A little while ago Tim Rhodes produced his father-in-law’s 1939 Armley Social Cycling Club’s Handbook that also had a map stored with it. Because it is the sort of thing that many find very interesting, the club has put together two news items about both the Handbook and the map.

The Armley Social Cycling Club Members Handbook for 1939 provides an interesting insight as to how much cycling has changed in the last 80 plus years ……………… and quite how much being part of a cycling club is still very much the same.

In this first part you can read about the club ‘runs’ and a bit of its history along with the historical background of 1939. In part two you’ll find further information about the club’s rules, and be able to look at the map, much of which covers our area.


Calendar of “runs”

The centre pages of the handbook lists the rides for the coming year.

The foreword states “The runs chosen by your committee have been given great care, with the idea of suiting every member, both in distance and variety.” Much the same as today then?

Communication & information exchange has changed quite a bit since then with the rides being every Sunday only.

As you can see the calendar includes many of the same places that we visit these days – Timble, Coxwold, Kilnsey & Ilkley for example and they certainly covered some distance – with rides out to places such as Malham & Kilburn.

The run out to West End on 22nd October would not be quite as it was then (the village was submerged under the water by the new Thuscross reservior built in the 1960s). That was followed by a “mystery run” on 29th October.

The winners of the 1938 mystery runs are listed in the handbook.
B.S.A. (Birmingham Small Arms) features in the handbook and perhaps some members were lucky enough to own a Gold Band Special. The advert comes from 1938. Note that the weight is “under 33 lbs” (around 15kgs). Other notable manufacturers of the time include Holdsworth, Carlton, Sun, Saxon & Raleigh.

Club History

4 pages of the handbook are dedicated to recording the club’s recent past.

It continues and mentions that “1934 was an outstanding year for the racing section, members taking all prizes but one in the Inter-Club “25” [25 mile route] and many prizes in other events” whilst only two years later “1936 proved a poor financial year, the dances and other social activities not being as successful as in the past”.

And there was further difficulties in 1936 for the committee to contend with:- “A hardriders’ section was formed in March, but this tended to split the Club, and was wisely dropped before the end of the year.” One can imagine the behind the scenes discussions that would have taken place. Further progress was made in 1937 with the formation of a tandem section.


Of course, 1939 was not a happy year for much of Europe.

In Spain, the Republicans were losing the bloody & brutal civil war. Barcelona was taken on 26th January – no doubt a topic of discussion on 29th January as the club set out for Burnt Yates & Timble. The Nationalists under the leadership of Franco had laid siege to Madrid & after 2½ years the city fell on 28th March with the war finishing on 1st April. Club members may have listened to the news on the radio before starting their run on 2nd April to Rainton & Knaresborough.

On 15th March, German soldiers marched into Sudetenland & Czechoslovkia ceased to exist and then on 22nd May 1939 Germany & Italy agree the “Pact of Steel” . It is signed by Adolf Hitler & Benito Mussolini. Further bad news comes in the form of the German Soviet Pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) on 23rd August – an agreement of non-aggression between the two countries. This gave the Soviet Union security against German invasion but left countries such as Britain more isolated as they sought to put a brake on Hitler’s plans of expansion into Poland.

On 27th August the club cycled out to lovely Thixendale and onto Nether Poppleton. The temperature for that day at Catterick was reported as being 62°F (16.7°C) so quite a chilly day.

On 1st September Germany invaded Poland and on 3rd September Britain declares it is at war with Germany at 11:15 a.m. in a radio broadcast by Neville Chamberlain. Only a year before Chamberlain had returned from Munich with the Anglo-German Agreement declaring “peace for our time”. The club were on a run (starting at 8:30 a.m.) to Redmire (near Bolton Castle) & Burnsall. I wonder when & how they heard the news or whether they turned back at some point? 

In Part Two we look at Maps/Getting Around and the Club Rules and notes.

Special thanks to Tim Rhodes for the loan of the club book & map.