Skip to main content

Shapwick's Double Gold Olympian


Shapwick’s Charles Bennett was Britain’s first track and field athlete ever to become an Olympic champion. He won two golds and one silver medal at the 1900 Paris Olympics. Nicknamed the Shapwick Express, Charles Bennett was born in the village on 28 December 1870. He became one of the finest middle distance runners of his time.

Charles Bennett won the AAA four mile championship in 1897 and the cross country running title in 1899 and 1900. At the 1900 Paris Olympics, he beat the favourite, Frenchman Henry Deloge to win the gold medal in the 1,500 metres race. His time was a new world record. He then won a second gold medal in the 5,000 metres team race. Charles Bennett just missed an Olympic gold hat-trick by coming second in the 4,000 metres steeplechase. Apparently, he celebrated his victory by visiting the Folies Bergere night club. Despite limited press coverage, when he returned home to England, he was carried shoulder high through the streets of Wimborne.

Charles Bennett was the son of carter, Henry Bennett and his wife, Peggy and he became a train driver. It is said his early career training began by chasing horses across a ploughed field. To build himself up, his diet consisted of just boiled rice and raw eggs. Charles Bennett’s athletic career had begun formally when he joined the Portsmouth Harriers. Driving locomotives between Bournemouth and London, Waterloo enabled him to transfer to Finchley Harriers.

In 1902, he married Sarah Lena Lewis and they had five children. After he married, he decided to hang up his running shoes. He later became a publican of the Dolphin in Kinson, later renamed the Acorn public house.

(Illustration: Charles Bennett)


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Chimney Sweep Tragedy

Crown Hotel, Blandford is reckoned to be one of Dorset’s oldest hostelries. Yet its most tragic day, during a long history, must surely be when a young chimney sweep lost his life. The chimney sweep, who was just a child, suffocated and was burnt to death in a Crown Hotel chimney which had been alight a little while before. ‘His cries were dreadful and no-one could give assistance. Part of the chimney was taken down before he was got out.’ (Salisbury & Winchester Gazette 27th March 1780) The lad had gone up one chimney and attempting to go down another had become stuck. At the time children were used to climb up chimneys to clean out soot deposits. With hands and knees, they would shimmy up narrow dark flue spaces packed thick with soot and debris. After the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford it was realised that it was important to sweep chimneys regularly while many rebuilt houses had narrower ones. Smaller chimneys and complicated flues were a potential death trap for children. The sw

Bravest Village Controversy

A Dorset village was once recognised as the bravest in England. That village was Shillingstone in North Dorset. After the outbreak of World War I, the newspaper the Weekly Dispatch inaugurated a competition for the village that sent, in the first six months of the war, the highest percentage of its population into the British Services. According to local newspaper, the Western Gazette Shillingstone sent 90 men out of a total population of 565. (Western Gazette Friday 26 th September 1919) Across the country,  365 other villages sent in their returns. However, the competition would not prove to be short of controversy. The award was made to Knowlton in Kent which with 39 inhabitants and six houses had sent 11 men. However, the Rector of Shillingstone, Dr Cooke protested that Knowlton was too small to be a village and in fact was a hamlet. The matter was referred to the Attorney General, Sir Frederick Smith who held that the original decision should stand as no minimum population ha

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the