60 Years of Memories. The Beginning of the National Association of Veteran Cycle Clubs and the National Rally.
The page you are reading has taken 60 years to produce and would not have been possible if Bridget Ellis had not attended every National Rally since their inception in 1957. This year marks the Diamond Jubilee Year of the NAVCC and its 60 National Rallies which are the crowning glory of the NAVCC and its affiliated clubs.
From the outset the NAVCC intended to create a national organisation that supported the work of its affiliated club members. The NAVCC inaugural meeting was held at Meriden in Warwickshire on the 8th April 1956 and nineteen people attended representing the four founding clubs; Bawtry Veteran Cycle Club, Coventry Veteran Cycle Club, Southern Veteran Cycle Club and Peterborough Vintage Cycle Club, present were also representatives from the Pickwick Bicycle Club and Cyclists’ Touring Club. A committee was established comprising of a President, Vice Presidents (in 1958 these numbered six including Lord Montagu), Secretary/Treasurer, Editor, Organiser and Publicity Officer and Club Delegates. The affiliation fee was set at two guineas per club and the Association funds at the end of the first year was £5.17s.9d (£5.89 or about £140 in today’s money). In the early days individuals could join as an associate (club member) or private member. A constitution was approved at the first AGM on 12th May 1957.
From the outset the NAVCC had an uncertain future. At the first AGM the Southern Veteran Cycle Club, motioned that the Association should be dissolved. They expressed doubts about the value of the Association as they felt the other affiliated clubs did not have the same degree of interest in the history and research of veteran cycling. The meeting did not agree as it was too early to judge the NAVCC and suggested that the following year would be a test to see how the Association faired.
To establish the NAVCC a National Rally would be held each year. The first National Rally was held on the 23rd June 1957 starting from the Starley Memorial in Coventry with a ride to the Malt Shovel at Stonebridge and returning to Coventry, a route of about 16 miles. The programme for the Rally shows 51 riders participated, with two late entries, on machines dating from 1875 to 1912.
The National Rally was deemed a success but attracted adverse comments from the Southern Veteran Cycle Club who felt that the costumes worn by some of the riders were akin to fancy dress rather than period costume. At the Committee Meeting in November 1957 the subject of period dress was discussed and it was suggested a dress code be established and that the Rally organiser appoint an ‘Inspection Committee’ to assess and approve riders’ costumes.
The first National Rally was organised by the Coventry Veteran Cycle Club and the Peterborough Vintage Cycle Club was responsible for the second National Rally in 1958. Held on the 22nd June in torrential rain the one-day rally was to establish the format for future rallies. The programme, which was sold for one shilling (5p) listed 99 riders from 23 clubs but the NAVCC at that time only had seven affiliated clubs, the four founding clubs and three newly affiliated clubs Bantel Veteran Cycle Club, Oundle Wheelers Veteran Cycle Club and the Long Sutton & District Veteran Cycle Club. The other entries were made up from various other cycling related organisations such as the CTC, National Clarion Cycling Club, Pickwick Bicycle Club, Rough Stuff Fellowship, and others. The 1958 Rally also introduced trophies; the Peterborough Shield, presented by the Peterborough Vintage Cycle Club and the BSA Trophy presented by BSA Cycles Limited. The first recipient of the Peterborough Shield was Mrs Marion James of the Southern Veteran Cycle Club who rode a 1902 Triumph Ladies Safety bicycle and Jennifer Mundy of the Peterborough Vintage Cycle Club who rode an 1878 Quadrant Tricycle was awarded the BSA Trophy.
During the early years of the National Rally various organising clubs developed the Rally which is enjoyed today, but the responsibility of organising a National Rally was voluntary. In 1959 the Southern Veteran Cycle Club declined to organise a National Rally in favour of a London to Brighton Run consequently the Bantel Veteran Cycle Club (Bantel was a cycling mudguard manufacturer in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire and had a collection of veteran cycles) stepped in and organised a ride on the Hertfordshire/Essex border. As a consequence the NAVCC AGM in 1960 produced a set of Rally Rules and a two-year rolling programme to allow clubs time to organise a National Rally.
Since the early 1960s each National Rally has followed similar lines; a ride (sometimes two; one in the morning and one in the afternoon), lunch, trophy presentation and a chance to meet old and new friends. From the beginning, and still today, the prestigious costumed National Rally is a one-day Sunday event, but since the 1980’s entrants have made it a weekend event. The first programme to show a weekend of organised activities was the 37th National Rally at the Royal Victoria Country Park at Netley organised by the Solent Veteran Bicycle & Tricycle Club in 1993. A popular feature of every National Rally since 1971 is the issue of a date bar to attach in a chain to an Association badge, which was introduced in 1970.
Since the first National Rally a programme has also been printed. The programme has never been a standard format ranging from an A5 booklet to a stapled foolscap Xerox or photocopy. Some give the name of the host club on the cover, some the rally route, most contain adverts to ease the cost of the rally organisation. Every programme however has listed the date of the Rally, the names of the riders, the type of machine rode, their club and the affiliated NAVCC Clubs. Early programmes also gave the age of the rider and the 1963 Southern Veteran Cycle Club National Rally gave the name of the rider and the name and the owner of the machine indicating that many of the machines rode on the early rallies were often owned by other collectors.
Like the rallies affiliated organising clubs come and go. Of the four clubs that founded the NAVCC only the Peterborough Vintage Cycle Club is still in existence, and today is the oldest veteran cycle club in the world. Of the original clubs Bawtry Veteran Cycle Club withdrew in 1961; Coventry Veteran Cycle Club in 1970 and Southern Veteran Cycle Club in 1958 but re-joined in 1959 then finally resigned in 1973. Other Clubs that have been and gone since 1956 are; Bantel Veteran Cycle Club (1958 – 1964), Oundle Wheelers Veteran Cycle Club (1958 – 1964), Leicester Veteran Cycle Club (1971 – 1972), Roadfarers Veteran Cycle Club (1971 – 1976), Belton Musuem Veteran Cycle Club (1980 – 1988) this club instigated a name change to become the Belvoir Bicyclists (1988 – 2003), Northleach Olde Tyme Wheelers (1991 – 2012) and the Veteran Cycle Racing Club (2003 – 2006) who had a name change to Veteran-Cycle and Racing Club (2006 – 2013) and a second name change to Retro Cycle Club (2013 – 2016). There have been some one-off affiliation as well such as Club des Velocipedes Historiques (1979) and in the first five years non-affiliated cycling organisations were allowed to enter the Rally such as Pickwick Bicycle Club, Antique Bicycle Club of America, The Wheelmen of USA, CTC, Tricycle Association, National Clarion Cycling Club, Veteran Time Triallists (sic) Association, Forty Plus Cycling Club, Dandy Chargers as well as various Wheelers Clubs and general cycling clubs.
In 2016 there are currently nine affiliated Clubs to the NAVCC, these are, with the year of affiliation, as shown through the National Rally programmes; Peterborough Vintage Cycle Club (1956), Long Sutton & District Veteran Cycle Club (1958), Benson Veteran Cycle Club (1963), Boston Veteran Bicycle Club (1965), Bygone Bykes Yorkshire Club (1972), Desford Lane Pedallers Veteran Cycle Club (1980), March Vintage & Veteran Cycle Club (1983), Solent Veteran Bicycle & Tricycle Club (1988) and Northern Counties Veteran & Classic Cycle Club (2007).
The final word goes to Bridget Ellis, who attended the first National Rally in 1957 and today is the last of the original members still attending the National Rally. She has many friends, both past and present, who like her enjoy the camaraderie and fun of riding our old cycles for the enjoyment of ourselves and the public and in Bridget’s words;
“Members with their families and friends riding around the countryside on their veteran and vintage cycles. Year by year, mile by mile, from north to south, from east to west. May cycling continue in the years to come. With my very best wishes to everyone, carry-on cycling”.
Bridget Ellis, Long Sutton & District Veteran Cycle Club, 2016.
Honorary Secretary, NAVCC,