Gala Dance menu unlocks past of the Fishmonger and the Dairyman

This week sees a significant breakthrough in our quest to tell the story of a cycling club from one photo.

A menu from the 1947 Balham Cycling Club Prize Presentation and Gala Dance shows that the club of the rider in the photo was formed in 1897. While a previous blog highlighted a club traced to 1878 the menu has the same club badge that can be found on our clubman’s lapel pin badge and the badge stitched into his jersey.

The club could be one of those listed in the previous blog under a new constitution but the 1898 Cyclist Year Book reveals two, more likely candidates:

1898 Balham CC Headquarters: 2, Bedford Hill, Balham Honorary Secretary Henry R Walker Address 3, Grand Parade, Balham Hill Formed 1897 Members 65

1898 Balham Social CC Headquarters: Bedford Hotel, Balham Honorary Secretary Fred W Ball Address 52, Bedford Hill, Balham Captain Alf J Ife Formed September 1897 Open to ladies Members 40

For the non-locals, Bedford Hill is the road that dissects Tooting Common. The Bedford Hotel is The Bedford Pub of today but not the same building, as the entry on Listed buildings, Historic England highlights, “The present Bedford Hotel dates from c1931 and is a rebuilding of a previous public house, constructed around the early 1870s when the neighbouring residential area was developed.”

Ife life

A hunt to identify those named reveals that 1897 was a big year for the splendidly monikered Alf Ife. The 27-year-old fishmonger was married on the 11th April, at St Mary’s Church Balham, to greengrocer’s daughter Lillian Hollands. She was living at 11 Bedford Hill while he was at 188 Lavender Hill, Battersea.

The 1901 census lists Balham Social CC honorary secretary Frederick William Ball as a school woodwork instructor living at Norfolk House, 107 Trevelyan Road, Tooting.

In 1901 Henry R Walker is an auctioneer’s clerk living at 16 Rossiter Road, Balham. He was born in 1857, the son of a cow keeper living at 25 Exeter Street (near the Lyceum Theatre). A common livelihood in cities, a cow keeper had a number of cows in the backyard of his house, providing milk, which was sold at the front door or window. It was a forerunner to a local dairy.

On his 1883 marriage banns he is described as a dairyman – a seller of diary products – and was certainly in the same game up to at least the taking of the 1891 census.

Are these the men who formed the Balham Cycling Club that continued into the late mid-80’s? It’s a complex web of South London cycling clubs that’s for sure.

Your Help

Got a story about the story? Email me at or drop me a line in the comments box. I would love to hear from you.


A big thank you to blog reader Les Humphreys who sent me the Gala Dinner menu from 1947. Les was friends with Ken Smith who was a member of Balham CC in a number of capacities from the 20s through to the 50s. Les wrote an article on Ken Smith in the Ottawa Citizen following his passing in 2013.

Most of the Cyclist Year Books are online at the Veteran-Cycle Club library

The Bedford Hotel listed entry on Historic England

Information on captains and honorary secretaries was found on

One thought on “Gala Dance menu unlocks past of the Fishmonger and the Dairyman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s