Nottingham Clarion: A Short History
In 1894 a small group of Socialists met in Birmingham to found a "Socialist Cycling Club". They were all readers of the "Clarion", a weekly paper that was busy converting people by the thousand to the new ideas of Socialism. The name "Clarion Cycling Club" was adopted and the idea spread rapidly, with branches springing up all over the country, particularly in the industrial north. Within a couple of years, membership was in the thousands, mostly working people from the mills, mines and factories of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
At weekends, hundreds of "Clarionettes" on bicycles would set out along country byways, often accompanied by a horse drawn Clarion van with its stock of Socialist literature for distribution around north country villages. Where the van halted, the cyclists loyally dismounted and grouped together, forming the nucleus of a gathering for the speakers.
The movement spread from cycling to other activities. There were Clarion choral societies, rambling clubs, and even in the 1920's, clarion Motorcycling clubs. As the movement grew Clarion Clubhouses sprang up around the country, financed by collections and appeals in Trade Union newspapers. These clubhouses were the forerunners of the Y.H.A. movement, being run on the same lines as the self-catering hostel. The Club was in its hey-day before the First World War, with membership reaching over 30,000.
The Club continued after the First War, but with less emphasis on politics, and more on ordinary cycling club activity, with racing becoming ever more important.
During the 1930's the Club had over 300 sections, but after the 1939/45 war only a small number of these sections survived.
The Nottingham section was lucky in having three girls, namely Eileen Denyer, Lil Wheatcroft and Gladys Harwood, who were determined to keep the section alive. Although the origins of the Nottingham section are obscure, there is evidence of a section being in existence in 1906, boasting among its members Alderman Griffin and Harry Wheatcroft.
The 1932 edition of the Clarion Easter Meet was held in Nottingham, for which Henry Lloyd's father was asked to find bed and breakfast accommodation for several hundred cyclists from all parts of the British Isles. By placing adverts in the Nottingham papers he succeeded in housing everyone to their satisfaction at between 12p to 25p per night! Henry obtained a campsite behind Duxbury's Garage on Radcliffe Road and was not the most popular person as a result of the ground being waterlogged over the Easter period.
All this activity led to the formation of the present Nottingham section shortly after the 1932 Meet, when Jim and Dora Wilson, Bill Mellors and Henry Lloyd met on Trent Bridge for the inaugural Club run. The following week, they had the support of the Clarion based in Huthwaite. We celebrated 75 years of the Club in 2008 taking our formation year as 'officially' 1933.
From then on, the section grew in strength with a membership of about 100 through the 1930's. Political activity declined except during the Spanish Civil War when members collected food parcels, although one member, Lionel Poxon actually joined the International Brigade but was wounded and repatriated.
That's Gordon Baker on the far right!
By the 1970's membership nationally had dwindled to less than 1,000, members of all political persuasions rubbing shoulders in perfect harmony (well, nearly!). Nottingham has continued to be one of the strongest sections, concentrating on time trials, social runs and weekend hostel runs. For many, the hilight of the year is still the Easter Meet. The motto of the Clarion "Fellowship is Life, lack of fellowship is Death" (Sir William Morris), is never more true than at an Easter Meet.
This historical background to the Club is taken from notes kindly supplied by Henry Lloyd (pictured), a founding member and past President.
In 1978 Nottingham Clarion CC was formed when the Notts and Derby Clarion C & A.C. (the racing club for Heanor and Nottingham Sections combined) reverted back to being two separate clubs, with Nottingham members choosing to become a cycling club in its own right, but retaining an affiliation with the National Club. Nottingham members now have the option to join the National body for an extra £6.00. This enables you to take part in National Clarion competitions and Championships, and be kept up to date with details of National Clarion Meets such as Easter and Wortley Hall, through the twice yearly magazine 'Boots & Spurs'.
In 2003 we moved our Evening 10 course from Lowdham to the Lime Kiln near Cropwell Bishop and with some hardwork from club members, some stalwarts and some new, the Club underwent a few changes with a new website, kit and a revamp of club events. The Club has now grown from its core membership and has riders of all ages interested in all forms of cycling.