Mentioned in a previous blog, here’s the 1958 Diamond Jubilee Dinner Menu. It includes an overview of the Club’s first 60 years, which is reproduced in full. A fantastic find in a quest to tell the story of the once famous cycling club.
Click on the links for items covered in more detail in previous blogs (links will be added as relevant blogs come online).
Balham Cycling Club 1897-1957 – content in full
The Balham Cycling Club was founded in 1897 by a well-known local sportsman of that period – the late G. R. Huntley. He later became the licensee of the Balham Hotel, Chestnut Grove, Balham (this was the Club’s Headquarters, and remained so until 1926) and presented the Club with many of the trophies, some of which are on view to-night.
During the Club’s infancy the Balham was a mixed one; this fact may well surprise some of the “men only” adherents to-day, but during the rise to popularity of road racing in the years prior to the first world war, the Club, like many others, changed into its present status. From which state no one has been able to persuade the members to change.
It has always been one of the leading Clubs for promoting events from its inception and was very fortunate in having among its early members A.E. Willis – the first man in the world to ride 60 miles in the hour behind motor pace, the actual distance was 61 miles, the year 1901*.
Like most other clubs in 1914, the first world war nearly brought its decease, but in 1916, a few enthusiasts led by W. Perrotte, then Secretary, brought it to life and its first claims to fame by promoting a series of 25 mile Time Trials. The course used was the 14m.s on the Brighton Road – out to Lowfield Heath and back to 15m.s – and a Bronze Standard was offered to anyone who could beat “evens” over the course. These events attracted an average entry of 20 to 30 riders, but very few gained Standards.
A nucleus of about six members kept the club alive and exceedingly active during the 1914-1918 war; among them were Larry Parkin, Wally and Bert Perrotte, Jack Beale, and Frank Nott, and the present members owe them a great debt. These time trials continued after the war and attracted the cream of the riders of that period – and many new members for the Balham – the most outstanding being B Bragg who was destined to be chosen as a member of the Olympic and World Championship Team at Antwerp in 1920.
The next 20 years saw many fluctuations in the Club’s prosperity, but one thing the membership never lacked was the courage to act as pioneers in any venture, which might add to its popularity of the cycling world.
The Balham were the pioneers in the promotion of several types of events, which have since been copied but not improved upon. The Balham Rough Riders 25, the Second Class Open 100, and the 25 miles Tandem-Paced NCU Championship are now famed throughout the country, but many of those who fill up their entry forms or play the part of marshal or onlooker in the events, can never feel the heartburnings and anxious moments known by the “Club boys” when these events were first placed on the cycling calendar.
The Club restarted in earnest in 1920, and by 1922 were able to field over 20 riders in the Club “12”. In 1925 a Club Rough Stuff was held – one or two members finished in hospital – but the event caused so much comment in the cycling world that it was promoted as an “Open” the following year, and is now the famous event, which annually starts the Cycle Racing Calendar.
In 1924 it promoted the one and only “Club” 24-Hour Time Trial ever held on Southern Roads – seven riders started, and five finished. The event was run in October and was won by Cyril Taylor, with 327 miles, F Bartholomew second with 313 miles and F Nott third with 312 miles. The following year the Catford started their series of 24 hours events, in which F Nott finished with 352 miles.
About this time the Club realised the need for a “Second Class “Open” 100. This was the first Second Class 100 in the country, and continued successfully until recent years, when entries began to drop off, so this year we have decided not to promote it.
On the track we progressed rapidly under the guidance of the late “Pa” Langton, and in 1926 instituted the 25 miles Tandem-Paced event, which after five years was recognized, and became the N.C.U. (London Centre) 25 mile Tandem-Paced Championship**. Since the passing of “PA” Langton the track side of the Club has been admirably carried out by L. Vanner.
The Club always provided its members, and the members of neighbouring Clubs, with a good social programme and apart from racing it caters for touring, week-ending, camping and photography. During the social season of about 1925 it promoted another innovation, which stayed until the outbreak of the recent war. This was the Epsom Running Race for Cyclists, twice round the Derby gallops, approximately five miles. This started as an inter-Club event between the Balham and the Belle Vue, but later became an open, dominated in the few years prior to the war by a strong team from the Wolverhampton Wheelers, led by Percy Stallard.
Among the Club’s past Presidents have been Harry Cusden, “PA” Langton, Bob Lacey and Bob Davey.
With the end of the last war the members gradually got together and started the Club on its long climb back. Our most outstanding rider in this period was Jack Osborne, who was the first in the Club to beat the hour for 25 miles, and later having moved to Scotland, Jack finished well up the B.B.A.R contest. Jack is now back in the South again and has rejoined the Club. In 1951, our thoughts again turned to 24-hour riding, with a team in the National Championship, where they gained second team race. Since then we have had riders in these events every year.
To-night sees the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Club’s founding, and to many of those here who passed through the dark days of 1939-45 when once again 95 per cent of the membership were in H.M. Forces, and it seemed that the Club was down, never to rise again. It must indeed be a pleasure to see such a revival and reunion, and it is the earnest hope of all that the “Balham” spirit will continue through the years ahead so that the Club will still prosper on and past its centenary. The Club has produced some fine events, riders and personalities, and although most of us must forgo the pleasure of being there, we all feel confident that the Centenary Dinner will be held, and that the Balham, holding its rightful place in the forefront of Southern Clubs, will be a name, honoured then, as now, for its good fellowship, enterprise and sportsmanship.
*AE Willis is Albert Edward Wills and the record was actually beaten in 1908.
**A newspaper report from the time suggests that the first 25 miles Tandem-Paced event was in fact in 1925.
Open event winners
K. Butler, Norwood Paragon CC
Open 2nd Class “100” and Holder of the “Lacey” Trophy
G.Townsend, 34th Nomads
Open 2nd Class “100” Team Race and holders of the “LillyWhite” Shield
East Surrey R.C.
25 Mile Track Tandem Paced and Holder of the “Fleming” Trophy
R. Sefton, 34th Nomads
|Club Champion||Bill Shore Memorial Trophy||FJ Smith||21.545mph|
|Junior Champion (25miles)||Bob Davey Shield||T West||23.851mph|
|Fastest 25 Miles||Denton & Down Cup||T West|
|Fastest 50 Miles||EH Stevens Cup||T West|
|Club 50 Miles||Members Cup||T West|
|Fastest 100 Miles||A Kerridge Cup||FJ Smith|
|Best 12 Hours||Langton Memorial Trophy||FC Syred|
|Points for racing||Huntley Cup||T West|
|Best 24 Hours||Votier Memorial Cup||A Hart|
|Points||Mass Start Cup||T West|
Has the names or events mentioned in the Diamond Jubilee Menu jogged the memory? Email me at email@example.com or drop me a line in the comments box. I would love to hear from you.
With thanks to John Simcock for the menu card. More on John’s collection in future articles.
Photographs of Albert Wills and his bike are from the Coventry Transport Museum collection.
Photo of the Balham Hotel from The Regent website
Cutting of the Balham Rough Stuff from the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club files. It originally appeared in Cycling Magazine.
Photo of Epsom race course courtesy of Britain From Above