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The origins of the (National) Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s

The National Clarion Cycling Club and the ILP are two separate organisations. Nelson ILP had its own cycling club and for a number of years the Committee of the Nelson NCCC were all ILP members, which of course adds to the confusion. Nelson ILP was critical of Blatchford's support for WWI. We value the contribution made by the NCCC and the BWSF.) Download further information A3 (PDF 1.8MB)

11 May 1895 “Post-Bag” concluded – A Clarion call from Blatchford.

Having urged every Clarion reader to order the new monthly The Scout, Blatchford gave a list from its “Directory of Scouting Corps” of 23 such organisations together with their secretaries’ names and addresses, and encouraged readers to start one in any district not already covered. What’s more:

We want a Clarion Cycling Club in every town. Let every Clarionette who is a cyclist read the Scout; let him read the following “Directory of Cycling Clubs”.

And as with the scouting corps a list of clubs, secretaries and addresses followed in Birmingham, Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester (without any contact details), Newcastle, Nelson, Nottingham, Oldham, Potteries, Rochdale, Wigan and Wolverhampton.

The value of these clubs is very great and there is hardly any limit to the possibilities of the scheme. Let every Clarion reader buy the Scout, and that paper will be made larger and better until it is the best monthly paper in the world. Let every town form its scouting corps and glee club and soon “Merrie England”* will be in sight.

Come, my friends we can do it. Let us say we will do it. Let us make our minds up that next year we will have a Clarion cycle meet, at which a hundred clubs shall be represented. Let us resolve to have a hundred corps of Scouts at work before we taste another Christmas pudding.

These things can be done. But they can only be done by each reader acting as if the whole thing depended solely on his own exertions.

* Merrie England was the title of the little book by Blatchford explaining socialism in an easily accessible way that is often said to have been the most effective and successful piece of socialist propaganda ever in Britain. Originally serialised in the Clarion in 1892/3 it was then produced in book form for a shilling. It sold 25,000 copies. Then, with the Clarion covering the inevitable loss, a penny edition in October 1894 sold over 700,000, with a later 3rd edition taking sales up to nearly a million. It was said to have sold equally well in the USA and was translated into a number of languages including (oddly given the title) Welsh.

For further information about the Clarion Cycling Club read:
'FELLOWSHIP IS LIFE - The National Clarion Cycling Club 1895 - 1995'  Author: Denis Pye

The “Klarion Kamp” opens - from Swiftsure’s “Cycling Notes” Clarion, 31 August 1895

The Clarion camp at Pickmore opened last Saturday under happy auspices, and the first two days at once dispelled all doubts as to its success. The camp consists of the “Candid Friend’s” van, three bell tents and a large marquee. One bell tent and the van is reserved for the ladies and children. A notable feature has been the ready manner in which the neighbouring farmers and cottagers have proffered their assistance.

Upwards of 200 cyclists and friends visited the camp on the opening day, whilst about 60 stayed the night, 10 of them being ladies. Although the arrangements were slightly rough, the charm and freedom of living in the open air carried away all thoughts of home comforts, and the good fare provided by Secretary Reekie earned him the thanks of all who partook of it.

On the day following (Sunday) about 800 persons visited the camp, and as might be expected the commissariat was taxed to its utmost. Unfortunately the evening ended in a steady downpour and the homeward journey for many must have been an unpleasant experience.

Each evening an al fresco concert was held in the marquee, and the Manchester Clarion C.C. Glee Party made their debut at the first of these.

The proceedings were further enlivened by some excellent singing and reciting by Messrs. Williams, Field, Cummins (of Liverpool) Roddick, Rudd and several others, while Walter Sutcliffe brought sweet music from his zither

For more information about the early days of the Clarion Cycling Club visit Hayes Peoples History this site is a mine of information.

Sylvia Pankhurst and The Clarion Cycling Club

A fascinating insight into Sylvia Pankhurst's early involvement with the Manchester Clarion Cycling Club from the Country Standard Blogspot, Visit here.

'The Easy Six' and other members of Nelson Clarion Cycling Club at Consistone in Wharfedale on 6th April 1956
















1. William T Parker, 2. Alfred Coole, 3. Harold or Harry Proctor, 4. William Starkie, 5. Norman Phillips, 6. Harold Singleton, 7. Peter Howarth, 8. Ernest Phillips, brother of Norman, 9. Vera Nelson, 10. John Walne, 11. Alexander Lambert, 12. Geoffrey Thomas, 13. John Frederick Stowell

Members 1-4 and 6-7 constituted the 'Easy Six'

Not shown is member 14, the photographer: Melvyn Hirst

The Nelson Leader reported:

"In the warm afternoon sunshine we went up the valley to Conistone, some members climbed the Kicking Horse canyon to obtain a wonderful view.

"The homeward run was via Grassington, Hebden, lovely Burnsall, Appletreewick, Barden Towers, Hatton Moor, Embsay and Skipton (for tea), and we arrived home with a feeling of satisfaction for the day had been well spent."
"GRANBY" (one of the 'Easy Six). 

Article updated: 27 April 2018 to confirm No 13. being John Frederick Stowell.




Socialism and Sport


Photograph taken at the Second Czech "Workers Olympiad" in Prague in 1927.  The group includes six Clarion cyclists.

The second cyclist from the left on the front row is Tommy Hirst of
the Blackburn Section, who became the first Clarion National Racing Secretary in 1930 (Pye, p.64).


Billy Hill (right) a competitor in the 1928 'Workers Olympiad' in Moscow visiting the Clarion in the 1980's with his nephew Melvyn Hirst. Bill represented the British Workers Sports Federation.

Melvyn is a former member of Nelson Clarion Cycling Club (later a member of Clitheroe CCC).

The BWSF was formed by the CPGB and now is probably best remembered for organising the 1932 Kinder Scout trespass.

For more information about Socialism and Sport visit Hayes Peoples History you will be able to see a photograph of Bill and the other members of the BWSF team taken in 'Red Square'

Local Clarion Cyclist’s Tour de France
Tom Simpson & Alan Ramsbottom

Alan Ramsbottom born in Clayton le Moors in 1936 rode as an amateur for the North Lancs Clarion C & AC before turning professional. Alan twice rode the Tour de France in the nineteen sixties; he had a top 20 finish.

Alan Ramsbottom Way in Great Harwood is named after him.

Hills Special Cycles

Devotees with fond memories of Hills Special Cycles may find this web site of interest.

Margaret Dickinson

We have recently corresponded with Margaret Dickinson a former Nelson Clarion Cycling Club member who for a time lived nearby to the Clarion House at Spenbarn Farm. Margaret has sent us some photographs from earlier times

Clarion Cycling Club Annual Dinner 1953









I believe five of the Easy Six to be on this photograph but I can only name three. Rear left is Alf Coole, middle row Mr Singleton third from left, Mr Parker is second from right. I'm second left on front row.

Clarion Cycling Club Hill Climb 1955.









I am wearing a dark jacket and standing next to Marion Wells née Butterworth. Her husband Billy is kneeling to my left.


My sister and I at the Clarion, Jinny Lane, in 1946/7.








During the war the lanes were throng with crowds of folk walking over to the valley from surrounding towns. The Clarion Field was a hive of activity, particularly with people playing communal games.


Clarion Cyclists.

Burnley Clarion Cyclists at Towneley Hall - 1912

5 Burnley Clarion Cyclists photographed at Crown Point on route to Wilmslow Clarion House - date unknown.

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