English Native High Jump Record

"English Native Records" were defined by the AAA in 1928 as performances made in England or Wales by athletes born in England or Wales. This was superseded in 1960 by "AAA National Records" – performances made in England or Wales by athletes born in England or Wales, or by bona fide members of clubs under the jurisdiction of the AAA whose fathers were born in England or Wales.

Peter broke this record twice in the space of 1 weeks - the first time he held the record for 5 minutes, and the second time for 10 years.

6ft. 6 in. (1.98 m) - 6 August 1949, London

On 6 August 1949, high jumpers Peter Wells (20 years old) and Ron (R.C.) Pavitt represented London in an inter-city athletics match against 2 athletes from Gothenburg at White City Stadium, London.

Usually Wells would start jumping at 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m), and increase this by 0 ft 2 in (5 cm) after each successful jump. This day the Swedes had to jump first and they passed in at 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m), and then also at 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m). Wells and Pavitt also passed in at 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) and 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m), so for the first (and only) time in his career Wells started jumping at 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m). He and Pavitt succeeded at 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m), then 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m), then to 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m). By this time the Swedish athletes had dropped out. 

Wells then succeeded at 6 ft 5.25 in (1.96 m), at his first attempt, to beat the previous English Native high jump record of 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) held by Benjamin Howard Baker. Pavitt also succeeded at 6 ft 5.25 in (1.96 m) to equal the record. At 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) Pavitt beat the record again, which Wells was unable to match.

So in the course of about 5 minutes, Wells broke the English Native high jump record, then shared it with Pavitt, and then lost it to Pavitt.

The London Times reported “Exceptional interest had been taken in the progress of the high jump, in which both Pavitt and Wells were seen to be excelling themselves in quite a remarkable manner. The best Swede failed at 6ft 4 in, but first Wells and then Pavitt beat the English Native record of 6ft. 5in. set by Howard Baker in 1921. Pavitt, who had never previously cleared more than 6ft. 4in., finally went on to jump 6ft. 6in., which equalled the height attained at the Olympic Games last year. These jumps by Pavitt and Wells alone would have made the meeting a success from the London point of view.”

Wells and Pavitt maintained a close and friendly rivalry for several years, and were referred to as "The Heavenly Twins". The photo below shows them congratulating each other after both beating the record - Peter on the left and Ron on the right.

6ft. 6⅜in. (1.99m) – 20 August 1949, Bristol

Two weeks later, Wells and Pavitt competed for the Southern Counties in an inter-area match at St. George Grammar School playing fields at Whitehall, Bristol. Jumping off his preferred grass take-off area, Wells re-took the English Native high jump record with a jump of 6 ft. 6⅜in (1.99m). This jump was higher than the gold medal jump at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London the previous year.This record was not beaten until 30 April 1959, when the Hermes Club jumper, G.A.Miller, against Oxford University, cleared 6ft 7¼in (2.01 m).

The London Times reported “P. Wells, the young Army champion, made a magnificent leap in the high jump. A fortnight ago he beat the official English Native record of 6ft. 5in. by ¼in., only for R.C.Pavitt to clear 6ft. 6in. a few minutes later, but on Saturday, Wells raised the figure to 6ft. 6⅜in., Pavitt being second at 6ft. 4in.”

The Western Daily Press reported “Peter Wells, 20-year-old Londoner, became the new English native high jump record holder, when he cleared 6ft. 6⅜in. at St. George Grammar School playing fields at Whitehall. This amazing jump is seen in its true light when it is remembered that the Olympic high jump was won last year by Webster (actually Jack Winter), the Australian, with 6ft. 6in. In Peter Wells and Ron Pavitt, England has two high jumpers able to challenge the world. The contest between them after the bar had reached 6ft. forced the officials to stop the track events, and a large crowd watched spellbound."

"The story of these two young jumpers really started a fortnight ago at White City. At that time the English native record had stood for 28 years to B. Howard Baker, the old Corinthian goalkeeper, at 6ft. 5in. Wells, who two years ago was Public Schools champion at 6ft. 1in., then broke the record with 6ft. 5¼in., only to have Pavitt take it from him five minutes later with 6ft. 6in."

"They continued their contest on Saturday. At 6ft. 2in., Pavitt, using the straddle jump, failed with his first attempt, but was clear next time. Wells who is taller and uses the western roll was over with his first jump. Up went the bar to 6ft. 4in., and Pavitt hurled himself over to become the first man ever to clear that height in Bristol. The crowd had caught the tension and there was absolute silence as each man concentrated on the towering and slender bar. When Wells dislodged it with a light touch with his first attempt at 6ft. 4in. there was a sympathetic groan followed by an enthusiastic burst of cheering when he was clear with his second attempt. Then it was 6ft. 6⅜in., and Pavitt and Wells went after a new native record. The shuntering of a train passing the bottom of the field destroyed the tension for a couple minutes at this stage, and everybody relaxed and waited for it to pass. Pavitt clipped the bar at his first attempt, but Wells, who has a bounding rhythmic action, was over first time. Wild cheering greeted his effort, and Pavitt was the first to race up and congratulate him. Only the slightest touch with his third and last attempt robbed Pavitt of becoming joint holder. Wells is at present in the Army, but is to be demobilised shortly and will then take up an accountancy career."