By Sid Hall.
In 1933 a number of keen cyclists had the idea of forming a cycling club. A few days prior to February 28th, Mr. Leslie Attwood wrote to ‘Cycling’ enquiring how to form a club. A reply was received on the 28th February and on the 5th March the first run took place under the leadership of Mr. Harry Lyre, destination being Newport Pagnell.
All runs started from the Waggon & Horses Inn and it was there that the Inaugural Meeting was held with the support of Mr. C. Stokes, the landlord.
Officials for the very first year were Mr. L G Attwood (Chairman and Captain), Mr. W Cooke (Secretary and Treasurer), Mr. L Howell (Press Secretary and Assistant Secretary), with a committee of Mr. S Goodwin, Mr. G Hall, Mrs Taylor, Miss Grant, Mr. H Baderick and Mr W Boyd. It was decided that sports cycles should be ridden and suitable clothing worn. The subscription was set at five shillings and sixpence (27½ p). We were then of course ‘The Hemel Hempstead & District Cycling Club’ and it was not until 1948 that the ‘& District’ was left off.
The Club was affiliated to the National Cyclists Union and the Cyclists Touring Club. There was a continuous programme of club runs. In those days pubs were only too pleased to serve teas and vast quantities of bread and jam etc. This would be consumed and was followed by a stroll around the village before riding home by the light of our gas lamps.
The tradition of Easter tours was also begun in 1933. The first trip was to Clacton — certainly a good days run for a first attempt. Another first was the glamour of riding through the night to Meriden Green for the service at the Cyclists War Memorial. This run was taken by Mr. W Dawson and 18,000 club people thronged Meriden Green that year. On the return journey we had tea at the Masonic Tea Rooms in Buckingham (The building is still there down by the old cattle market).
It was inevitable that the young men’s fancy turned not to love but to competing against the clock. The Club’s first 25 mile time trial was held on September 10th and it was won by Len Howell in 1hr 14 mins with G. Whitehouse at 1hr 17mins 5Osecs. and S. Goodwin at 1hr 18mins 50secs.
With this urge for speed came the formation of a hardriders section, and rides to the Cotswolds, 24 hour Bath and back and a round trip to Ely in the Fens were organised. Mention of ‘Fullers’ at Girtford Bridge for tea will bring back some happy memories.
In the first year of the Club a link was being formed by Freddie Dove who joined from the old Apsley Village Club Cycling Section. A treasured possession of mine is a medal from this Section won by my brother W. Hall for first ‘place in a 10 mile event in 1906. He was posted’ missing in the Great War during 1916.
And so the months of 1933 closed with the First Annual Dinner held at the Midland Hotel, Hemel Hempstead on Saturday December 9th. The five course meal with two bottles of port and a cabaret amounted to a grand total of £13.4.6d for 34 members.
Items in the first account book and minute book make remarkable reading. We purchased two whistles on April 8th, 1933. Cash turnover was £46.6.9d and our balance was £1.6.10d. Committee meeting May 6th 1933: Resolution passed that no shouting and more reserve be maintained when passing through towns - imagine that today.
1934 saw the introduction of the Club’s Best All Rounder competition instituted over 25, 50 and 100 miles and the first winner of the Attwood Shield was Len Howell with an aggregate speed of 21.025 mph. This was the world of black alpacas and racing tights, of dawn starts and riding out on Saturday to overnight accommodation. We talked of Chater-Lea hubs, Selbach, Claud Butler and Carpenter cycles the pride of every cyclist.
The records are in the history books of the Club, but all our riders were champions against the clock that always ticked faster than the downward thrust of the pedal.
1934 now also saw the first of many Easter tours to Wales and this covered the Black Mountains and Abergavenny where an excellent inn provided accommodation. The Captain and organiser was Sid Goodwin who at breakfast time would produce a Bart’s map and point to some very dark patches to be climbed during the day’s ride.
In the summer of the same year, Alderman H Fletcher, who was the President, invited all the Club to a picnic at Marlow.
The Club now had a very strong Racing section making their mark in an everwidening sphere of open time trials. J S Spackman, a 24 hour expert set an example for the longer events on the North Road and into the Fens.
The importance of the Clubroom had been recognised and ‘The Sun Inn’ just beyond the Town Hall, became our first regular home. Touring and racing photographs lined the walls and it was here that the very popular children’s parties were held and parents, hoping of course, that some of the goodies would be left for them afterwards.
In 1934 the Second Annual Dinner took place at the ‘Heath Park Hotel’ and the toast to the Club was proposed by Alderman Fletcher, coupling with it the name of Mr. S Goodwin, the Club Captain. The Club was being run on the right lines and it had a sound background of good officials.
The ladies were also very active on Club runs and many of the longer distance tourist trials. One very popular Club run was to Bedford and there always appeared to be more space on the river in those days. These were also the days of the tandem for mixed couples and they also offered good shelter if you kept close to the rear wheel.
We know the old club tea places have disappeared but many will remember the association of certain special fare supplied, bananas at ‘The Cafe’ Loudwater, huge apple pies at ‘The Post Office’ Bow Brickhill, to Harpenden for sausage and mash followed by an enormous spotted dick which would be set on the table still in its cloth. Rabbit or pigeon pie at ‘The Old Cottage’ Westmill. The pub at Winkfield always came up with boiled eggs. Another favourite port of call for tea was ‘Baidens’ at Oxford which was followed by a hard and quick run to ‘The Dark Lantern Inn’ at Aylesbury for a game of darts. Jack and Bernard Lamb were the experts and this was the hardriders.
The eager turning of pedals to distant horizons was helped by the use of Youth Hostels and Whitsun of 1939 saw Sid Goodwin taking a group to the Cotswolds and Min Hall on a Leicestershire Tour. We were now, however, seeing our members going off to the Army or Red Cross training and into another chapter of the Club’s history. Distant horizons no longer meant wandering down leafy lanes looking for a C.T.C. sign of ‘Bed & Breakfast’. No more rice pudding stops on 12 hours or hearing the magic cry of ‘Man up’.