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The following brief history of the Leeds Welington Cycling Club is taken from the archive minute books of the Club and the well-researched history of the first 70 years of the ‘Wellington’ by Doug Fernyhough. The omission of names is generally a deliberate one, except where the flow of the text allows. Should I attempt to mention everyone I have known over the past 50 years who has contributed to Club Life I am bound to omit someone who should be included – meaning that a brief history would certainly be far from ‘brief’.
John Coomber, Jan 2004.
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The Club was founded in 1904; the day and month is not specific. Initiated by men for 'men only' who were employed at the Wellington Foundry. A large engineering works originally on the site of the Travel Inn (TGI Friday’s) across the inner ring road from the Yorkshire Post Building. The Club Headquarters was the Wellington Inn a hostelry opposite the works on Kirkstall Road. This building was demolished to make way for the inner ring road. The Inn remained the headquarters for over 30 years. Club membership was 46 at the end of the first year.
The first recorded Club Time-Trial, a 50 mile event, was held in 1906. A Scarborough and back medal ride was introduced in 1912. This event was still held in the late 1930’s. Also in 1912 the Wellington Cycling Club was the winning team in the Combined Clubs 50 mile time trial, and again in 1914. Club runs were held on Sundays during the summer months only. Click here to read a press cutting from this period.
The beginning of 1914 showed 45 members. 30 served in the forces during the 1914-18 War. Seven lost their lives.
Smoking concerts and prize presentations were held from the very early days in 1920. A two-minute silence was observed for the first time at these concerts in memory of the members who had given their lives for their country. This tribute continued to be observed over the next 40 years. A surviving handbook for 1922 revealed a membership of 53. Club runs were organised from March to October on Sundays, some Tuesdays and Thursday evenings only. Impromptu runs on a Sunday were held during the winter months. Also in 1922 a memorial trophy was purchased in memory of the seven members who had lost their lives in the Great War. Their names (*see below) are engraved on the trophy and it was presented annually until very recent years to the winner of the Handicap in the Club’s 25-mile time trial. This trophy is still our most treasured acquisition.
Names honoured on the Memorial Sheild:
B.Shepherd, J.W.Wood, G.Newman, F.Thorpe, E.Bristow, W.Young & D.Lainton.
First awarded to E.Green in 1921 with a time of 1-23-31.
Last awarded to Phil North in 1994 with a time of 1-2-06
During this period membership remained over 50. Summer mid-night runs became popular. Three were held in one year alone. In 1933 the first recorded attempt to admit Ladies into the Club failed. In 1934 the headquarters were still at the Wellington Inn.
Club Minute Books are missing for this period, and by the very laws of nature there are very few left who can remember this time. These were the ‘Wellington’s’ dark ages. Dark, certainly, but not entirely black thanks to Doug Fernyhough’s detailed account leading up to World War II. The Club survived the war years, although conscription took away most of the active members.
1947 saw a major split in the Club concerning massed-start racing on open roads. A national upheaval at the time. This impasse led to a number of younger members forming a new club, namely, the South Leeds Road Club.
In 1948 the Wellington promoted an Open 25-mile time-trial for the first time. In later years this event was to become a real Classic Event. Membership was now down to 25 in 1949 and the annual Smoking Concerts gave way to the Annual Dinner. Once again in 1951 an abortive attempt was made to admit Ladies into the Club.
By the time the Club celebrated it’s 50th birthday the post-war boom years in cycling had passed. Not so for the Wellington – the best was yet to come. The Golden Jubilee dinner was held at the Sherwin’s Restaurant, Leeds. Myself, like so may other persons present, were guests from other local cycling clubs and can well remember an extraordinary long speech delivered by the then President of the Club a Mr Watson. During the course of the evening the collection box for the ‘Institute for the Blind’ mysteriously disappeared from the foyer – this being a youthful prank that backfired. The incident caused an outcry from the Staff and consternation from the older members of the Club. The box, in tact, soon reappeared ‘ay yonder lads are yet the fools that we were then’ (Houseman). By now the Club had become a tightly knit group. Well known for their hard riding and, at times, hard drinking; enjoying all that can be packed into cycling club life. The late 1950’s saw many of the club time trial records fall.
During 1964-65 many young riders became members. They stayed a year or two then disappeared, moreso than in previous years. Once again in 1966 an attempt was made, this time by the writer to allow ladies to join the club. Yet again the proposition failed to get support. At the following Annual General Meeting in 1967, Roger Goode, the great grandson of a founder member and former President, proposed (a) ‘that the Club should be wound up’ (b) that the Club be opened up to both sexes. ‘a’ was rejected: ‘b’ carried. Thus, after 63 years the Leeds Wellington Cycling Club became a ‘unisex’ Club. The next 10-15 years was the real hey-day- the club went from strength to strength. Maureen Danby, wife of our long time and long suffering Social Secretary, Peter Danby and Alex Fernyhough daughter of our historian Doug became the first lady members. Wives and girlfriends of riding members followed over the next few years. The ladies developed a formidable racing team along with a great contribution to the social life of the Club. They organised the popular Halloween Parties that continued for several years raising a healthy bank balance for Club funds. Before that the Club funds were in a penury state. Phil Norfolk became the schoolboy’s National Cyclo-Cross Champion. A steady rise in keen racing members resulted in many team wins in Open Time Trials also successes for individual members. 1970 and again in 1972 saw the Wellington Team win the C.T.C. Best All Rounder Competition – a tremendous boost to the Club. In 1972 the Club gave their very best support to Geoff Isle when he organised the National Championship Cyclo-Cross Event at Temple Newsam before a crowd of 1,600 spectators. On the social side, around this time, and lasting for 25 years the ‘Men Only’ October cycle weekend (later and still known as the Old Men’s weekend) was instituted. Then followed a walking weekend in the Lake District the latter is still ongoing only by a dwindling few.
1974 saw the demise of the great days of the time-trial racing teams, but individual successes in time-trial, cyclo-cross and hill climbs kept the ‘Wellington’ in the limelight. For many years members competed in the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross Event. 1979 saw eight members complete the course – quite an achievement. Families became an integral part of Club Life. In 1979 there were 60 members, 12 being ladies and seven children of parent members.
These were the days of the Great Annual Club Dinner and Prize Presentations. Some years saw an excess of 180 people attending.
By now the ‘Wellington Open 25 Time-Trial’ had become a first class event attracting the top ‘25-miler’s’ of the day. To the disappointment of the organiser, Peter Lawson, the National Competition Record was never broken in this event even though it came very near at times. Towards the end of 1979 the club celebrated its 75th year with a well attended 'Ride Out Dinner'.
Click here to read a Yorkshire Post articule about the Leeds Wellington CC writen in 1979 at the clubs 75th aniversary.
A quieter decade than the last two, with good and not-so-good years. In an effort to try and attract younger members to the Club in 1986 Gordon White organised Saturday club runs. These proved to be a success and livened up the usual club runs. Regrettably this upsurge was relatively short lived and by 1992 the new group had largely disappeared. The Open 25 was discontinued in 1993.
1994 saw the Club in a steady decline. Owing to poor support the presenting of trophies and medals ended, and the Annual Dinner succumbed to the dwindling numbers. Walter Keeble our oldest surviving club member, who was well into his 90’s, died in 1995. Walter had links with the Club from the very early years – his Dad had been a founder member. The once popular Evening ‘10’ miles time trials continued until 2000 although latterly it had been organised in conjunction with other Clubs from the area. ‘The Christmas Riding Out Dinner’ is the remaining social event of the year, and usually quite well attended by the stalwart few. Club Runs are still organised and although a meeting place for the start is not advertised a telephone call usually does the trick. The lunch venue (usually a pub is the meet and greet point). After a convivial lunch members leave together riding as a club until they depart for their own area. To date there are 23 members, the eldest is Bas aged 82 years and the youngest Harry aged four years – both ride bikes (Harry on the back of his Dad’s bike). The remaining racing member, riding as a ‘vet’, is Jack Lawton our Chairman and Treasurer. Jack has had links with the Club since the 1940’s.
What then of the future? It is difficult to say. Perhaps, reminiscent of many times in the past, when all appeared to be lost renewed interest and revival followed. At this point in time ‘revival’ appears unlikely taking into consideration changing times, and life-styles. Some roads have become more congested whilst others are freed up. Young people, always the life-blood of any club’s life just at the moment appear to be in short supply. The future is a mystery – but nothing can detract from the ‘glorious past’ As for the present so many people are here sharing our Centenary Celebrations (an achievement by any standards). Everyone sharing memories, looking at these photographs and with a wry smile recalling their time with The Leeds Wellington Cycling Club be it only for a few short years or for most of a lifetime.
John Coomber, Jan 2004.