In the summer of 1927, Market Harborough was a town of some ten thousand people and, like the rest of Britain, was suffering from economic depression and high unemployment. King George V, the Queen’s grandfather, was on the throne, Stanley Baldwin was the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Winston Churchill and on Friday,1st July the Market Harborough Advertiser and Midland Mail carried adverts for the Oriental Cinema, which was showing Shore Leave starring Dorothy Mackail, for Isaac’s in Coventry Road which was holding a sale of bankrupt stock of men’s trousers – 50 pairs for 5/6 (27½p) and Eastmans Ltd of Church Square had best quality Canterbury Lamb and Mutton for sale.
The newspaper also carried a report headed ‘Local Cycling Club’s General Meeting’. It reported that a large gathering of cyclists attended the general meeting of the newly formed Welland Valley Wheelers. Mr. H. H. Leach presided and remarked that;
“Cycling as a pastime is becoming more popular year by year. Cycling clubs have sprung up all over the country and this town does not wish to be left behind in the great advance. The Club is to be called Welland Valley Wheelers and Club colours are black and gold.”
It was decided to present an attendance medal for club runs and it was hoped that the competition would be keen for possession of the medal thus ensuring a good turnout week by week. The Club run on Sunday 3rd July was to that fine old cathedral city of Peterborough. Start 9.00 am in the Market Square.
The same newspaper carried an advertisement for an ‘All Steel Raleigh Cycle’ for £6-7s-6d (£6.37½p) available from St. Mary’s Motor Company (now George Halls Cycle Centre) at £1 down and twelve regular payments.
Since 1890, racing on public roads had been banned by the National Cyclists Union as being too dangerous so there were no ‘Open’ time trials. Competitive cycling was limited to ‘private’ time trials and, in the early days, Club activities consisted mainly of regular Club runs which, as now, started in the Market Square with riders split into two groups: the Hard Riders and the Social Section. Routes and timings were planned, whenever possible, for the two groups to meet for tea.
Destinations for Club runs in the early days included, for the Hard Riders: Peterborough, Stratford-on-Avon, Bedford, Luton and Huntingdon, while the Social Section headed for Oundle, Wicksteed Park, Stamford, Lutterworth, Hinckley and Rushden.
There is an entry in the Club Minutes stating that the destination for the Club run on 23rd October 1927 will be New York! We can only hope that this should read Newark.
Despite the ban on racing, in August 1927 a challenge cup for the best time over 25 miles by a Market Harborough rider was inaugurated in the name of St. Mary’s Motor Company to be known as the Marshall Trophy in honour of the Club President – Mr. Marshall.
Although the number of Club members is not recorded, the Committee decided to present a suitable prize for whoever recruited the most new members. In its first year, the prize was won by W.C.Vials.
Towards the end of 1927, it was decided to hold a Dance in the Co-operative Hall to raise funds for the Club. Admission to the Dance was set at 1 shilling (5p) and the costs of hiring the Hall and crockery plus printing tickets and advertising amounted to £2-1s-6d (£2.7½p). The Excelsior Band charged £2 for the evening.
In November 1927, Welland Valley Wheelers became affiliated to the National Cyclists Union and the Leicestershire and Rutland Section of the Cyclists Touring Club.
In December of that year the inaugural Hill Climb had to be held a second time owing to ‘errors’! The Club Minutes include no further details but the Committee appointed fresh officials and timekeepers for the re-run.
The year drew to a close with a Club Supper held at Emerson’s Café with medals of gold, silver and bronze presented to the winners and runners-up in the Club’s time trials and other competitions. In the space of six months, Welland Valley Wheelers had come into being, organised a series of Club runs, held a number of time trials, held a fund-raising Dance and a prize giving, end of season Supper. All this is testimony to the efforts and determination of the Club’s first Officers and Committee.