On 16th July it will be a year to the day until the Olympic torch makes its way through Brighton and Hove, as part of its estimated 8,000 mile journey to the Olympic stadium in London, for the 2012 Olympic Games.
The first Brightonian to win an Olympic medal in athletics was Ernest John Henley (31 March 1889 – 14 March 1962). He was part of Great Britain’s Olympic team at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.
Twenty-eight nations competed at the fifth Olympic Games in Stockholm, with 2,407 competitors. It was the last Games to issue solid gold medals and was the debut Games for Japan.
Ernest competed in the 1,600 metres, the 800 metres; in which he reached the semi-final and the 400 metres relay. It was in the latter event that Ernest and his relay team mates attained bronze medal success.
His athletic career spanned fourteen years and he was still winning titles in Sussex up to his retirement. Ernest won titles over a range of distances from 100 yards to one mile and he was involved in a number of local athletic organisations, including the Brighton and County Harriers, of which he later stood as president. His passion for athletics continued even in retirement; he regularly officiated at athletic meets as well as being vice-president of both Brighton Athletic Club and the Sussex County Amateur Athletics Association.
Ernest also worked for 44 years at Hanningtons, Brighton’s renowned department store, on North Street, Brighton.
Heather York, Curator Local History