Please find below a history of Braintree District MCC
Recollections by Edgar Eastall, Club Vice President and Longest Serving Member
Edgar, 80 this year (2002), joined the Club in January 1946 after it had been formed only one week earlier by friends Don Nelson (a Romford Grasshoppers member at the time, whose brother John's army despatch riding activities were to spark his interest in bikes), Cliff Pugh and Jim Wardle, who became the Club's first treasurer. In fact, had it not have been for the primary chain snapping on his 1937 350cc single cylinder Triumph Tiger 80 the evening before, Edgar would have attended that first meeting. This was held at what was then the Red Lion Pub at Stisted (now a private house named Leo Rufus - Latin for Red Lion). Still grounded, Edgar accepted a lift on the back of Don's 500cc Ariel Red Hunter to get to the second meeting, where he joined for what would become a life membership. Also going along to swell the numbers were Velocette man Leo Yuill, his brother Keith, Jim Hazelwood (whose wife was Don Nelson's sister Florrie), Tony Gatward, and Eric Grice. Leo, still living in Braintree today, predicted at the time that the Club would not last long! As word got around, Norman 'Chick' Lambert - the late Cressing baker, and a prominent figure in the Halstead Club, Bernard Harrington, Sammy Bloomfield, Roy Meckleburgh, Ernie Ashton and others became involved, either as paid-up members or generally supporting the activities. In these early days the Club appealed to young people whose only transport was road-going motor cycles. They got together mainly for social activities, combined with various competitions such as treasure hunts, road rallies and trials. Trials were of course ridden on their road bikes and events were occasionally run as 'pillion trials' where girl friends could be involved in the fun. On no account should they take their feet off the foot rests as this, like today's sidecar trials, incurred a 'five'. So anxious were the girls not to do the wrong thing that even after a long struggle to maintain forward motion in a section, only to come to a complete stop, they could be heard asking their exhausted and frustrated driver: "Can I put my feet down yet?".
At those first Club meetings, each paid a shilling (5p) to cover the 10 shillings demanded by the landlord for the use of the pub as a meeting place. With fourteen or so members, though, it didn't seem fair to Jim Hazelwood why the landlord, doing well enough from increased beer sales, should charge this amount, and payment eventually ceased.
Edgar's own early biking years followed a typical pattern for the Club member of the day. He had owned a succession of machines, beginning with a 1929 300cc Raleigh, and including a 500cc Rudge-engined AJW and a 1935 150cc BSA Shortly after the war he bought a 1936 250cc Ariel from "Sticky" Bright's father, owner of the High Garrett garage. Sticky was renowned for his hairy riding antics aboard Ariels in later scrambles. Edgar eventually replaced the Ariel with the Tiger 80 Triumph only to swap it for fellow Clubman Eric Grice's 500cc Tiger 90. Eric preferred to use the 350cc machine for his trials and scrambles while Edgar got hold of a sidecar, replaced the body with boards and used the ex-Grice machine as a sidecar outfit on occasions where he needed it to transport the AJS to scrambles, in which he competed over the 1949 season.
One of the first competitive events that the Club engaged in was the Eastern Centre A.C.U. Rally and Gymkhana, held on Sunday, 14 July 1946 and run by the Walton Club. An award was made for the smartest solo rider and machine and events included, in addition to a 30 mile road rally, a car 'forward and reverse' towing competition, musical chairs on motor bikes, and an egg and spoon race where the passenger sat back to the rider. The Club took the Award of the Day, the Walton Pier Trophy, with the best turnout of members - 97% of the membership. This is the same trophy that is still awarded today and now presented to the best Eastern Centre team at the A.C.U. National Rally, for which the Club has over the years provided a check point. The Club won the trophy again the following year and were invited to run the event themselves the next year, which they did and proceeded to win the trophy for the third year in succession.
The Labour government came into power and banned pleasure motoring while petrol was in short supply. It later lifted this ban and imposed a monthly petrol limit for each vehicle based on engine size - 2 gallons per month for 250s and 3 gallons for 350s and above. One way round this was to own more than one vehicle and Edgar soon added another 250cc Ariel to his collection. The Club also ran bicycle trials, one of the popular venues being Beazley End Sandpits, and when methanol became available (in 30 gallon drums) many trials and scrambles bikes were run on this.
In the September of 1946, members of the young Braintree Club helped the established Halstead Club to put on the first scramble after the war at Little Loveney Hall, Wakes Colne. In fact, Braintree members out-numbered Halstead by about 25 to 2, and it was decided to share the profit from the meeting equally between the two clubs - 29 shillings each (£1.45). This was the spur for Braintree to run their own scramble; the Club affiliated to the A.C.U. and all that remained was to find a venue. The Halstead Club were quite happy to lend out their equipment but understandably not so keen to jeopardize their standing with the owners of Little Loveney Hall. Tony Gatward, now Club Secretary, used to live at Great Maplestead and knew of Purls Hill, with its undulating meadows and woodland. As it happened, Tony's parents were friends of Jack Hearne, who owned the land (and whose sister is the current owner), and it was through Tony that permission was granted to run a scramble on the meadow opposite the wood. The first of the famous Braintree Club Purls Hill scrambles was duly run on 23 March 1947. One member earned his nickname 'Slide Rule' from this event: Norman Ripper, a past vice president, who became the chief lap-scorer and timekeeper with his trusty stop-watch and slide rule. Scrambles were run there for 8 years and Purls Hill Wood was used for trials for nearly 30 years.
So that is Edgar's recollection of how the Club began and what preceeded the events for which the Club has subsequently become famous - national grass tracks at Lyons Hall Farm, Bocking and other local venues, scrambles at Stisted, and trials at Straits Mill, Beazley End, Southey Green, Blackmore End, Shalford, Towerlands, and a host of other landmarks in and around Braintree. It has spawned at least 3 generations of riding members too, with many well-known and successful local names such as Jack Hubbard, Mick Harden, Bob Drane, John Pease, Roy and Les Vince, Allen Collier, Steve Finch to name but a few. Thank you Edgar!
Edgar Eastall was the Club's first Social Secretary, organising events such as a bus trip to the Motor Cycle Show just after the war and a Club Run down to Brands Hatch Grass Track (before it became a road racing circuit); as well as being a regular closed-to-club trials rider, he became Club Treasurer in 1952, holding the position for 5 years and served on the Committee until 1961. He competed in the 1957 A.C.U. National Rally. Edgar was made an Honorary Member in recognition of his work for the Club. He organised both the Silver and Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Club's existence and was made a Vice President in 1996. Edgar still attends Club nights and all the Club sporting events, including helping with observing at a recent Championship trial at Covenbrook Hall (October 2002).