The history of Alton Cycling Club
Janice Montgomerie has recorded the history of Alton Cycling club from its foundation to the present day. You can see all the Alton Cycling Club archive material by clicking on this Google Drive link. You don’t need to login. If you want to browse the recent photographs click on this link.
Since its foundation the Alton Cycling Club has had at least three distinct periods of existence, each separated by a decade or more. It was founded originally in 1878 as the Alton Bicycle Club, in the same year as the national bodies the Bicycle Union (later the National Cyclists’ Union) and the Cyclists’ Touring Club were established. The first members of Alton Bicycle Club enjoyed leisure rides and massed-start racing on local open roads until this was banned by the NCU in the 1890s. There was also a tricycle club at this time. A club continued to exist in Alton throughout the late nineteenth century but waned either before or during the early years of the twentieth century. It is likely, though not as yet confirmed, that it folded along with so many other clubs at the outbreak of the First World War.
Cycling in Alton in 1878
Most cycling clubs experience times of good membership and high activity and then periods when they become dormant, and almost disappear. Then a few enthusiasts get together and bring the club back to life. As you will see, organized cycling in Alton has followed this path.
The Hampshire Advertiser dated 25th May, 1878, records that a meeting was held in Alton Town Hall “for the purpose of forming a bicycle club”. It seems that there was a good attendance, with more than a dozen people joining the Alton Bicycle club. A Mr Lelleit was elected captain and it was decided the uniform would be grey with a distinguishing monogram, A.B.C. The club headquarters would be at the Swan Hotel.
The Hampshire Telegraph on 16th October 1878 reported that the Alton Bicycle Club ran a race between the Golden Pot and Alton, with the winner, Mr E Elliot, getting a medal as well as the first prize. In September 1879, the Hampshire Advertiser reported that the club organised a ten mile race on an out-and-back course, starting from the railway bridge at the Butts.
1934 to 1970s
Nothing is then known of a cycling club in Alton for over a decade, but a new era began in 1934 when the new Alton Cycling Club was founded. Records of this time exist from 1937 onwards which show club members were very active in time trialling and enjoyed weekend social rides.
We know that the club was very active in the 1930’s, from the records kept by Ron Stent, who joined the club in 1934 and is father-in-law of current member, Shaun Blow. Ron was to become the club 25 TT champion five times between 1937 and 1947. Another active member at this time was Bob Ransome, who for many years ran a cycle shop in the town. The club continued throughout the Second World War and into the 1950s but then floundered again in 1959, a time which coincided with a huge growth in car ownership and increasingly busy roads. Cycling had become less popular as a sport and there was no cycling club in Alton during the 1960s or for most of the 1970s. Alton cyclists interested in racing had to join the Farnham club, while leisure rides were organised by a CTC group established in the 1970s.
More recent years
In 1978, some Alton-based members of the Farnham RC, including Peter and Dorothy Walters, Ron Stent, Eddy Stevens and Les Brill, had a meeting in Dave McLellan’s house, and decided it was time to breathe life back in to Alton Cycling Club. By the early 80’s, membership numbered more than 60. At this time, Ray and Di Wood were very involved in promoting both social and racing activities. Di was Ladies BAR champion for three years running from 1980 through to ’82. Ray is now our club president. Dave McLellan, now a life member, was on the committee for more than 20 consecutive years.
The third and current phase of Alton Cycling Club has seen continued growth over the years, especially after the 2012 London Olympics, and now has around one hundred members. Members today take part in hill climbs, track competitions, audaxes, sportives, Zwift virtual events and cyclocross events as well as regular club rides. Cycling has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity nationwide and Alton Cycling Club today is in as strong a position as it ever has been to promote all types of cycling activities for local cyclists. Recent times have seen our club prosper in terms of membership, social events and organised club rides. Our distinctive club jerseys, which promote both our club and sponsor, are well known at cycling events across the south of England and further afield.