by Carlie Hart
It was a typical November night in 1911 when 16 men on a variety of motor cycles and cycle cars converged on the Royal Talbot Hotel in central Bristol. Philip Grout had called a meeting on the 29th with the idea of starting a motorcycle club. After discussion it was agreed to call the club, the Bristol Motorcycle and Light Car Club and Doctor Llewellyn agreed to be the first chairman. The aim of the club, whilst encouraging a strong social side, was to organise reliability trials and hill climbs which would provide healthy sport and make for better motor cycles with more power and reliability. The founding group then continued their discussion as they sat down to a three course meal washed down by excellent ale and finished with a crusty port provided by the landlord. By 1912 the membership had already reached 100.
Between the Wars the club organised and competed in events of every description and car membership increased in number. The club built no less than three hill climb venues, the best known of which was at Backwell near Bristol where many famous names raced. In 1945 the first speed meeting to be granted an RAC permit was a Hill Climb organised by the club at Naish Hill near Portishead.
During the 1930’s and late 40’s the club ran a number of different trials each year making use of many of the hills used on the Allen today, albeit under different names: Uplands (Big Uplands), Hamswell (John Walker), Doynton Lane (Toghill Lane), Ubley Drove (Travers) not forgetting Burledge and Elwell. C.A.N. May who joined the club in April 1937 frequently mentions these trials and hills in his books, ‘Wheelspin’ and ‘More Wheelspin’. To quote “characteristically the Bristol Club has done as much as any club to keep the sport alive and vigorous during the post war pre basic ban period. Other trialists in the club at this time included Len Parker (Allard), Ken Delingpole (HRG) and Gilbert Best a young Bristol garage proprietor who driving a Ford 10 saloon instead of the usual MG came second in the inaugural Allen Trial in 1946 and was President of the club from 1972 to 1975.
Although the Allen Trophy was first presented to the club in 1938 by Mr. Dennis Foot on behalf of the local Armstrong Siddeley agents, C. Allen & Co. Ltd., the pre war events were more social than sporting. We therefore take the first post war Allen on July 6th 1946 as the first Allen Trial. It had eleven entries and included stop and restart tests on five hills including Ubley Drove where all but three failed to make clean climbs. The event was won by another club member W.V. Ketheroe (MG). In the 1950’s and 60’s the club ran three classic road trials as well as the Feddon Sporting Car Trial. The Allen was run in the Cotswolds, The Full Moon (named after the Hotel where the club used to meet) in the Mendips and the Chappell in the Quantocks. By the 1970’s the Allen (Millington) Trial had moved to its more familiar location ‘Old Avon’ (that is what goes on the permit!). Pete can remember doing the trial in the late 70’s and how muddy it was then! In the early 80’s the bikes split from the cars and finally left the club in 1985.
In 1984 John Hayes and Ken Buckle took over from Jim Cullimore and John in particular has probably done most to make the Allen what it is today. He insisted that it should only use public roads and even took it through Totterdown, Bristol to make use of Vale Street the steepest street in England. He also renamed Hamswell and Ubley Drove after famous local MCC Trialists John Walker and Ted Travers respectively. Having won trial of the year in 1987 he relinquished the job of clerk of the course to Mark Tooth. Mark with the help of Tim kept up the good work and managed to win the award again in 1991 & 1992. When he wanted to take a back seat in 1994, Pete having cleaned the trial in 1992 was invited to take over. It is good that both Ken and John are still actively involved as Stewards and Mark and Tim as vital members of the organising team.