In the 1900’s AW Hunt was a well known ‘crack’ who held the 25-mile tandem-paced record; the Southern Roads 50-mile tandem unpaced record and finished third in the NCU 50 Mile Championship. In Balham circles he was famed for winning the club’s 25-mile challenge cup outright after three consecutive victories (1902, 1903 & 1904).
The recent coming together of new material – not least a personal a testimony in the Balham newsletter and photos and certificates from his great niece – means we can now tell the story of a cycling career that provides some key moments in Balham CC’s history.
Albert William Hunt was born in Upper Hale on 18 July 1878 the son of Henry, a brickmakers’ foreman and Lucy. He grew up around the Farnham and Aldershot area (the 1891 census records him as a 12 year-old paperboy) but 1901 he is listed as a Bricklayer by trade, boarding in Mitcham with the Penn family. It’s at this time he joins Balham CC. Albert, writing in the April 1953 edition of the club newsletter takes up the story:
“I joined the club in 1901 and at the dinner that year the President Mr Harry Payne, a jeweller in High Road Balham, gave a solid silver cup for a club championship to be raced for over a distance of 25 miles to be won outright by a member winning it three years in succession.
The first meeting took place in June 1902, this was the first time time I had raced at 25miles and did not know anything about pace following then and had no tandems to help me. I used a gear of 81 but I managed to hang on to everyone who took the lead and I won the cup for the first time.
The next year 1903, we again raced in June at [Crystal] Palace at the same distance but I had learned a lot about pace following and gears by then and I had two tandems to help me and I won the second time after a very hard race against Bert Swannell (who by the way, I believe is still alive) who had six tandems, I pushed a gear of 97 at the time.
In 1904, the race again took place at the Palace in June. I had improved and had an easier race and I won the cup outright.”
During this time reports show Albert racing at many events at various distances including the Black Heath Harriers meet at Crystal Palace where 7,000 saw him come second in the Half Mile Handicap.
His form was such that a month after his 1904 victory he was approached to take on the national 25-mile paced record.
National Cyclists’ Union 25 mile paced cycling record
Cycling 27 July 1904 reports: “An extra turn was provided by a very fine record ride behind tandem pacing by AW Hunt, the well known handicap rider of the Balham CC, meeting at the Crystal Palace last Wednesday [20th July]. He essayed the 25miles record successfully beat the previous best of F Chinn, made at the same track on September 15th 1900, when the latter rode the distance in 51mins 2 3.5 secs.
Hunt, with excellent pacing, commenced to pare seconds off the former times at 11 miles, and was inside thereafter to the finish, his full time being 50mins 15seconds. He has thus beaten Chinn’s record by 47 3.5 secs. The record times are 11miles 21 53 4.5secs 25miles 50mins 15secs. Mr TG Matthews was timekeeper.”
Writing in the club newsletter Albert’s assessment of his pace support is slightly different. “As a result [of the Club Challenge Cup in June], I was approached to go for the 25-mile record which I did on the 20th July. I then increased my gear to 105 for that ride and I rode the first lap of a third of a mile without a tandem having shot past them as they were not going fast enough. It was at the end of the ride that I covered the last mile in 2mins 6 seconds.”
Southern Roads Record Association 50mile unpaced tandem record
Three months later he was breaking another record, this time the Southern Roads 50mile unpaced tandem record with WJ Pett of Southern Cycle Club (who would later become a Balham CC Vice President). The pair beat the previous best on the officially recognised Purley to Horsham and back course with a time of 2hrs 15minutes, 67 seconds faster than the previous best.
NCU 50 Mile National Championship
The following year he was up against his tandem partner in the NCU 50 mile National championships at Crystal Palace. Eight started although the holder Leon Meredith was absent having chosen to ride in an Exeter meet.
In the The Sportsman 4th September 1905 we’re told: “Soon after the start Pett took the lead, which, with one exception of a brief nature, he kept throughout. At nine miles Robertson, who had started a lap and a half the others, came off owing to a collission with his pacers through the chain on their machine having broken. He was cut about on the left shoulder, left leg and right hand, but after attention by the ambulance brigade was able to walk off the ground unaided. Rattray retired when he had completed 23 miles and Hamlin at 34 2/3 miles.”
Pett won by six miles and a quarter. Hunt was making a good effort for second place when he fell and so lost a lap, which he never recovered. The rest did not finish. In spite of the fact that a high wind was against the riders, Pett made good time, and from 25 miles to 40 fluctuated about two minutes from the record.”
We have evidence that Albert was riding with Balham CC until at least 1906. On the 17 April 1906 Anerley BC Meet at Sydenham Pleasure Resort, Hunt won a 1 mile handicap but what happened after that is unknown.
He stayed in contact with the club even after moving away to Worthing, East Sussex, joining the Balham Old Members Association in 1949 and from reports in the club newsletter we know he travelled up from his home to attend the Annual Dinners.
Members tried to get him acknowledged in The Golden Book of Cycling (Club Newsletter May 1950) for his efforts but to no avail.
In the May 1950 club newsletter he wrote to the club apologising for the lack of correspondence due to business and property problems. Records suggest he was a newsagent and tobacconist. He signed off his correspondence ‘in good health’ (he was 77 at this time).
Albert died in Worthing in 1968
We finish the story with an extract from the Balham Newsletter where Albert had some advice for budding racers: “As a little advice to younger members, who seem very capable and keen men, I say – go out and ride, keep on riding, then some more riding and keep riding when it hurts, but do not ride at speed, by that I mean top speed that will come as you get stronger. I started riding when I was 12 years of age and I was 26 when I broke English record.”
Various Balham Cycling Club Magazines including the May 1950 issue with AW Hunt’s own testimony. Club’s own collection.
Cycling Magazine 27 July 1904
Newspaper cuts via British Newspaper Archive and FindMyPAst
Big thanks to Mick Butler for digging through his collection of back copies of Cycling
…And finally a huge thank you to AW Hunt’s great niece Anthea Pritchard for sharing the certificates, photos of Albert and the Payne Challenge Cup
In the May 1950 Club Newsletter Hunt states there was an article in Cycling on him on a great ride at Herne Hill in 1902.
Hunt also states “I broke English the flying start record but as I didn’t have an official timekeeper I did not claim it” but mentions no more of the race, date or cirumstance.
In March 1951 Albert made the club an offer of a cup he won in 1902 for a 25 mile track race. The club newsletter states “The Committee felt that the Rough Stuff was a race worthy of a cup valued at 25 guineas in 1902” but we never get told what happens next
Any info on any of this would be gratefully received