A hundred years ago, in January 1914, who would have thought that Europe and much of the world would be engulfed in “the war to end all wars”? Certainly not the members of the Anerley Bicycle Club, whose Anerley Gazette of that month and year, starts off with the regular item of “The Captain’s Corner”. The then Club Captain being M.W. Calder who was subsequently to be one of the many club members slaughtered on the Western Front.
The Meridan Cyclist’s Memorial was erected to commemorate the thousands of cyclist’s who gave their lives for King and Country during W.W.I. It continues to be the national memorial, also, to those who died in the 1939/45 war and other conflicts. An annual cyclists’ pilgrimage and service continues to be held here each year.
Perhaps in this centenary year it is fitting to look back in time to 1914, for which our club archive is fortunate enough to have the full set of the monthly Gazettes for that year.
The January Gazette was Number 5 of volume XXIV, the numbers indicating its birth as the oldest cycling club magazine, first published circa 1890.
Calder starts his monthly Captain’s Corner with the cheery greeting ” My best wishes for the New Year. I hope 1914 may prove a most successful time for our Club and the game we particularly have at heart”
Unfortunately it was not to be, but let us savour the moments, as they were in the happier and peaceful time of January 1914.
The highlight of the social year was the annual club dinner, held at the Warwick Hotel, Redhill, on January 17th. Club Captain Calder invites “Those desiring a gentle paffle prior to the feast, should turn up at Purley Corner not later than 4.15, when I hope a party will ride via Godstone, reaching Redhill at about 5.30. I hope a large party will ride down.”
Of course Redhill has changed a bit since those far off days. The Warwick is still there but the surroundings are not what they were!
The Warwick is shown at bottom left of this collage of Redhill and around.
Calder adds some details for the “Forthcoming Fixtures” for that January. He suggests the following meeting places for the upcoming club runs.
Jan 24th to the Anchor at Ripley, meet at the George, Morden 4pm.
Jan 31st to the Clayton Arms, Godstone, meet at Purley Corner, 4.15 pm
Feb 7th to the Swan, West Wickham, meet at the Red Deer, Sth. Croydon , 4.15 pm.
Additionally there was the A.G.M, held on 31st Jan at the Alhambra, along Wellesley Rd, West Croydon. This pub was demolished in 1979 with the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre and the surrounding area. I remember the Alhambra as it was beside the terminus of the 64 bus to Selsdon and Addington, The 64 was my bus home from school as I then lived at Selsdon. Another feature of times past when I used to get the bus home, was the horse trough by the pub. Another relic of Victorian times, but still in use in my young days, by for example, the brewery dray horses. But I digress!
Calder says of the A.G.M : “This will not interfere with the club run to Godstone on that date. I shall hope to leave Purley Corner at 4 o’clock sharp, having tea at the Clayton Arms and returning to Croydon in time for the meeting”.
Bearing in mind that this was mid winter, even if these rides did not start in the dark, night would have fallen well before they arrived at their halfway house. Cycling back after a few pints of best English ale, with no street lighting and only dim acetylene lamps must have been a bit challenging!
Most of the 4 page Gazette is made up of club run write ups, four during December 1913. They are most interesting to read, helped by the often quaint phraseology (to modern eyes), and include many interesting little anecdotes. Perhaps a few words plucked from the report for 20th December 1913 to West Wickham will give a flavour of the written words of those times.
“A cold, frosty day made conditions almost ideal for a winter club run to the Swan. Dry roads and an absence of fog, with just sufficient tinge in the atmosphere to invite one to “get on with it,” sufficed to make this, the shortest of our winter rides a very pleasant outing. It would be interesting to know just how many times the ABC has foregathered under the “ancient oak,” either for the purposes of feeding in the Swan, hard by, or else to proceed further into the county of Kent to despoil some other hostelry’s festive board. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, and on the day in question, after having seen our machines duly locked up we went inside to interview the table. Our presence must have been most annoying to a Lothario and his mate, who then had to conduct their amorous chatter under very disagreeable circumstances “
In 1913/14, West Wickham was still a small village which grew up around the old Roman road from London to Lewes. Its only claim toi fame was that its manor house, Wickham Court, was built for and belonged to Sir Geoffrey Boleyn. Whilst you probably have not heard of him, you will certainly know of the infamous Anne Boleyn! She is reputed to have been courted at Wickham Court by Henry VIII.
This diversion into pre – Anerley B.C history, leads me onto the reference in the ride report to the Swan, to their foregathering under the “ancient oak”. This refers to the Stocks Oak which was across the road from the Swan. The stocks having nothing to do with stocks and shares, but to the punishment stocks. A fitting punishment for cycling furiously, and without lights!
Another item (from the Gazette Editor) caught my eye. “Our Canadian Member, G.L. Hopkins , sends his customary annual greetings to the members of the A.B.C. We imagine that G.L would be very satisfied with the present winter activity, were he still with us”
For those who are not familiar with the “greats” of the Anerley B.C, G.L Hopkins was, with his brother, a national cycle champion who emigrated to Canada in 1906. If that is not a claim to fame, this is. In Canada he started a settlement which, to remind him of his happiest times with our club, he got the government of the state of Saskatchawen to name Anerley. Yes its true! See my write up at http://anerleybc.org/a-call-from-the-wild/
The longest report in this Gazette, is on the Christmas Ride to Ripley (actually on Boxing Day of 1913), organised by Club Captain Calder. The ride was more a visit as most stayed on for the next two days, eating, drinking, making merry, and during day light hours riding and racing on the famous venue of the Portsmouth Road. Most of course were young men in their prime, and mention is made of one club member with the unfortunate name of Blogg, about whom the reporter writes :
” There were so many incidents during the tour that the writer feels somewhat at a loss to decide which are the most deserving of being permanently handed down to posterity through the pages of the Gazette. Mr Blogg however is worthy of special mention for his mistletoe effort. – “The Girl and the Mistletoe” or ” How Blogg Damaged his Glasses”.
Then there is another snippet of female friviolities. ” We will not record what happened to those who took a walk towards Guildford at a late hour, except to say that they were in charming company!”
Looking back with the benefit of hindsight it is so sad to read the final comments on this club outing.
“In conclusion we wish to record our sincere appreciation to Captain Calder, to whom our thanks are due. Christmas 1913 is but a memory past, but we are already dreaming of Christmas 1914”
Unfortunately this dream turned out to be a nightmare.
The Anerley Bicycle Club lost many of its young men and its best riders during World War I. It never recovered its place as one of the leading bicycle racing clubs in the south of England.