A year into our quest to tell the story of a forgotten cycling club, we’ve got our hands on the oldest item of club memorabilia to date.
A 103-year-old photograph has been presented to Balham CC by Jill Mills, the grand-daughter of former secretary Wally Perotte (5th from left second row) and great niece of Bert Perotte (4th from right second row). They would have been 27 and 19-years-old when the photo was taken. Both were key in the club’s early development as two extracts from the 1957 Diamond Jubilee Dinner Menu testify:
“Like most other clubs in 1914, the first world war nearly brought its decease, but in 1916, a few enthusiasts led by W. Perrotte (sic), then Secretary, brought it to life and its first claims to fame by promoting a series of 25 mile Time Trials”
“A nucleus of about six members kept the club alive and exceedingly active during 1914-18; among them was Larry Parkin, Wally and Bert Perrotte (sic), Jack Beale and Frank Nott…The club restarted in earnest in 1920, and by 1922 were able to field over 20 riders in the Club “12”
We can guess that alongside the Perotte brothers those named are also in the photo. Newspaper reports from around that time would also suggest a Martin (C, CL or L) and A Swannell could also be present. The man seated centre looks very much like Harry Cusden but cannot be sure.
The spelling variations of Perotte are errors in the dinner menu but the family did change the spelling through the generations, with the Pierotti’s becoming Perotte’s and eventually Peary’s.
The family originally came over from Italy. Walter appears with his parents, Augustus & Elizabeth, in the 1891 census at Hadley St, St Pancras, the 1901 census has them all living at 87 Wickersley Road, Battersea and in the 1911 census they are living at 32 Stanley Road, Battersea. Walter is a wireman – a specialist Electrician – and Albert a clerk at a motor company.
The photograph was developed at Davies & Thornton who from 1905 were based at 40 Bedford Hill. The photograph frame has the original backing which tells us it was framed at Rabson’s, a specialist gilding, picture framing & artists materials company based at 246 Balham High Road who also had a shop at West Hill, Wandsworth.
The club’s HQ was still the Balham Hotel, which you can see marked on a 1913 map of the area. The growth of Balham from small hamlet to a London suburb is complete by this time with simply no more land for new developments.
Cycling was a precarious activity in London iduring this time as Nick Barrett reveals in Suburban London, “25,000 were killed on London’s streets in 1913, motorbuses being principally responsible for the carnage.”
It’s uncertain as to the location and the make of bikes in the photo. Initial feedback from bicycle aficionados is that one is a Rover, the other a BSA. There are few clues as to where the photo is taken but Jill remembers much family chat about Walter and Bert’s rides to Wimbledon Common.
What is certain is that with war imminent this group wouldn’t be pictured all together again.
Have you or any family members got any photos or club memorabilia from the Balham CC years? Can you identify the bikes in the photo or have any information relating to it of interest? 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 Jill Mills for her generosity in leaving the photo to the newly formed BCC.
Balham photo from this blogger’s own collection
Greater London – the story of the suburbs by Nick Barratt
Information on Davies & Thornton from Photo London
Newspaper article from FindMyPast.co.uk
Census material from Ancestry.co.uk