The following fascinating story has been compiled by our current Club President Mike Edwards and recorded on our website to preserve for the future.
The earliest records of cycling in Chippenham date back to information from a 1882 “The Cyclists and Wheel World” annual. The book states that the Chippenham Bicycle Club was formed in 1879 with their headquarters located at the Bear Hotel in Chippenham. The club membership existed of 12 members. J.B.Warrilow was club captain and W.J.Spiers the Hon. Secretary.
Around 1890 the name changed to The Chippenham Cycling Club so as to include tandems and tricycles. Research by Stuart Bond, (1972/1997) while Club Secretary produced the names of several Club officials and members. The Club President was Sir John Dickerson-Poynder MP who later was given the title of Lord Islington. Club members included Messrs. Swain, Bateman, England, Wheeler and Britain. During this period the club colours where green and white.
Another more famous rider was Harry Hunt. Harry, riding a “Pneumatic Cycle” in September 1894 covered 151 miles in 12 hours. Later he improved this distance to 165 miles. However, in October 1896 he eclipsed his previous rides with a record distance of 182 miles. We also have records of this ride: He left Chippenham at 06:00, arrived at Colnbrook at 11:20, returning to Chippenham at 17.19 having covered 182miles. When one considers the poor road surfaces of that time and the heavy machine he was riding, Harry Hunt’s achievements are remarkable. Medals commemorating his rides are attached to our President’s Chain of Office.
In 1975 The Club commemorated Harry Hunt’s name with the Club Open 50 miles Time Trial (T.T.) Trophy. This Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Open 25 miles T.T.
Information from the 1900 is very limited and more research is needed, however the Club Secretary in 1927 was a Mr. Bill Stevens, a Yorkshire man who moved to Chippenham to find work during the depression at that time. After this the Club went in to decline, the only known connection with this period was a Jack Ballanger. It was this gentleman in his early 70’s and still cycling during 1932 that aroused the interest of a group of young lads in the sport and pastime of cycling.
In October 1932 , five of these lads Jack Nunn, Jim Carvey, Charlie Cook, Sid Chivers and Joe Banks were sat on a bench in John Coles Park discussing how long it would take to ride to Swindon. They decided to made the momentous decision to reform the old Chippenham Cycling Club. At one time the park bench carried a plaque commemorating this occasion. Unfortunately the bench as been replaced but a photograph was taken 50 years later with Jack Nunn, Jim Carvey and an other early member Cyril Evans sat on the original bench. A 50th. Celebration Dinner was later held at the Old Bridge Centre.
The Club grew in numbers and by 1934 had found a room to meet at the Chippenham Y.M.C.A. However the members were under an obligation to reflect that organisation [YMCA], thus the club name was changed to The Chippenham Red Triangle Cycling Club reflecting the design of the badge that was used by the Chippenham Y.M.C.A. Amazingly the club published its first newsletter in January 1934 called “Wheel Life” and issued this monthly. It substantiates the club title on it’s heading. From this early publication we know that The first president was A.R. Hinder and club Secretary was Charlie Cook.
From the late Percy Stocker’s scrap book, we have evidence of members competing in time trial races from 1933. Jack Nunn recorded 1h,7m,35s for a 25mile event. The following year Jack showed his future long distance potential by finishing 3rd. in the W.T.T.A. (Western Time Trail Association) 12hr TT with 218.5miles, only 4miles behind the winner. Other racing members were P.Ellery, C.Cook, H.Whatley, J.Carvey and Ian Parfitt. This interest in racing inspired the President Mr.Hinder to donate a trophy which is competed for to this day in the Hinder Cup 25mile TT. The Nixon Cup was later presented to the Club by a Dr. John Hobart Nixon, an ex-amateur footballer from Liverpool F.C. who was also Mayor of Chippenham in 1927. On November 10th. 1935 the club promoted it’s first Open Event; this was a Hillclimb held on the hill east of Tytherton that climbs to Charlcutt.
During The War years from 1939 to 1945, very little cycling activity took place. Commencing again in 1946 through the efforts of Jack Nunn and Jim Carvey, the Club continued with 25 members. The club headquarters moved to the Vintage Inn (now the Flambe restaurant), Sutton Benger which was to become a well known hostelry for cyclists from Southern England and South Wales. It is believed around this time that the club named changed to the “Chippenham Wheelers” and Club colours became Gold, Black and White. However, riders in R.T.T.C. events were only allowed to wear black jerseys and start sheets had to carry the words “Private and Confidential”. Multi coloured jerseys were allowed from 1953.
In 1949 the Wheeler’s decided to measure a local 25mile TT course. This must have been an arduous task because they used a Surveyor’s Chain (22yards.) to measure part of the distance. The start was Draycott Corner, proceeding to Swallet Gate Junction, Dauntsey. Then to Dauntsey Green, where sharp right via Idover Road to Little Somerford, turn left to Great Somerford and continue to a U-turn in the lane just before the sharp double bends approaching Seagry. The route was then retraced back to Draycott Corner, where they continued to the top of Pew Hill Chippenham. A U-turn at the Cocklebury Lane, just beyond Hillcorner Road had them retracing back to Draycott Corner to finish opposite a junction warning sign in Stanton Lane. This was known as R.T.T.C. Course U8. Much easier now with Google Maps.
1949 was also a successful racing season for Jack Nunn. He became the first English rider to win the South Wales 12hours TT with a ride of 233.46miles. Then he took the honours in the W.T.T.A. 24hours TT recording 439miles, 59yards.
In 1950/52 Dennis O’Meara became the short distance star of the club, winning open 25mile and 50mile TTs. To this day he still holds the record for the Western Counties R.R.A. (Road Records Association) straight out 50mile ride with a time of 1h.51m.45sec.
By 1950 the club name had changed once more to become ‘The Chippenham & District Wheelers’ which it retains to this day. This was due to club members been recruited from a wider catchment area that included Devizes and Melksham. At the 1951 AGM it was agreed to award ‘Life Membership’ to members achieving outstanding racing performances or dedicating work and time for the benefit of the Club. The first members so honoured were Jack Nunn and Charlie Cook. They were presented with a Club Badge surrounded with a Laurel Wreath.
A Harriers vs Cyclists cross-Country event was introduced on Boxing Day 1948 and held for the next three years. This must have proved good training for the Club, because competing in the Belle Vue C.C. Running Race, the Team Award was won by the Wheelers for several years, right up to 1956. This event at that time was held on Epsom Race Course.
During this period local businessman A.J.Warner became the Club President. In 1952 the present badge incorporating the Town’s Coat of Arms was introduced. At this time, the membership had risen to 120. Unfortunately this number fell in 1955 to less than 20 active members, due to National Service at the time.
It appears that the club produced several riders capable of recording long rides in 100mile and 12hour events. Evidence of this is that Jack Nunn won the 1952 Yeovil 12h. and the Club took the winning team award. This was followed the following year with Mike Edwards (present Club President) winning the event and the club scooping the team prize again; early that year having won the W.T.T.A 12h. team award with three different riders.
Racing took a great change of direction in 1954 when most N.C.U. Circuit racing events were pushed aside by new national ruling. Riders were allowed to enter the open road races of The British League of Racing Cyclists. The young team of Ted Jolly, Mike Smith, Gerald Burchell and Mike Edwards grasped this new opportunity to take part in these hilly long distance races. The team worked well together producing wins for Mike Edwards and Gerald Burchell. Big wins included the Bournemouth “Pine City” Race for Gerald and The “Les Adams, Circuit of the Mendips” for Mike. These were races of over 100 miles and long climbs like Cheddar Gorge. The fields often included the early British Professional Riders. Also at this time grass track racing was popular having been combined with athletic meetings. Ted Bradley, Frank White and John Chamberlin were well known club members at this discipline. Due to this interest the Lucas and Bailey families from Sutton Benger presented the “Vintage Shield” for the best annual top track rider.
Club runs or leisure rides were also well catered for. usually split into three rides on a Sunday such as a hard rider’s run of 100miles or more for the day, then a slightly shorter route for the junior hard riders under the watchful eye of hairdresser Larry Newman. His saddle bag was always well stocked with spare sandwiches in case someone got the “Bonk”. A more leisurely ride known as the tourist ride for all day or sometimes just the afternoon would cater for the majority of the members. Lunch and tea stops were also planned so members could join in at these venues. Touring competitions always proved a good day out with trophies awarded to the winners, and for several years the club promoted a “100miles in 8hours Ride.”, starting and finishing at the Vintage Inn, Sutton Benger.
Due to the low membership of 1956, club secretary Dick Wiltshire promoted a recruitment drive which saw the numbers reach 125 again. At that year’s AGM, cycle dealer Bernard Lee was elected the new President; he was also well known as the team manger for the racing team. During 1958, the clubroom was forced to move to a hut on Westmeads playing field. This was good in Summer due to the marked out grass track and for cricket and rounders. Winters not good. Within the next 2 years we settled on the community rooms at the top of Spanbourne Avenue. This had everything, a lounge and good games rooms with billiards and table tennis tables.
1957 saw another change of Club President when Jack Nunn was elected and he was to hold this Honorary position until January 1985. Jack was also kept busy as a District course measurer and organising the local 12 hour TT. Jack in his Veteran Year’s could still be found on 100miles TT result sheets as the the third counter in the winning team. Winning the Kentish Wheelers Open 100 team award gave him great delight with the fact that 3 country yokels had out ridden the Londoners and South East Elite.
October 1958, The Chippenham Wheelers organised the RTTC National Hillclimb Championship on Monks Hill, Bathford, won by Pete Graham, West Pennine. Frank White was the organising secretary and hired a large marquee to provide tea and refreshments at the top. HTV Television filmed the event and showed the footage on their evening news programme. The gradient of 1 in 5 made it difficult for the holders-up at the start, but a convenient drain cover came to their aid, resting the rider’s back wheel in the dip.
During the early 1960’s the popularity of cycling suffered; club membership dropped to an all time low. Through the gallant efforts of Ted Barlow, the club survived and had started to recruit members towards the end of that decade. During this period, Jack Nunn and Mike Edwards had been visiting the local Sheldon School to give cycling talks to the young Couriers school cycling club and even organised a grass track racing session for them on their own playing field. Then in 1968 their leader David Evans moved to Dursley, so the school club amalgamated with the Wheelers. Two of the Club’s Youth (Schoolboys) Trophies were donated by David due to Courier members taking part in the Club’s Evening Events.
At the 1967 Club AGM it was decided to change the Club’s Racing Colours to Tangerine, Black and White which we still use. At that time Gold, Black and White had become popular with many other Clubs.
In 1969 Coaching Sessions were added to the Wheeler’s programme and these were organised by John Else (pictured below). That year saw the return of the Chippenham Carnival, now called “Chippenham At Home”. This gave the club chance to contribute to the weeks activities. Kermesse racing was organised on a cleared prefab site off Hungerdown Lane using a half-mile circuit on the disused roads. Well known riders like Phil Edwards and Graham Moore took part, much to the delight of the Chippenham Mayoress who presented the prizes. To top the week, the club entered a float in the carnival procession.
Later that year the Wheelers organised the RTTC Ladies National 25miles T.T. Championship. The event was held on the B4042 Swindon to Lea road. Ted Barlow organised the event which was won by the Late Beryl Burton MBE. with a time of 58m.30sec.
In 1971 the Wheelers promoted The BCF Western Division Junior Road Race Championship and two years later, Junior Member Andy Ingram became the Junior Champion. During 1973, Mike Bond and Gary Woodward (pictured right) became the most successful Two-Up Team Time Trial Team in the West of England.
Also during 1973 the Club received a request from the BBC to take part in a TV Film. The filming took place in the lane to Charfield Manor with several members riding as if on a club run and passing the star of the film riding his bicycle.
The clubroom had now moved down to the Bridge Centre and with the helpfulness of community boss Rob Catt, the club was well looked after at this new location. For the Hillclimb and 3 Up Team TT weekend, the club would organise a social/dance night for all the visiting riders at this venue. Stuart (Dick) Bond had now become General Secretary and the Club had a good family membership.
During 1974 the Carnival Kermesse became a true around the houses race, with the co-operation of the Police we were able to use the exciting circuit of Greenway Lane, The Hamlet, Langley Road, Pew Hill and Hillcorner Road. To add glamour to the evening a Veteran Car carried the Carnival Queen and her attendants around on a processional lap before the races. The Juvenile inter-club TT which used the Maud Heath’s Causeway was then added to the weeks programme. Ted Swayer Cycles kindly sponsored the event and also donated a trophy which is still used for the Children’s Time Trials to this day. These two carnival events proved to be very popular and lasted well into the 1980’s.
The ‘Compleat Cyclist’s Award Scheme’ was launched during 1974 for the juvenile members. Various standards and targets were listed; riders achieving the required standards were presented with a Gold, Silver or Bronze award.
Over the previous years, a party of members had each year made the journey to the Isle Of Man for the busy Manx International Cycling Week, enjoying the cycling and a good holiday. The most successful year was 1975 when the Wheelers won the “Miles X Members Award” because of our large invasion from the club. The big highlight of the week came on the Wednesday when our own Bob Crisp won the “Manx Arms National Handicap Road Race” from a field of over 300 riders. Starting in the second group he held off the scratch group containing the might of the Kirby Cycling Club by 26seconds despite the climb up to the finish at the grandstand.
At that time the club was privileged to have a “Cycling Legend” as a member – the first rider to beat the four hour barrier for a 100miles TT and the winner of the “1954 Manx International Road Race”, that was Ray Booty.
Going back to Bob Crisp, he and his wife Kate spread the club name around with their individual and tandem records in TT competitions and “Place to Place” rides. Spud Crisp, his father also gave a lot to the Club with the patience and care he spent looking after the junior and juvenile members.
In 1975, the Dursley Road Club and the Chippenham Wheelers joined forces and promoted ‘The Cotswold Edge’ touring weekend which proved to be a very successful event. For 1976 it was decided to organise a similar event based in Chippenham, again with the help of the Dursley Road Club. It was named ‘The White Horse Weekend’ and once again proved to be a popular success. The event was then held annually and later the Wheelers with John Else as organising Secretary became the sole promoters. It is now held every third year in conjunction with others similar events in the area. Following the success of the White Horse weekends The Cyclist Touring Club (now Cycling UK.) bestowed the promotion of the the 1981 CTC Birthday Rides to the Wheelers; the first time this event was ever organised by a club. Over seven hundred cyclists took part in the rides and social events held that week.
It was September 1775 that John Else (pictured left) put on his touring cap to travel to Leicestershire to compete in the National British Cycle Touring Competition. His prowess for map reading, observation and country knowledge proved too much for the other competitors. For his first place he was presented with the Brooks Tourist Trophy.
During the mid 1970’s several club members became instructors for the National Children’s Cycling Proficiency Scheme. This required training the pupils at local schools and helping with the area finals, held at Trowbridge.
The club name became well known nationally with the racing successes in several different areas of cycling. In Road Racing, Mike Bond became the 1977 Western Division Road Race Champion. In Time Trialing, Keith Wright (pictured below) finished 2nd in the 24hour and 3rd in the 12hour 1978 National championships. At the same event, Gary Woodward took 2nd place in the 12 hours.
That year, Gary achieved 4th in the British Best All-Rounder (BAR) competition and lead the Chippenham Team with Keith and Stan Mills to finish runner’s up at the team event.
Competing in The Western Cyclo-Cross Events, Sid Wilding won the 1977 Senior Championship for the series. He repeated this again in 1978 and was accompanied by his protege Steve Cole winning the Junior Series. Steve went on to win the 1980 Welsh National Junior 10 mile Time Trial Championship and the following year obtained 3rd. Place in The National Junior Road Race Championship.
During 1980 the Wheelers were approached to organise a circuit race on the Castle Combe motor racing track for the Chippenham Rotary Club’s 1981 ‘Energy Fair’. The race was held in pouring rain with the Polish National Team dominating the race; taking six of the first ten places. They were in this country for the Tour of Britain Milk Race.
After the event Dick Bond approached Howard Strawford, the circuit owner as to the future use of cycling on the track. His first reaction was to reject the ideal but within a few minutes he agreed to the suggestion. He became a good friend to the club and due to that decision many hundreds of cyclists have enjoyed their racing and training rides on the circuit since; and all thanks to Dick Bond.
After some years debating sponsorship, the Chippenham Wheelers received an offer in 1978 from ‘John’s Bikes’ Cycle Shop of Bath. After several meetings, this was agreed and continued until 1985.
In 1983 the Club promoted their second National Hill Climb Championship which was held on the steep slopes of Weston Lane, Bath and organised by John Else. Large crowds gathered to cheer on the riders leaving very restricted width of roadway for the competitors, just like you see in the Tour de France mountain stages.
After a short period of illness our President of 28 years Jack Nunn passed away in January 1985. In his memory, trophies he had won in his younger days where mounted and suitably engraved as awards for our evening time trial events. At the 1985 November AGM Mike Edwards was elected the new President.
The Club as always provided events for cyclists in this area, be it leisure or racing. Back in the 1950s it used to be a Medium Gear 25 miles TT held in March, followed by a normal 25 miles TT in August. Over the years the programme of events expanded to include massed start road races and time trials at 50 and 100 miles. Due to traffic problems on today’s roads we promote a Good Friday circuit meeting on the Castle Combe Race Circuit, this allows the juveniles to compete as well. A Hilly TT plus a 10, 25, Hill Climb and 3up Team TT are also well established. In the 1990s the club riders also competed in a Roller Racing League against other local clubs. This lead to a Roller Racing evening at the Olympiad, Chippenham with Olympic Stars like Chris Hoy and Craig McLaine competing.
An Audax Series of Club events is now held annually and credit must be given to Eric and Gill Fletcher for the annual Open “Flapjack” event which they created. Not only were they organisers, but spent many hours preparing the food and refreshments for the event; hence the name of the riders favourite – “Flapjack” became the title for the event. Sadly Eric passed away in 2021 and the event now carries his name. These events have now inspired several of our members to ride the 1200km in 84hrs Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneurs / Audax; a really testing ride.
For several years, the Wheelers supported the June “National Bike Week” by organising an evening of cycling at the Castle Combe Race circuit. This invited people to come and ride a few laps of the circuit and enjoy the evening’s attractions and trade stands. “Go-Ride” instruction was also included for the younger children. This event helped to raise funds for our nominated charity of the year. “Go-Ride” sessions were also held on the Thursday evening race night, plus juvenile time trials during the Tuesday night training sessions. These contributions to the sport were recognised by British Cycling, who awarded the Wheelers a “Club Mark Certificate”. This was all made possible by club members generously giving up their free time.
Over the years, our racing members, especially Keith Wright, Stan Mills, Gary Woodward, Andy Cook (pictured left), Steve Ayres and Jeff Jones have been winners of the local Western Time Trials Association 12 hour events and its Best All-Rounder competitions. Andy Cook won the Bronze Medal in the millennium 24 hours National TT Championship.
Jeff Jones (pictured right with Mike Edwards) put the club in the National headlines when he won the 2011 British Best All-Rounder competition and set a new National Record for the 12 hour TT with a ride of 305.51 miles. That is three back-to-back sub four hour 100 mile stints!
The membership as always supported the local organisations such as the CTT West DC, Western Time Trials Association, Western Counties Road Records Association ,British Cycling and the old Cyclist Touring Club. Our members have served many hours on the various committees and spent many hours course measuring in the district.
The Club as exhibited at the Town’s Twinning Ceremony with The French town of La Flèche in the Emery Gate Shopping Centre.
In 2003 we provided a display at the Town’s Heritage Museum which attracted a lot of interest.
The next stepping stone will be to achieve our 100 years birthday celebration since those young lads of 1932 founded this wonderful club.
Besides our star riders, there are many more people who deserve a mention and it can be said that it is the average member who are the backbone of any club. They are the people who you have a friendly chat to, while on a club run or at the club room. They are the people that will be a race marshal, stood out in all weathers for the enjoyment of others. Without them the Club as we know it would not exist.