Report: Annual Guy Barber Memorial Ride, Sunday 23 July, in aid of Headway Northampton

Our Secretary Brian did much of the organising of this year’s Guy Barber Ride and he reports:

Now in its 12th year this challenging ride attracted eighteen riders from the CTC groups in Northampton, Milton Keynes and Kettering.  This was the first year of a route to Oxford with two start options of Northampton and Buckingham giving three rides of 94, 66 or 55 miles, all meeting up at Oxford for lunch.

Despite the early morning drizzle ten riders left East Hunsbury at 8.30 a.m. for the first leg to Buckingham of the 94-mile ride.  This took us on mainly quiet roads through Blisworth, Pury End and Leckhampstead.  The drizzle stopped, and the sun emerged from the cloudy skies, as the group made Buckingham at 9.45am. Perfect timing to meet the eight MK riders who had cycled out from Stony Stratford and beyond.

The Northampton group set off for the first café stop seven miles away in Twyford whilst the remaining group signed in and left a little later.  An early puncture close to the start split the second group and this was further split when the Community Café at Twyford had unexpectedly closed that morning.  The shop was open but, after a brief stop for snacks, the first group motored on to Oxford leaving a second group to pick up the punctured riders.

As we meandered through the small villages of Marsh Gibbon, Piddington, Boarstal and Stanton St John, there was little traffic on the roads.  The sun came out and we had ideal cycling weather.

Oxford “arrived” when we met the ring road, a dual-carriageway roundabout with a couple of underpasses.  Then we were through Headingley on a separate cycle path at and then onto marked tracks alongside the main road.   After a steep hill down into the centre of Oxford. it was only a short distance to Café Couscous for lunch.  Just to add to the “best laid plans” the last stretch of road before the café was closed for road works.  So much for the recent reconnoitre!

The first group arrived at noon and had just finished lunch as the second group arrived at 1.00 p.m.  This was good timing for the café.  The forecasted midday rain did not materialise and we enjoyed sun and blue skies at the café.

One rider's lunch at Café Couscous - vegetarian tagine!

One rider’s lunch at Café Couscous: vegetarian tagine!

The first group took the route back to Northampton via Islip, Kirtlington, the Heyfords and on to Aynho where Ian peeled off to Buckingham and a stop at Stowe Park for tea (the only rider to complete the 66m route) whilst the rest rode on to Farthinghoe for the last café stop.  Only twenty-two miles now, on familiar quiet roads, back to Northampton via Helmdon, Wappenham and Greens Norton. This group arrived in Northampton at around 5.00 p.m.

The second group finished a very good lunch by 2.00 p.m. and split for the return journey.  The MK riders returned via Beckley, Brill (hill !), Ludgershall and onto Buckingham, stopping at the Green Dragon Eco Centre near East Claydon for tea and possibly even cakes!

This left 4 riders to return via Islip and a detour via Brackley for tea and cookies, sitting in the late afternoon sun outside a café before returning to the original route to Northampton arriving at 6.15 p.m.

A donation of £85 has been sent to

Who was Guy Barber ? Please see our web site

Thanks to all who supported this event.

CTC Northampton in 1923

David, one of our committee members, has been researching the history of Northampton’s cycling clubs.  Here he republishes a 1923 article about the Cyclists’ Touring Club Northamptonshire District Association.  It comes from the Northampton Independent, a weekly newspaper which ran from 1905 to 1960.  It It was written by Mr B Clowes who was based at 5 Castilian Street.  The editor described him as “the assiduous Hon Secretary” of the association.

The Cyclists’ Touring Club popularly known as the C.T.C. was formed as far back as 1878, and in those early days of cycling laid the foundation of those rights and privileges which cyclists enjoy to-day.

Amongst the objects of the Club are the defence of cyclists’ rights, provision of special touring facilities, promotion of legislation for cyclists, publication of road books and maps, scheduling of hotels and refreshment houses (with tariffs), appointment of official repairers, insurance of machines and riders, and the supply of cycling information.

The Club has a paid secretary and office staff located in Euston Road, London. Here there is a reference library and touring bureau, from which members who apply are supplied with routes and the latest information regarding the district in which they propose to tour.  The Club has in various parts of the country local representatives, or consuls, as they are called, who are always ready to assist and advise all cycling and touring members generally.  So far as continental travel is concerned, the Club has reciprocal arrangements with the Continental Touring Clubs.

Amongst other things the Club gives legal assistance to cyclists, issues a very fine illustrated monthly gazette (worth the subscription alone) and publishes an annual handbook.

For fostering local interest amongst members there are a large number of district associations which are in themselves complete social cycling clubs.  The Northants District Association is one of the youngest and is now forging ahead.  It is managed by a local committee, who are at all times willing to give careful consideration to matters appertaining to cycling brought to their notice by members.  Club runs are arranged for Thursdays, Saturdays, and at holiday times tours are arranged.  During the time the Association has been in being, runs have been held to many places of interest in this and neighbouring counties, and many pleasant hours have been spent at joint runs with other Associations. Ladies are eligible for membership, and we have several regular lady riders. We have no hard and fast rules, the runs being “free and easy”, and there is an air of sociability and good fellowship throughout.

There are those who say cycling is hard work, but these are the people, one imagines, who never tried anything but a “dreadnought” and perhaps even then never gave their bicycle a chance to make the acquaintance of an oil can.  With a light machine, kept in proper trim and a reasonably low gear, one can comfortably cover a century a day.  We have met on some of our joint runs members who were doing considerably more.  We are an all-the-year round cycling club.  The bicycle has enabled us to get about this delightful county of ours (which as not so flat as some people think) in all seasons. We have revelled in her Summer and Autumn glory, and we have enjoyed the sombre beauty of her Winter.  We have found one hundred and one beauty spots in this and neighbouring counties, and have drank of their beauty to the full.  We have enjoyed the expansive views of the Cotswolds.  We have meandered along the pretty lanes in the Thame Valley.  We have seen the gorgeous scenery of the Wye, and some of us have ridden to the majestic scenery of North Wales.  We have a host of delightful memories of this country of ours.  All these pleasures and many more are open to the cyclist, and to belong to an organisation such as ours means congenial companionship in addition.  There are numerous beauty spots in and around the outskirts of the town with which a large number of cyclists and other lovers of the open road are totally unfamiliar.

Here, for instance, is an exceptionally enjoyable run quite near at hand of which many of our cycling readers will doubtless avail themselves. Leaving Northampton by the Houghton Road we cross the river at the Paper Mills – where bank note paper was formerly manufactured – and soon pass Great Houghton with its church built in an Italian style.  Proceeding uphill we reach Little Houghton: near the church are the moat and foundations of an ancient mansion of the Louches.  A pleasant run takes us to Brafield-on-the Green, and then to Denton, where there is a tortuous twist round the church.  We now enter the picturesque country of Yardley Chase, the old forest which bounds the county to the southeast.  The village of Yardley Hastings takes its name from the de Hastings, lords of the village in the 13th and 14th centuries.  Edward Lye, the famous scholar, is buried in the Church of St. Andrew, which derived its dedication probably through the connection of the manor with the Royal line of Scotland.  Two miles further on, at Warrington cross roads, we turn to the left and proceed to Bozeat, and from there to the pretty village of Easton Maudit.  The church with its graceful spire should be visited.  Restored by the Marquis of
Northampton in 1860, it contains a number of inscriptions to ancient families.  At Easton Maudit dwelt Thomas Percy, author of the “Relique”, who entertained many famous literary men at the vicarage, including Goldsmith and Johnson.  Dr Johnson spent several weeks here. We now go to Grendon to explore the beauties of Castle Ashby park and village; then return to Northampton through Cogenhoe.

Around picturesque Castle Ashby

Around picturesque Castle Ashby

Another good journey for the cyclist and a pleasant spin for the motorist is to be enjoyed in the Mears Ashby and Earls Barton districts shown on the map.  Leaving by the Billing Road, we pass on the left Abington Rectory, where Sir Douglas Haig used to visit as a boy when his uncle was rector, and soon reach Little Billing.  Here are picturesque cottages, a church with a Saxon front, and the remains of a 14th century Manor House. Billing Bridge – said to have been the scene of a fight in the Civil Wars – is crossed, and a climb takes us to Cogenhoe.  The origin of this name is Gucken, to spy and hoe a hill.  Further on Whiston, a very pretty village, is worth visiting.  At Castle Ashby gates turn to the left and cross the railway line and river. Earls Barton tower is the next landmark.  The “most characteristic piece of Saxon work in the land,” it is 1000 years old.  Cross the Wellingborough Road and proceed through pretty lanes to Mears and Sywell.  In Sywell Woods, Captain Thompson, a Leveller mutineer who broke open Northampton Gaol in 1649 and robbed the public coffers, was rounded up and, after a bitter resistance, killed.  We pass through Overstone and return on Kettering Road.  It is said that from a hill between Overstone and Great Billing forty-five churches can be seen.  The panorama is certainly superb.  Those who desire a pretty walk should take the bus to Ecton, walk across the fields to Cogenhoe, and return by train from Billing station.

Around Mears Ashby and Earls Barton

Around Mears Ashby and Earls Barton

Northampton’s 19th-Century Cycling Heritage

David, one of our committee members, has been researching Northampton’s 19th -century cycling clubs.  He has unearthed some remarkable photographs.Photo 2This is the St James Cycling Club pictured at Franklin’s Gardens in 1898. Seated on the wooden chair in the centre is the Club President, Edward Lewis (boot and shoe manufacturer and Mayor of Northampton in 1903). The bicycles have no brakes as these were racing machines.  Cycle racing bicycles took place on the County Cricket Ground and on the Racecourse.  The position of the bugler was an important and honoured office to hold within the club.  During road runs a bugler usually rode either at the side or immediately behind the Captain (it was a strict rule that the latter led the outings and must not be overtaken).  By means of bugle calls he relayed the Captain’s instructions to the other members lower down the line.

St James Cycling Club, 1898This is the Northamptonshire Bicycle Club which counted James Manfield, E J Allchin and T P Dorman among its riding members, paying a subscription of 15 shillings a year and wearing – on penalty of relegation to the rear of the column – a uniform of dark green Norfolk serge shooting jackets and breeches, stockings and black polo caps.

Back row : Harry Smith, F. W. Hornby, Alfred Tedbutt, T. D. Church, Sid Green, James Green, Frank Milne, Jack Riddley, W. J. Hull, George Warren, Jack Perry, Mr Warwick (?), Harry Whiteman, Frank Whiteman,  Jack Daniels Front row – Mr Daniels (sen) Mrs Clifton (wife of the late Dr. Clifton), A. J. Jowett (Captain), Mrs Jowett.

Back row : Harry Smith, F. W. Hornby, Alfred Tedbutt, T. D. Church, Sid Green, James Green, Frank Milne, Jack Riddley, W. J. Hull, George Warren, Jack Perry, Mr Warwick (?), Harry Whiteman, Frank Whiteman, Jack Daniels
Front row – Mr Daniels (sen) Mrs Clifton (wife of the late Dr. Clifton), A. J. Jowett (Captain), Mrs Jowett.

And here is the same club – on a Whit Monday in the 1880s – at the Jepson Gardens in Leamington.  The run had started at 8.00 a.m. from the George Hotel in Northampton town centre (now the site of Lloyds Bank in George Row).  In Leamington, the riders met with other clubs for a parade to Warwick where a silver bugle was presented to the club with the best muster … the Northampton Club!

The participants rode 54″ “ordinary” bicycles, like the two in the photograph.  W J Hull, the borough accountant was thrown from his machine just before Southam and suffered a damaged shoulder.  This did not prevent him completing the ride!Rules

These are the rules of the Victoria Cycling Club – for “gentlemen amateurs” (Joseph Grose was a member).  They sported a navy uniform with a silver shield and the fees were a more modest seven shillings and six pence.

Members of the College Street Cycling Club – whose committee included W T Church the proprietor of the the glass firm – paid only one shilling and dispensed with uniform at the instigation of working men.

The clubs, however, were largely male affairs (except for the Northampton section of the socialist Clarion Club) and when on the road they demanded military-style obedience.  The signals of the bugler (working men’s clubs used a whistle) were to be instantly observed; no matter the wealth or status of his fellow, the authority of the Captain reigned supreme!

A Ride for Max Scott – Some Photographs

Max's brother-in-law says a few words

Max’s brother-in-law says a few words

Elevenses at Waterloo Farm Café

Elevenses at Waterloo Farm Café

Chatting in the queue at elevenses

Chatting in the queue at elevenses

Gathering along the lane south of Arthingworth

Gathering along the lane south of Arthingworth

Max's sister scatters his ashes

Max’s sister scatters his ashes

An affectionate marker

An affectionate marker

Some flowers from Max's garden

Some flowers from Max’s garden

CTC Northampton in the 1940s

I know it should be “Northampton CTC DA” (I think!) but I am grateful to David Upton for finding this article by Alan Burman, first published in 1997.

Day trip to Derbyshire on two wheels!

It was a sparkling summer morning in the late forties, the air rushing on our faces was full of the scent of hedgerow flowers and the verges were waist-high with keck.

The only sounds were the thrill of songbirds…and the swish of 60 narrow tyres!

1940s Image1

I was out with the Northampton branch of the Cyclists Touring Club in the post war heyday of the bicycle boom.

The Northampton group, officially known as the District Association, had existed on and off since the turn of the century and had been at its most thriving back in the 1920’s during the enthusiasm for the great outdoors that spawned numerous hiking and biking clubs.

After the Second World War, with petrol in short supply and new cars only obtainable under priority purchase schemes, the bicycle again came into its own and the pastime blossomed once again.  The CTC nationally had over 53,000 members at this time.

The Northampton section commonly met about 6.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning outside the cycle shop opposite the Town Hall. Riding two abreast in a long column we would set out heading for, perhaps, the Thames Valley, Bath or the Derbyshire Dales, distances on a day’s ride that now fill me with awe.

Many other clubs would be awheel before the countryside was awake and it was common to meet and greet other clubs, some from large towns like Coventry and Birmingham, in groups of 100 or more swishing past in the opposite direction.  We might see half a dozen such clubs before an early stop for breakfast.

1940s Image2

Cyclists, at that time, had many well-known and favourite cafés or teashops that catered especially for them.  Indeed, the CTC was the first organisation to run an approval scheme for eating houses, well before the RAC ,the AA or Egon Ronay!

Now and again a “tramps outing” would be run.  These events had a long history in the bicycling fraternity dating back to the old penny-farthing days. Dressed in old garb, we would cook up sausages and bacon over our little folding Primus stoves in the corner of some farmer’s field.

Once a year,we together with thousands of other cyclists, would converge on the Warwickshire village of Meriden, where a cyclists war memorial had been erected in 1921. Here, an open air service would be conducted by the Bishop of Coventry.

Well before the days when ancient bicycles were valued, an old gentleman from Coventry, a Mr Golby as I recall, had assembled a collection of historic machines and unselfishly loaned them out to be ridden to the service. The village was crammed with cycles, prewar tandems and sidecar machines, you name it and it was there.

Our local group included riders of some odd machines. One family rode out on a tandem with their son on a trailing attachment rather like a fork-less bicycle attached to a pivot under the saddle. A younger child rode in a miniature sidecar alongside.  Tricycles had had great popularity in the pioneer days of cycling, but by the fifties were uncommon.

Nevertheless, the Tremaine family, father and two sons, were great exponents on  three wheels. The sight of the boys on a tandem trike descending the hill into Aldbury  at speed, leaning below the level of the wheels to keep balance, the tyres screaming, and with the wheels flexing under the strain as the machine rounded the hairpin bend is indelibly imprinted on my memory.

The local CTC was one of the first groups to run a cycling proficiency scheme anywhere.  The idea had first been mooted in 1947, a joint conception by the club and RoSPA, and shortly afterwards the Northampton section joined the Brixworth Rural District Council in initiating a training programme for young riders.

The Northampton group still survives and must be approaching its centenary.  I wonder if today’s riders have as much fun as we did. I hope so!

[Editor’s note: CTC Northampton still cycles down the hill into Aldbury, most recently on the Nearly Golden Beeches Weekend last October.]