Cecil Cooke

The formation and the first year

The Forty Plus CC was founded by Cecil Cooke.  Cecil Cooke was an enthusiastic club cyclist who who was President of the Hertfordshire DA of the CTC, from soon after its inception in 1928 to May 1937.  He was also the first secretary of the Veterans Time Trials Assoication (VTTA), established in 1943.  Cecil Cooke proposed the VTTA be opened to women but this was turned down.  In February 1951, he therefore wrote to the magazine “Cycling” to sound out whether there would be support for a social cycling club in London and the home counties catering for riders over 40 of either sex.

A preliminary meeting was held on March 8th at the offices of the National Cyclists’ Union (one of the two cycle racing associations at the time). The twelve people attending decided to set up a club for cyclists over 40 (8 in favour, 3 abstentions, presumably the chairman was excluded from voting). On 5 April, the first general meeting was held at which 20 founder members enrolled and the committee was elected.

Members were issued with a small handbook (about 3 inches by 4) listing the founder members and the membership rules.  The objects of the club were “to promote cycling fixtures of a sociable character in the London Home Counties area and to provide for the interests of members in such other ways as may be decided upon”.  The annual subscription was five shillings (25p).

The first runs list

The club was based in London.  The original plan was to have north and south sections in the club, but, by the time the club was established, there were four “district leaders”: NW, NE, SE and SW.  Runs were at weekends – not mid-week.  Each week, the starting place rotated (Putney Bridge, Stanmore, Bromley, Woodford) so members could ride out in a different direction each week.  Runs started at 9.30 for the all day ride (with lunch and tea stops) or at 3 pm for the afternoon ride to tea.  Members would ride up to 30 miles across London to join the start and home again after tea.  The first recorded ride was on May 6 to Leatherhead for dinner with tea at Chipstead.

Within a couple of months, membership had nearly doubled to 34 people (June 19th).  By the end of the first year, the club was thriving with 68 members and attendance of over 20 on many rides.  Our annual expenditure was £26 5s 7p and we had the grand sum of £2 4s. 11p in hand.  More details can be found in a brief history of the club, which was written in 1991.

Club Officers

The founder, Cecil Cooke, was the first secretary of the club.  He collapsed while on a Sunday run in 1952 and died in St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping on the same day.  His widow was asked to be president of the club and remained president until her resignation in 1960.   Cecil Cooke’s name lives on in the cycling world through two “Cecil Cooke” trophies, one competed for by the members of the Hertfordshire CTC; the other contested by members of the VTTA.

A committee of members elected at the annual general meeting runs the Club.  The main club officers since the club’s inception are  listed here.  Handbooks were issued to all members and examples from 1969 and from 1973 give details of the club officers and the rules pertaining at the time. The full committee includes all elected officers and the section secretaries; a smaller executive committee, reporting to the full committee, was introduced in 1997 to deal with day to day management of the club.  General rides planning and other local activities are carried out by the sections.

Early days

In addition to the Sunday rides, there was an active programme of social events on Saturdays in the autumn and winter.  Parties of 40 to 50 enjoyed river trips, circus and theatre visits, watching the ceremony of the keys at the Tower of London and visits to Poplar Power station, Big Ben and the most modern bakery in the country.  Some Sunday rides also incorporated visits to places of interest including Audley End, the Cambridge colleges, Beeleigh Abbey (Maldon) and Ingatestone Hall.  There was also an annual Christmas dinner and weekends away.  Three couples met their partners through the club.

Stop for refreshment on an early Forty Plus Cycling Club run (Destination: Whitwell (Herts) – Whitsun 1951) If you know any of their names please contact the webmaster.

Mid-week rides

The first mid-week rides were Thursday evening rides in 1952 to Epping Cottage Tea Rooms.  Around 1967 day time Tuesday and Thursday rides were started in Herts. and Essex respectively to cater for the growing number of retired members.  Later, Wednesday rides were started in Kent.  Over the years, mid-week rides gradually replaced Sunday rides as the mainstay of the club.

The sections

After a few years of rides from the four quarters of London, new sections were formed.  Some of these, with their founders, are listed below:

 1954 Bournemouth Freddie Folds (section ended 1964)
 1972 St Albans Albert Jankin
 1972 Luton Jack Jefford
 1972 Sussex Stuart Tackley
 1978 Stevenage/N Herts Bill Collins
 1978 N. Ireland Cyril Henry (section ended due to political unrest)
 1978 Southend Vic Stewart/Harry Peck

The magazine

The Thursday evening rides led to a N.E. Section news sheet being produced by Mae Lang, which caused concern among a few club members. In 1954 a news sheet, edited by Les Seymour, was introduced. In 1956 Stuart Tackley took this over and developed it into the current club magazine Signpost, which is now published quarterly and posted or emailed to all members.