The Westmorland Motor Cycle Club was formed as a result of a meeting of motor cycling enthusiasts at Kendal on 29th January, 1910. There were seventy members by the time the first event was held on Good Friday of that year, when a hill climbing contest was held up Huck's Brow on Shap Fell, a road which later became renowned to generations of lorry drivers for its severity in Winter. The most popular form of sport in those pre-first war days would appear to have been hill climbs and events were held up Brigsteer Brow, Bank Head, Tow Top, Orton Scar and the Greyhound. The club's organising ability was very soon recognised by the Auto-Cycle Union and a National Open Hill Climb was held up Brigsteer Brow on Easter Monday, 1912, when riders came from all corners of the country to compete for £60 in prizes. A further National Open event up the Greyhound in 1914 attracted 215 entries of which 202 started.
This was an ACU record at the time and attracted many thousands of spectators. Although the club included four or five hill climbs each year, pre-war calendars also included speed trials in Lowther Park, reliability runs and social events. Very few roads were surfaced at the time and reliability runs were definitely a test of man and machine. Events organised in the Lake District by this club and its sister club, the Cumberland County MCC, also founded in 191 0, had attracted the attention of many of the leading riders of that time. As a result of investigations by ACU officials, and a severe Autumn one-day reliability trial centred on Kendal in October 1912, it was decided to hold the first International Six Days Trial in the Lake District in 1913 in conjunction with the ACU Six Days Event. Westmorland members were actively engaged in the selection of the routes and hills and it was no surprise when it was announced that the club had won the Club Team Prize.
In 1915 the club's cash was invested in War Loan, the cups and records deposited at the bank, and the club's sporting activities were severely curtailed. Nevertheless there was still a number of , active members who were either too old or unfit for military service, or who had returned to civilian life badly wounded, who were pre-pared to assist the war effort in every way possible. Wounded soldiers from the hospital in Stramongate, Kendal were taken on outings. Social hill climbing events were held up Wrynose and Hardknott, and on Walna Scar, as a form of recreation for the munition workers from Barrow, and assistance was given in the training of troopers of the Mounted Brigade stationed in Kendal and South Westmorland, who were to become despatch riders.
After the war, in 1919, the club appointed an impressive group of officials who set about organising a comprehensive list of events including trials on Sadgill, Garburn and the mountain roads and fell tracks in the Lake District, as well as social runs and gymkhanas. A long distance night run to Portobello was very popular and was still in the fixture list in 1930. These events also attracted car owners and in 1923 the word 'Cycle' was dropped from the club's name and it became the Westmorland Motor Club. Speed events throughout the country continued to attract large entries and huge crowds but as normal traffic was increasing these were no longer acceptable and the RAC and ACU had to give way to public pressure and a ban on speed events on public highways was introduced from 1st April, 1925.
There was considerable opposition but as competitors were afraid of losing their licences the ban became effective and this club, together with many others, found its fixture list suddenly consider-ably reduced and it would appear that many members lost interest. However, there was a small band of unattached motor cyclists spending their Sunday afternoons on Garburn and Sadgill and they were keen to form a motor cycle club. On enquiry they found that the Westmorland Motor Club still existed and some of the members were keen to get the club back into action again. A meeting was held and a fixture list was drawn up for 1927 - the year of the first Sporty Boys Trial. Social runs were popular, but the sporting side was not forgotten and in addition to reliability trials, grass tracks were held in Levens Park, on Kendal Rugby Field, and on Mintsfeet, now the site of the Lakeland Laundry. A staunch band of enthusiasts kept the club ticking over during the slump in the early thirties, and the fixture list for 1936 showed twelve events catering for both cars and motorcycles.
There had been some scrambling on Loughrigg and in the Low Borrow Bridge area, but in 1936 the Skirrow Scramble was introduced near Skelwith Bridge. Others followed on this course until 1939, when the Second World War brought an end to such activities. Admission was by collection and all the money was given to charity - in fact the District Nurse was provided with an Auto Cycle by the club. Most competitors rode their bikes to these scrambles, there were no special safety precautions or roping, and very little administrative paperwork. During the war many members were serving in the forces far from home although some served as Despatch Riders with the local Home Guard.
There was a gradual return to normal activities after the war, despite petrol rationing, and scrambles were held at Orrest Farm in 1946 and 1947 before moving to Low Lindeth Farm at Winster. The programme for the Whit Sunday Scramble at Winster in 1947 listed the club's activities as "Scrambles, Sporting and Touring types of Trials for Cars and Motor Cycles, and many Social Events". The course at Lindeth was very rough and damaging to machinery and in 1952 a move was made to Helsington, just South of Kendal. This was a most successful venue and was used regularly until the Kendal By-Pass was constructed and a lot of land was filled and access gates moved. The adjoining field was also used for grass tracks - not just the simple oval but also a very thrilling mountain circuit. The number of sporting trials in the calendar increased as more members became interested in this type of event and were prepared to contact local landowners and farmers seeking permission to use their land.
As prosperity increased more people could afford cars and motor cycles and to cater for these members car rallies, treasure hunts and social events were organised. Unfortunately clubs from all over England over-used the Lake District roads, particularly at night, and there was considerable public hostility against car rallies. In an attempt to ration events the RAC Competitions Manager was invited to meet representatives of the club, and a widely reported meeting was held at Ambleside. Unfortunately this did not have the result the public demanded and legislation became necessary thus severely restricting our rally activities. The increase in traffic on the public roads, together with the legal limitation on entries also made Treasure Hunts and Social Runs difficult to organise. Arising from a visit to the Lake District by the RAC Competitions Manager, the club was asked to lay out a course for the RAC Trials Championship in 1953. The farmers in Longsleddale were most co-operative and an excellent event was held in December of that year.
It was becoming obvious that there was no future for club events on public roads and an evening hill climb was held for cars and motor cycles on the drive at Barbon Manor in August 1950. This proved most successful and was the birth of the two important Hill Climbs held annually at Barbon. The car event started in 1951 and the motor cycle event in 1960 to celebrate the club's Golden Jubilee.
Since their inauguration these Hill Climbs have gradually become widely recognised as first class events and are supported by competitors and spectators from all over the UK. They now both count as rounds for their respective National Hill Climb Championships, the car event since 1963 and the motor cycle event since 1968. In the 1950s many people were becoming very insurance conscious and as organisers of events which included an element of danger to competitors and spectators the committee gave serious thought to the possible consequences if anything unfortunate occurred which could give rise to a claim against the club. Obviously officials and members of the club had to be protected financially and it was agreed to become a Company Limited by Guarantee. Arrangements were completed in March, 1960 and many other clubs have since followed our example.
Long tracks were becoming popular in the 1970s and in 1972 the club obtained the use of the County Showfield and held an event on the circuit used for harness racing. This was probably the most exciting event ever held by the club and attracted speedway riders of international fame. Unfortunately the track surface deteriorated and the Show Committee would not let the club have the field again.
Full use has been made of the excellent terrain in the Southern Lakes and Sedbergh area to organise at least 8 trials every year and these always attract large entries from all over the North. When the ACU gave way to pressure from youth clubs wanting to hold events for riders under 16 year of age, several youth scramble clubs were formed in the centre. This club saw the need for youth trials and started holding trials for young riders on Saturday afternoons.
A small band of organisers continue with this branch of the sport and have had the satisfaction of seeing several of the riders who started their careers in our youth trials becoming acknowledged experts. In 1974 the club re-commenced motor car trials. Sporting car trials were held initially at Garburn near Windermere, moving to High Cartmel Fold, Crosthwaite in 1975, and latterly to Lambrigg Fell. At the same time, production car trials were held at Garburn, followed some years later by four-wheel drive trials. With the club concentrating on off-road car events rallying in the 1970s was restricted to 12-car events. Autotests were also re-introduced to the calendar at this time.
Land for speed events proved difficult to find after Helsington but eventually a friendly landowner was located at Foulshaw and scrambles and the occasional grass track were held there until the Gas Board laid a trunk main across the fields we used. It is hoped to return there eventually but a scramble for club members was held near Grayrigg in 1984. The site was not ideal - car parking was difficult and restricted - but it is hoped these difficulties can be overcome. 1984 also saw the introduction to the calendar of an Enduro. This type of event, which has now taken over the old Inter-national Six Days Trial, is proving very popular and no doubt the club will continue to cater for those riders who are interested. Over its life of 75 years the club has been served magnificently by hundreds of hard working volunteers. Some just for a few years, but many for the whole of their lives. It would be invidious to mention anyone by name but the present officers and council are proud to serve such an old established club and hope that volunteers will always come forward to ensure that the club continues to provide sport for motor cyclists and motorists way beyond 2010 when we will celebrate our centenary.
extracted from Westmorland Motor Club The First 75 Years © Percy Duff 1985