Harp Road Club
1938 - 2000

Club Life


In March 1937 a couple of N.C.U. P.M.s (National Cycling Union Private Members) formed the London North West Section of the NCU with the help of London Centre. In a short while we were running dances, dinners, magazines, reliability trials and all the usual activities of a prosperous cycling club. In 1938 the Harp Road Club was born to cater for the racing interests.

The first club room was over the Lightning Cafe at Staples Corner where George Fleming (of 50 fame) gave us great assistance. Later another room was hired at the Olde Plough, Kilburn Lane, so the club could meet Tuesdays and Fridays. In the middle of 1939 the club moved to the Watling Centre having a room in the old barn.

Club membership was in the fifties with about a dozen women folk, and the greater part of these came out on club runs which met at 9.45am for hardriders and 10am for the social section and went to all the old familiar places. On 18th. June 1938 it was the turn of the Section to promote the Reliability Trial which they did bad made a bad job of it so it is told. The racing section (Harp) was more successful though, winning some of the Brookmans Park massed start races and a number of time trials.

On the social side they had a yearly Dinner and Dance, a number of ordinary dances and plenty of club room activities including lectures by Ragged Staff from `The Bicycle' and E. Spain from the N.C.U. H.Q., table tennis and darts tournaments and so on. Other social activities included coach outings to the sea.

One of the ambitious things they did was to publish a quarterly magazine called `The Link' as a commercial effort similar to `Cycling' but without the racing results. It had a circulation of just under 2,000 and was sold to a great number of clubs in the London area. An incident happened when they tried to sell copies at the 1938 Wembley Six. It appears there was a newspaper printed bearing a similar name to `The Link' published by the Communists for Russia and we felt the brunt of the cyclists dislike for Russia. This dislike was strong before the war. The magazine came to an untimely end when a number in the club wanted it to be a personal magazine for the N.W. Section but wanted to keep the same standard of work as before. However, this meant no financial backing from adverts and the Editor resigned.

When the war came the active membership of the club began to decline for several obvious reasons and in September 1940 it was decided to pack-up and that was the end. The records were given to the London Centre with all the other property, trophies, cash and equipment for safe keeping. But alas, sometime in the blitz everything was destroyed.

During the war nearly all N.C.U. London Section P.M. Sections dis-banded and in common with the others some of the more energetic P.M.s sought about reforming the clubs. In the early months of 1947, four P.M.s wrote to the non-active members in the London N.W. area inviting them to a trial run on 11th. May. This run over familiar lanes was reasonably successful, 9 people attending. The following week 13 came and they set about finding a club room and electing officials. Reg Renshaw was a member of the committee.

The club slowly grew gaining impetus when half of the Research R.C. (G.P.O. Reasearch Station at Dollis Hill) joined the Section en bloc creating fresh blood and renewing flagging spirits. In 1948 interest grew beyond club runs to include time trials and social events; the first club dance was in November 1948.

During 1949 the club prospered, started time trialling in earnest (club 25 record of 1.6.21 by Bert Childs).

The Link was re-published with a different policy - to suit the club, and not the general public. Unfortunately, owing to printing troubles the Link again ceased publication after three editions. The Link was re-established in 1951 as a bi-monthly publication (costing 3d.) with Bob Taylor and Les Kipp as Editors.

1950 saw greater expansion with massed start and track racing but with little success. In 1951 the massed start dropped but the track flourished and we began to get known there as well as on the road. This year also marked the first year we held a dinner and dance since before the war. It was unanimously declared a success and became a regular annual feature. 1951 also brought about 2 separate runs programmes, one for juniors and those new to club riding and a senior or advanced run.

For many years Mr. Kipp, father of Dennis and Les, printed the club's runs lists, tickets, certificates, Dinner menues, etc.. Mrs. Kipp supplied knitted woollen club jerseys in the club colours of yellow with green motifs.

Early in 1959 the NCU was replaced by the British Cycling Federation (BCF) which proceeded to split the London area into a number of Divisions. The old NW London PM’s Section of the NCU became the BCF pm’s Section of the West London Division. Geographically it meant that the clubroom (at Watling Community Centre, Burnt Oak) was far from the centre of the Division which was not helpful in attracting new members. Also, by 1962, the PMs had gradually dropped from 170 to 110. Over the years all had been advised of the Section’s and Harp’s various activities but replies were never more than five in a year with some from far-away Hounslow and Twickenham. To allow the Harp to expand it was considered necessary to become a free agent, withdraw from the PM Section and become affiliated to the BCF. This was done in 1963 and at the same time the PM’s section was wound-up with all its assets being taken over by the Harp.

The Annual Dinner and Prize Presentation evening plus dance became the highlight of the year's social activities. From 1951 to 1955 the venue was `The Abbey Hotel', Stonebridge Park but in 1956 we moved to `The Oldfield Hotel', Greenford, and for the remainder of the 1950s it was `The Sparrowhawk', Edgware.

Harp Dinner Cover

With so few members having access to cars and cycling home after an evening of revelry not always inviting, coaches were laid on for members and their guests during part of this period.

Throughout the 50s Tom Collins (Marsh CC and NW Section) was Chairman for the evening and Grace Harper (Kingsbury CC and Norlond Combine) presented the prizes except for 1959 when Charlie Harper (Harrow & Ricky CC) was Chairman and the prizes were presented by the wife of our guest of honour, Mr. Ian Orr-Ewing MP (later to become Lord Orr-Ewing).

Harp Dinner Toast List

Names on the toast lists during this period included Eric Ayres, Arth ur Balmer, Pete Birbeck, Bill Cooledge (Norian RC), Charlie Flint (Willesden CC), Bryan Hutt, Les Kipp, Basil Kite (Wembley Clarion), Paddy McKee, Cyril Marsh, Nick Nye, Bill Petty, Orpy Phillips (Gospel Oak CC), Don Peacock, Dennis Stirrup, Chas Taylor,

Also, during the ‘50s, the Sunday morning following the Dinner was spent at the Colnbrook Walk, either watching or urging on those members taking part.

In the 60s we used `The Flying Eagle’, `The White Lion’ (both Edgware), `The Surrey Arms’, West Hendon, `The Belmont Hotel’, Belmont Circle, and the evenings were chaired by Charlie Harper with Grace presenting the awards.

In 1972, after a break of some years, we went back to the `Flying Eagle’ for a particularly successful evening culminating in a 5 donation from the manager because he thought the function so good! (The Club made 57p on the evening.)

In the early years the Sunday Club Runs were well organised, with printed programmes and an appointed Runs Captain.

For many years they started from Staples Corner (9.30am winter months, 9am rest of the year) and half-an-hour later at Hanger Lane, `The Target’ (changed later to Harrow Met Station) or Edgware Station. Each run had an allocated leader. There were scheduled stops for 11s, lunch and tea and sometimes even breakfast.

Club Runs List 1954

In the mid-50s there were separate runs for seniors and juniors. Favorite stopping places included `The Shanty’, Stanwell Moor, `The Cricketers’, Redbourn, `The Millstream’, Hemel Hempstead, `The Cow Roast, Northchurch, `The Marshmoor’, Hatfield and `The Bungalow’, Burnham Green.

Included in the regular programme were YHA weekends and occasional map-reading and speed-judging contests. Favourite YHA hostels included Nortons Green, Doddington,

Those were the days


Jim’s cycle shop at 273 The Hyde was the mecca during the 1950s and 60s. But Jim was more than just a friendly and helpful cycle dealer in Colindale; he became a great benefactor to the sport and particularly to Harp members. He provided team transport to such venues as the Southend Road and the Bath Road with incentives of racing tyres for beating the hour or breakfast if the Harp won the team award.

Jim Bird

After Jim’s death in 1974 a Memorial Trophy fund was opened to perpetuate his name. Over 170 was raised. The donations, many of them accompanied by long letters mentioning memories of Jim, came from all over the British Isles and also abroad. A magnificent cup was purchased and was presented for the first time to the winner of the 1995 Harp Open 25 which had become “The Jim Bird Memorial 25”. Mrs. Bird made an extremely generous donation to enable the Club to purchase six one-pint English pewter tankards which were awarded to the Open 25 winners as permanent prizes.

In 1949 the club ran a 60 mile reliability trial in 6 and 4 hours for club members on a hot summer's day in August finishing in Redbourn.

Reliability Finish 1949

This led to the `open' 100 mile Hardriders Trial with options for completing the event within 6 or 7 hours. A dinner stop was provided in Tring. In 1952 medals were won by Bert Childs (6 hours) and J.Alderton, Les Kipp, Don Peacock, Chas Taylor, Pete Turner (7 hours).

From 1954 a shield was presented to the team with the most number of finishers within their respective time categories. The team award was won by the Colnbrook RC for the first four years.

The event has been held every year since then with changes being introduced as thought useful but we have always tried to include Whipsnade in the route and for many years hot soup was provided for those reaching the top of Bison Hill.

In the early days the start and finish were at the Busy Bee Cafe on the Watford by-pass. In the early 60’s the route was Busy Bee - Chenies - Felden - `Shanty’ Bourne End - Tring (lunch) - Wendover - Marlow - Amersham - Chesham - Ley Hill - Bovingdon - Hunton Bridge - Busy Bee.

Whipsnade Turn 1955

During the 50’s and 60’s the weather was regularly reported as in such terms as “Very cold with snow and ice”,“Snow, slush, drizzle and thick mist”,“Pouring rain”,“Rain and wind” resulting in loops being cut out and very few finishers some years (9 out of 60 starters in 1964, 8 out of 32 in 1965). 83 entries, 58 starters, 21 finishers. Thus, in 1966, falling entries and regular complaints of “Too hard” caused the distance to be cut to 100km over a Watford - High Wycombe - Wendover - Watford course. The entries grew from 32 the previous year to 90 but the change was not welcomed by everyone but never-the-less was retained. Occasionally, in addition to the 100km distance, a 50km event would be laid-on for youngsters but there were never many riders for this distance.

A couple of years later the start was moved to Maples Cross with the finish at the Oasis Cafe, Rickmansworth. We out-stayed our welcome there when one year, based on experience, we pre-ordered umpteen roast beef dinners to be ready as riders finished only to find that this time the riders only wanted snack meals. This turned out to be a costly event for the Club.

In the early 70’s the start moved to Wooburn Green and took the scenic route via Cryers Hill, Wendover, Dunsmore, across country to Whipsnade and back to the finish in Beaconsfield.

During the 80’s the course changed yet again; Denham - Amersham - Chesham - Berkampsted - Whipsnade - Dunstable - Tring - Aston Hill - Ivinghoe Beacon - Berkhamsted - Chesham - Amersham. The finish was at Fred’s Cafe in Amersham and when this closed we resorted to Amersham car-park.

Often the HHH clashed with at least one other local reliability trial. It seemed impossible to reliably arrange dates to avoid these clashes, the matter being addressed too late to allow any changes. However, in the autumn of 1998 we approached some of the other organisers and arranged dates on consecutive weeks for 1999. This was then taken further to establish the “Classic Reliabilty Trials” consisting of the Harp, Hemel Hempstead and Luton Arrow events during February. Apart from each event’s own awards, any rider successfully completing all three events won a handsome engraved tumbler. Three were won in this first year.

1999 also saw the start and finish of the HHH moved to the Hemel’s clubroom at Nash Mills, rather more comfortable than an open car-park. The course was largely unchanged, the existing course being joined at Chesham via Bovingdon and returning via White Hill and Bovindon.

Thursday evenings 8pm `Watling Centre', Deansbrook Road, Burnt Oak.

The Club has been led and guided by those many individuals prepared to take on a Committee role, some serving for very long periods, others just for one or two years. The introduction of new posts and the disappearance of existing posts is a reflection of the members’ activities and interests over the years.
  1. Chairman - T.E.Cutts V. Chairman - G.E.Mulalley Sec. - Reg Renshaw Treas. - Arthur Blaney Runs Capt. - Dave Nye Racing Sec. - Bill Stephens Press - G.H.V. Mulalley YHA & Map Librarian - Val Fairbrother
  2. Chairman - Dave Nye Gen. Sec. - Don Peacock Soc. Sec. - Chas Taylor Runs Capt. - Les Kipp Racing Sec. - Bill Stephens
  3. Chairman - ? Sec. - Don Peacock Soc. Sec - Bill Petty
  4. Chairman - Pete Birbeck Sec. - Don Peacock Soc. Sec. - Les Kipp
  5. Gen. Secretary - Don Peacock Racing Sec. - Bert Childs Runs Capt. - Dennis Guy Soc. Sec. - Les Kipp
  6. Gen. Sec. - Jeff Harrison Runs Capt.- Barry Kendall Soc. Sec. - Les Kipp
  7. Gen. Sec. - Dennis Stirrup Racing Sec. - Bob McKee Runs Capt. - Bob Tomkins Soc. Sec. - Les Kipp
  8. Gen. Sec. - Bryan Hutt Treas. - Bob McKee Soc. Sec. - Ted Ayres
  9. Chairman - Bryan Hutt Sec. - Martin Young Treas. - John Bidwell Ass. Sec - Bob Sturnham TT Sec - Brian Patrick YHA - Trevor Knight RR & Track - Geoff Byne Jun. rep - Alan Atherfold Editor - Dave Aitken
  10. Chairman - Bryan Hutt Sec. - Martin Young Treas. - John Bidwell TT Sec - John Carse YHA - Geoff Jones Soc. Sec - Ted Ayres RR & Track - Geoff Byne Jun. rep - John Warren Editor - Dave Aitken Press Sec - Brian Tarbox
  11. Chairman - Dave Aitken Sec. - Martin Young Treas. - Dave Bryant TT - John Warren Jun. Rep - Richard Braginton RR & Track - Brian Tarbox Soc. sec - Ted Ayres Press - Bob Addison Editor - Bryan Hutt
  12. Chairman - Ken Broadhurst Sec. - Bryan Hutt Treasurer - Dave Bryant TT - Brian Unwin Jun. rep - Phil Corley RR & Track - John Warren Editor - Bob Addison
  13. Chairman - Ken Broadhurst Sec. - Bryan Hutt Treas.- John Bidwell RR Sec. - Dave Balfour-Yates TT Sec. - Pete Cookson Track Sec. - Dave Le Fevre CC Sec. - Phil Corley Soc. Sec. - Dave Geary Jun. Rep. - Vacant Press - Mick Hall Editor - Bryan Hutt
  14. Chairman - Ken Broadhurst Sec. - Mick Hall Treas.- John Warren RR Sec. - Dave Balfour-Yates TT Sec. - Pete Cookson Track Sec. - Graham Boosey CC Sec. - Phil Corley Soc. Sec. - Brian Unwin Jun. Rep. - Vacant Press - Mick Hall Editor - Bryan Hutt
  15. Chairman - Ken Broadhurst Sec. - Mick Hall Treas.- John Warren RR Sec. - Dave Balfour-Yates TT Sec. - Pete Cookson Track Sec. - Dave Le Fevre CC Sec. - Phil Corley Soc. Sec. - Bob Sturnham Jun. Rep. - Richard Hutt Press - Mick Hall Editor - Bryan Hutt
  16. Only change: Press - Mick Clark

  17. Chairman - Ken Broadhurst Sec. - Bryan Hutt Treas.- Dave Le Fevre RR Sec. - Mick Hall TT Sec. - Pete Cookson Track Sec. - Vac. CC Sec. - Vac. Soc. Sec. -Vac. Jun. Rep. - Glen Butterworth Press - Mick Clark Editor -Vac.

Past and present associations the club has been affiliated to:
British Cycling (BCF)
British Cyclo Cross Ass.
London Cycling Campaign
Norlond TT Combine
North Middx. & Herts. CA
Paddington Track League
Cycling Time Trials (RTTC)
Surrey Road Race League
Welwyn Track League
West Herts Combine
West London Combine
The original work for this page was an un-published article produced by Bryan Hutt.
The Introduction is based on articles for `The Link' by Les Kipp in the 1950s who had to locate and contact pre-war members to obtain the pre-war information.