The hunt for the oldest Balham CC on record has unearthed a club that was formed in 1878. Cycling yearbooks from the early 1890s reveal that the first minutes of a Balham Cycling Club were taken 138 years ago. The yearbooks also show the headquarters address, the names of the honorary secretary and captain and uniform colours (see below and extracts).
1892 Balham CC Headquarters: Church Institute, Wandsworth Common Honorary Secretary: F Evans Address: 77 Wroughton Rd, Wandsworth Common Captain: John Nutting Uniform: CTC Grey First Minutes 1878
1893 Balham CC Headquarters: Church Institute, Wiseton Road, Upper Tooting Honorary Secretary: F Evans Address: 77 Wroughton Road, Wandsworth Common Captain: HL Butterworth Uniform: Grey Members 60 First Minutes 1878
The oldest race report mentioning a Balham CC – which could well be the one from 1878 – is in the Worcester Journal dated 24th July 1880 (see cutting above). The event was the annual Worcester amateur athletic meeting held at the County Cricket Ground, Boughton. In among the athletics and obstacle races was the The Quarter Mile Open Handicap Cycling Race. Competing in heat 2 for a centre epergne (1st prize), fish knife and fork (2nd) and an aneroid barometer (3rd) is Balham CC cyclist A Head. Sadly, he neither won nor lost by a small margin, denying newspaper editors everywhere the opportunity of a pun packed headline.
Declaring what is the oldest Balham CC is a fraught business. The yearbooks are a valuable source of material but they do have limitations. In one of them, the Editor Henry Sturmey vents his frustration at the lack of forms and information returned by clubs. There may have been other Balham clubs in existence but they just didn’t feature in the yearbooks.
And what do we actually mean by a Balham Club? Some clubs in the yearbooks don’t use the neighbourhood name but are based in the area such as Mercury and Atalanta Cycling Clubs (although I’ve yet to find one in existence before 1878).
And what constitutes Balham? The boundaries have moved over the years and what may not be deemed Balham now, was then.
I’ve kept it simple. If it’s got Balham in the name it counts. So there.
Saaf London cycling hotbed
While delving into the yearbooks it becomes apparent that there is a lot of cross-over with clubs in the Tooting, Clapham, Balham, Streatham area running out of the same HQ and closing, opening, merging and splitting all the time. Captains and honorary secretaries are being not so honorary and changing clubs on a regular basis.
I’ll explore the South London cycling club scene of the period in a later blog but it’s worth noting a club that first appeared in the 1885 Cycling and Wheel World. The club was called Church Institute. The HQ was Church Institute, Upper Tooting, the captain was F Evans and they were formed in 1878 – the same as our first Balham cycling club.
Have you seen a a newspaper report or any records that show a club was running before 1878? Email me at email@example.com or drop me a line in the comments box. I would love to hear from you.
Many of the Henry Sturmey yearbooks are online at the Veteran-Cycle Club library
Newspaper cutting from Find My Past