the online archive catalogue are as follows:
Amateur Athletic Association: papers, 1880-1992. Finding No: ATH/AAA;
English Cross-Country Union: papers, 1911-1989. Finding No: ATH/ECCU;
Midland Counties Amateur Athletics Association: papers, 1900-1991. Finding No: ATH/MCAAA;
Midland Counties Cross Country Association: papers, 1898-1985. Finding No: ATH/MCCCA;
Midland Counties Women's Amateur Athletic Association: papers, 1949-[1980s]. Finding No: ATH/MCWAAA;
Northern Counties Women's Amateur Athletic Association: papers, 1933-1989. Finding No: ATH/NCWAAA;
Northern Cross-Country Association: papers, 1906-1983. Finding No: ATH/NCCA;
Northern Women's Track and Field League: papers, 1982-1983. Finding No: ATH/NWTFL;
Southern Counties Amateur Athletic Association: papers, 1958-1983. Finding No: ATH/SCAAA;
Southern Counties Cross-Country Association: papers, 1911-1990. Find No: ATH/SCCCA;
The Sports Council: papers, [1940s]-2001. Finding No: ATH/SC;
Women's Amateur Athletic Association: papers, 1932-1989. Finding No: ATH/WAAA.

Catalogues of personal papers available on the online archive catalogue are as follows:
Abrahams, Harold Maurice (1899-1978), athlete, administrator, commentator and journalist: papers, 1902-1989. Finding No: ATH/HA;
Adam, George Mair (1898-1989), athlete, coach and athletics administrator: papers, 1909-1989. Finding No: ATH/GA;
Binks, Joseph (Joe) (1874-1966), athlete and athletics commentator: papers, [1920s-1950s]. Finding No: ATH/JB;
Brown, Audrey Kathleen (nee Court) (1913-2005), athlete: papers, [1930s]-2005. Finding No: USS22;
Cardew, Martin H. (b 1927), athlete: papers, 1964-1988. Finding No: ATH/MHC;
Cullum, Dennis Noel Johnson (1913-1985), athlete and coach: papers, [1930s]-1985. Finding No: ATH/DC;
Ives, Bert (1890-1975), athlete and athletics administrator: papers, [1920s-1970s]. Finding No: ATH/BI;
Jarvis, Walter (c 1888-c 1935), athlete: papers, 1910-1996. Finding No: MS4;
Jewell, John Christopher (1912-2001), athlete and athletics commentator: papers, 1897-2002. Finding No: ATH/JJ;
Lloyd-Edgley, Ralph: scrapbook, [c 1924]-[c 1931]. Finding No: ATH/RLE;
MacLean, Duncan (1884-1980), athlete and coach: papers, 1948-1977. Finding No: ATH/DM;
Monk, Walter Harry (Wal) (1896-after 1965), athlete: papers, 1918-1961. Finding No: ATH/WHM;
Morgan, Wilf (b 1935), athlete and athletics historian: papers, 1937-2012. Finding No: ATH/WM;
Newton, Arthur Francis Hamilton (1883-1959), athlete: papers, [c 1904]-[1990s]. Finding No: ATH/AN;
Payne, Howard (1931-1992), athlete: papers, 1899-[c 1975]. Finding No: ATH/HP;
Percy, Joe W. (1912-2001), athlete and athletics administrator: papers, 1910-1997. Finding No: ATH/JWP;
Perry, George (b 1903), athlete: papers, [1920s]-1956. Finding No: ATH/GP;
Powell, Edgar Robert Leslie (Peter), (fl 1920s-70s), athlete: papers, 1813-1988. Finding No: ATH/ERLP;
Richards, Wilf (b 1906), athlete and journalist: papers, 1924-[mid 20th century]. Finding No: ATH/WR;
Roberts, Dave (fl 1930s-1990s), athlete and statistician: papers, [1930s]-1991. Finding No: ATH/DR;
Simpson, Colin J. (1929-2011), athlete and athletics administrator: papers, 1945-1990. Finding No: ATH/CS;
Tatham, Wilfrid George (Gus) (1898-1978), athlete: papers, 1908-1960. Finding No: ATH/WGT;
Thomas, Dr Philip, athletics administrator and coach: papers, [c 1900]-[late 20th century]. Finding No: ATH/PT;
Vargas, Charles Climaco (1905-1975), athlete: papers, 1921-31. Finding No: ATH/CCV;
Ward, Leonard H., athletics coach: papers, [mid-20th century]. Finding No: ATH/LW;
Watman, Melvyn Francis (Mel) (b 1938), athletics journalist and statistician: papers, 1980-1993. Finding No: ATH/MW;
Wight, Robert M., athletics administrator: papers, [mid-20th century]. Finding No: ATH/RW;
Winter, Arthur E. H. (d 1990), athlete and athletics commentator: papers, [early 20th century]-1983. Finding No: ATH/AW;
Yarrow, Squire Stevens (1905-1984), athlete and athletics administrator: papers, 1938-1984. Finding No: ATH/SY.

The department also holds copies of Newton's books 'Running in Three Continents', 1940 (reference: r GV 1061.15.N49); 'Commonsense Athletics', [c 1947] (reference: r GV 1060.5.N49); 'Running', 1935 (reference: r GV 1061/N); and 'Racing and training', 1949 (reference: r GV 1061.5/N)