The Westerley was founded and shaped for much of its first 100 years by one man, W H Townsend O.B.E, founder member and club president from 1928 to 2007. Known to us as Will or WHT, in the early 1920s Will and a group of friends were riding    regularly with the London Western Section of the Cyclists Touring Club. During 1923 and 1924 the group of friends started to split up as they individually joined local racing clubs to participate in time trials. Seeing his friendship group disperse Will suggested that the CTC Section should form its own racing club to keep them together. So, on the 21st December 1924 a meeting was held at the Pear Tree Tea Rooms, Chobham to form a racing club with the title of the Western Wheelers for regularly riding male members of the Western Section.

These origins characterised the club until recent times. To join the Westerley you first had to be a CTC member. This resulted in distinct touring and racing strands of club activity with members tending to one or the other. Weekend cycling was mostly done as leisurely rides with the local CTC (Cafe To Cafe) Ealing and Edgware Sections. Racing was mostly done riding club and ‘open’ Time Trials to compete in the club Club Championship competition.

To avoid confusion with an existing Western Cycling Club the club name was soon changed to the Westerley Road Club which it remained until the 1990s when it was changed to the Westerley Cycling Club. In 1925, the Westerley’s first active year, the racing program was three ‘25’s, two ‘50’s, a ‘100’, a twelve hour and a Hill Climb. That remained the basic Club Programme into the war years.

If you have been a club member for long enough you have been privileged to know some of the first generation of Westerley riders. One such was Bill Harrison who joined the club in 1927 and won the Club Championship in the four years 1929-1931. In 1931 Bill placed fourth in the second Best All Rounder Competition organised by “Cycling” magazine.

At the first club committee meeting in 1929 it was decided that the Westerley should promote an open event and Will recalls Bill Harrison saying “Let us promote a real event not a boys ‘25’ “. This resulted in the Westerley ‘100’ being promoted in August from 1929 to 2005. Competition records were set by Shake Earnshaw in 1938 and Andy Wilkinson in 1996. In 1983 the Westerley hosted the National ‘100’ Championship won by Ian Cammish. Read the list of winners down the years and you will see some of the most famous names in British cycle sport.

With road traffic conditions getting more congested, Sundays included, it has become very difficult to run a ’100’ on public roads. In these circumstances the Westerley decided to promote the ‘100’ for the last time in 2005 when we hosted the National Championship ’100’ won by Michael Hutchinson.

I have fond memories of competing in the Westerley ‘100’ in the 1970s and 80s, a time when many main roads were still single carriageways going through picturesque countryside. The traditional ‘100’ course started in Pangbourne Lane south of Reading and joined the A4 Bath Road to head west past Newbury to turn at Froxfield. At Speen just short of Newbury on the return you turned left along Ermin Street Roman Road to turn at Membury. This left about 25 miles back to the finish at Pangbourne Lane with a rising westerly wind to aid you. Somewhere along the route you got a cheery shout from a marshalling Bill Harrison who was by then a country gentleman living out that way.

In 1930 Will started organising Road Records Association record attempts for Westerley riders. Bill Harrison was the first breaking the RRA London to Bath and Back bicycle record. Over the next three decades Will organised a total of 25 record attempts of which 8 were successful. In 1931 Henry Payne, Club Champion for the Westerley’s first three years, who already held the London to York tricycle record, added the London to Bath and back tricycle record. The London to Liverpool tricycle record was broken in October 1935 by Arthur Abram who, not satisfied with that, broke it again in November a month later. Arthur rounded off his trike record breaking career with the Liverpool to Edinburgh tricycle record In 1939.

As the months passed from the start of the war in 1939 member after member joined the forces resulting in racing and admin members being greatly reduced. In those difficult years Les Ames did great work keeping the Club going. During the war six Westerley members were killed in action. Will served four and a half years in the RAF being invalided out towards the end of 1945.

The 1950s saw a revival in traditional cycle sport in the UK and also a three way conflict between partisans for the governing bodies; RTTC for Time Trialing, the cautious NCU for cycle sport in general and the upstart BLRC (The ‘League’), breaking the rules to promote “massed start” racing. It was a four way conflict if you include the government who didn’t want cycle racing taking place on the public roads at all. Enough to say that Will was a key figure in negotiating with government representatives to formulate and pass the legislation that enables Time Trials to take place on public roads to this day.

Among the new generation of Westerley riders in the 1950s John Mortimer was outstanding. In 1955 John was third in the National 12 Hour championship riding just half a mile short of 260 miles. As a club record that distance stood for decades until it was finally broken by Frank Proud in 2014. In 1955 John also broke national tricycle competition records at 50 and 100 miles and the London to Brighton and Back Tricycle Record.

In 1972 when I joined the club Will was very much in charge with an active team including, Bob Kynaston, Keith Brown, Alan Gough and John Hoskins. Stan Chandler who had been ahead of the curve with a 56.48 ’25’ in 1968 came back to be club champion for one last time in 1974. Longer standing members    Brian Alexander, Pete Masterson, Bob Wood and Norman Ware were also actively riding or looking after club admin. Spread further afield were a larger group of retired or ‘inactive’ members who could be called on to help run the Westerley 100 that needed up to 44 marshals in its later editions.

Bob Kynaston in particular combined the racing and touring strands of Westerley activity. While continuing to be a fast 25 miler he was a longtime mainstay of the Edgware Section rides and tours.   

The early 1970s saw an influx of teenagers into the club some of whom became core members. Don Frawley, Richard Burton, Roland Collicott, Pete White, Paul Barker and Tom Newman come to mind. Roland has been a consistently successful all rounder riding for the club for three or four decades. An incident comes to mind riding the Goodmayes 100 in July 1983. At 50 or 60 miles Roland caught me for several minutes. I was not feeling my best or going as fast as I should have been. Roland pulled up along side of me and asked, ‘Are you OK’ to which I replied, ‘Yes’. With that Roland pulled out some sweets and gave me one saying, ‘This will keep you going’. He then rode off to finish in 4.17.30. I eventually finished in 4.37.40 to be greeted by Richard who had done 4.01.27 setting club individual and team 100 records that stood    for 34 years. Ian Cammish showed us how it should be done by setting a competition record with his winning time of 3.31.53.

Through the 80s and 90s Don and Richard were closely matched vying with each other to update the club ‘25’ record. The tradition of two fast men in close competition was carried on in the 2000s by Malcolm Woolsey and Dave Newman. Come the 2010s and Andy Halliday joined the club to update the record book at nearly all distances. The current records at ‘10’, ‘25’, ‘50’ and ‘100’ miles were set not long afterwards by Ben Allen and will be very hard to beat.

Having moved with the times and admitted women members, the club gained two outstanding riders in the 1970s; Christian Donovan and Barbara Lofthouse. Christian’s 1977 ‘25’ club record of 1.03.36 still stands. Sometime in the late 1970s I was persuaded against my better judgment to ride an early season 2-Up ‘25’ with Barbara. In my unfit state I was suffering on her back wheel about a mile from the finish when Barbara turned her head to look back at me and ask, ‘Can’t you go any faster?’ When i gasped no, in reply she rode off and finished about 100 metres ahead of me.

In the late 1980s Roger and Ann Woolsey got involved with the club and were soon taking on catering and admin roles. It is well known that Roger has yet to find the on switch for a computer and yet his contribution to the club administration over the years has been prodigious. Note that he has been greatly aided by Ann who can operate the on switch of a computer.

Will was 100 in 2005 and on 25th May the club held a party for him. Cycling star Eileen Sheridan, who in the early 1950s broke all 21 RRA records, came and helped him cut the cake. When he died in 2007 it was, as John Bateman said, ‘The end of an era’.

The Westerley is now based at the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit clubroom in Minet Country Park where we run our popular series of Wednesday evening circuit 10s from April to August each year. Looking back, Hillingdon Circuit appeared in the year 1997 as if by magic. The secret was that the Westerley had its own magician in the person of Paul Barker. At the time Paul was a Hillingdon councilor and the Hayes bypass was being built. On the west side a retail park was developed part funding the development of a country park on the east side. Paul persuaded Hillingdon Council that what the park really needed was a cycle racing road circuit. To bring the circuit into use Paul arranged for huts to be erected to provide basic facilities. I can see the mice scurrying about now looking for crumbs from bike riders energy bars. The present clubroom at the circuit with all mod con was built in 2010. Paul also suggested to Brian Wright and Ray Kelly that a children’s club should be started at the circuit. That club became the hugely successful Hillingdon Slipstreamers.

In my 50 plus years in the Westerley I have, over the 32 year period from 1987 to 2019, been four times awarded the trophy for being the best bit of ‘Old Crockery’ in the club. When much younger I did not expect to get halfway through my ninth decade more or less in working order. I thank the Westerley for that. It has been great fun participating in the club activities and achieving my teenage ambition to get ‘under the hour’ at 25 miles.

In 1925, the first active year of the Westerley, there were about 300,000 cars on the roads. Today there are 40 million. That is the scale of the change that cycling on public roads is having to adapt to. May the Westerley meet that challenge and continue to thrive for the next 100 years.

Keith Shorten – November 2023