Blackburn: Workers’ Clarion call

GETTING AROUND: Blackburn Clarion Club pictured around 1900. The club had strong working-class roots and connections with the Labour movement

GETTING AROUND: Blackburn Clarion Club pictured around 1900. The club had strong working-class roots and connections with the Labour movement

First published in Bygones Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Features writer

AS people are urged to get on yer bike' for a healthier lifestyle, we take a look at the days when cycling was the only mode of transport for many.

This picture shows Blackburn Clarion cycling club circa 1900.

Some clarion clubs are still alive today, 112 years after the Clarion Cycling Club was formed in 1894. Although it no longer has any political connections, it shared founder members with the Independent Labour Party and readers of the Clarion newspaper, from which the club got its name.

Indeed it was a club that used the simplest most accessible means of transport, the bicycle, to spread the word to the working classes around the villages and towns of Great Britain.

Membership of the Clarion grew in the early 20th century to some 8,300 in 1936 with 233 regional sections.

The Clarion became a byword for outdoor activities and camaraderie but following the Second World War, membership began a steady decline threatened mainly by the motor car and changes in social climate away from club spirit and fellowship.

In addition to cycling, which gained the biggest following, the main activities before the First World War were choral singing and rambling, which tended to overlap, so that cyclists, choirs and ramblers often met up at the same Saturday or Sunday afternoon venue.

Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge, became a regular venue for picnics and outdoor concerts.

At the first of these gatherings, in the summer of 1895, there were 100 Clarion members, with 150 relatives and friends. Many came on their bikes, proudly wearing silver badges pinned in their caps.

They enjoyed, according to the report in the paper, "sandwiches, laughter, tea, tobacco and singing" before a thunderstorm struck, causing a dash to the railway station.

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