STOCKSBRIDGE & DISTRICT MOTOR CYCLE & LIGHT CAR CLUB,
later Stocksbridge & District Motor Club
My grandad, Brook Donkersley (1906 - 1976), was involved with this club for many years, as well as the Hillsborough Motor Club. A keen biker in his youth, he later worked as an official in the club.
My grandad Brook Donkersley (1906-1976) was a keen motorcyclist and motorist, and served as both president and vice-president of the Stocksbridge & District Motor Club. He was also the treasurer of the Hillsborough Motor Club. He enjoyed racing motorbikes and owned, among others, a Brough Superior and a Scott. He told me that he once raced Lawrence of Arabia across the sands at Blackpool, but I don’t know who won! I believe that Lawrence also had a Brough Superior. When Brook was a young man, he raced at Donington.
There were two incarnations of the club, one running between the Wars, the other post-World War 2.
The club was first formed in 1921 and lasted until around 1931 (the last mention of it in the newspapers was in June 1931). Its was named The Stocksbridge & District Motor Cycle & Light Car Club  and it was begun in May 1921 by John Dyson Gregory of Craglands, Deepcar, who was the club secretary. Early meetings were held in Thomas Pladdey’s pub, the Sportsman’s Arms at Old Haywoods, Deepcar. Thomas Pladdey and his wife Dorothy had been the landlords of the Sportsman’s for ten years, having moved there from Sheffield in 1911. Mr. Pladdey was keen on all kinds of sports and gave his backing to the club, hosting its meetings and sponsoring a cup. The couple were the landlords for almost forty years. Later meetings of the club were held at the Rock Inn, Green Moor.
The first Reliability Trial was held on the 23rd July 1921. This was an organised ride which challenged riders to complete a course, passing through designated control points within a pre-set time limit. The riders set off from New Road End (where the Peggy Tub used to stand) and there were two circuits over an “intricate” course through Ewden, Langsett and Hunshelf. Nineteen competitors faced the starter, Mr. F. Hubert, and Mr. Pladdey sponsored a cup. The winners were:
1. Pladdey Cup and “Stacey” gold medal: H. Thompson riding a Triumph
2. Silver medal: C.W. Hayward riding a Clyno
3. Bronze medal: H. Clarke riding a Coventry Eagle
Later that year, on the 29th October, the first 100-mile Reliability Trial to Newark and back was held, something that would take place annually.
 The term light car meant an automobile whose engine capacity was less than 1.5 litres (about 90 cubic inches).
This photograph is said to be the riders at the start of the first Reliability Trial for the Pladdey Cup, but this would be 1921, not 1922 as captioned. This photograph has twelve riders: H. Thompson, E. Hoyland, D. Gregory, W. Hayward, W. H. Clarke, G. Moorhouse, G. Burrows, G. Branston, W. Sutton, T. Fallows, R. Bower and H. Ellison. Source of photo: unknown
The club held its first annual meeting in January 1922, and D. Gregory was elected as secretary, with E. Gregory as assistant secretary, S. Hampshire was elected treasurer, and G. W. Battye as president. The club’s first annual prize giving took place in February, and was attended by many members and friends, with Mrs. M. W. Archer presenting the prizes and Andrew Smith presiding. The prizes for the first Reliability Trial were handed out, but Mr. Thompson, who had won the Pladdey Cub and gold medal, had since died (this confirms that the above photo can’t be 1922, because Thompson is one of the riders in the photograph).
The trial for the Pladdey cup took place over two 20 m.p.h. circuits of the course from the end of the new road via Bolsterstone, Wigtwizzle, Ewden, Millstone - “dry, and not the usual terror” - Midhope, Upper Midhope, Langsett, Hartcliffe, and Hunshelf. W. P. Archer won the Pladdey cup and medal on a B.S.A., George Moorhouse got second place on a Scott, and W. Sutton came third on a Rudge Multi.
The club held a “most severe trial,” with riders competing for a solid silver trophy. A “secret course over entirely new routes” was adopted. The trophy was presented by G. W. Battye, the president, to the winner C. W. Hayward, who rode a Martinsyde. Second was W. H. Clarke on a Norton, and third was W. P. Archer riding a B.S.A. The “Lightweights” was won by H. Webb on a 2¼ horsepower “Webb’s Velocity.” (I think the reporter meant that Webb was riding a Velocette as there was no such bike as a Webb's Velocity).
In December 1922, the club held its second annual dinner and prize giving at the Sportsman’s Arms. Third prize for the new “Moore” cup was E. Hinchcliffe. This was possibly Ernest; if so, it could be my great uncle, pictured here on a Rudge.
The club also organised inter-club Trials. In November 1930, twelve riders set off from the Friendship Hotel, on the main road in Stocksbridge. The men were competing for the “Friendship” trophy which would have been sponsored by long-time landlord Tom Batty who was very involved in local life, and a generous benefactor. K. Ellison won the trophy (lost 19 marks), with J. Armitage coming second (lost 29 Marks) and A. Hayward third (lost 31 marks). Riders in the Trials lost marks for putting a foot down or coming to a complete stop. Trials were also held for novices.
In June 1931, the club organised a Reliability Trial for the South Yorkshire Group. There were entries from ten teams including Stocksbridge, Sheffield and Hallamshire, Barnsley, Chesterfield, Pitsmoor, Handsworth and Rotherham clubs. The route was “compact and difficult” and covered both public roads and private land. 78 riders set off from the Club Inn at Midhope, and within a few hundred yards they encountered a narrow lane called Stoneycroft, which was just wide enough to admit a machine and rider. It was reported that “the name certainly did the lane justice, for it was stoney and wet,” and a number of competitors lost marks there. Then it was on through Ewden and Wigtwizzle. There were large crowds of observers, who applauded the skilful riding. It was found necessary to cut out Saddleback owing to its dangerous surface, and the riders had an easy run until they commenced the ascent of Fox Wood. Here the spectators gathered in force, and many riders found difficulty. Quite a few riders got stuck in deep water and mud. Then there was a tricky climb up through Hammerton’s Farm, where there were failures through wheel spin. Riders made up time on the roads, arriving back at Midhope on time.
Stocksbridge came first (E. Hayward, A. Haywood, C. W. Hayward, J. Armitage), 22 marks lost; Sheffield and Hallamshire came second, 35 marks lost; and Hillsborough came third, 47 marks lost. The individual placings were: E. O. Ward (Stocksbridge) and W. E. Balmforth (Sheffield and Hallamshire) tied for first place, with A. Hayward third.
The newspapers continued to report on results and meetings until 1931, after which there were no further mentions of the club. I am told that the club fell by the wayside during the Depression, but the trophies were saved and used again when a new club containing old and new members was formed after WW2.
One of the founder members of the later club, now simply known as the Stocksbridge & District Motor Club, was Fred Harrison. Fred had been a keen cyclist in the 1930s, and several of his old cycling friends such as George Torry were also involved in this reformation. Fred Harrison had worked in the cold rolled strip department as a roller during WW2, which was classed as “essential work,” so he was not called up to fight. He was in the Home Guard during the war, and his love of motorcycles came in handy because he would do some despatch riding and get posted guarding the Langsett dams around North America.
Two of the founder members of the new Motor Club are on this photograph of the Stocksbridge Wheelers Cycling Club, 1935; postcard by W. Beckett, Common Piece. Fred Harrison is on the back row, extreme left; George Torry is on the front row crouching extreme left;
The first meeting of the new club was held at the King and Miller at Deepcar, and the first H.Q. was at Alderman's Head Farm, Langsett.
The Club joined the Auto Cycle Union in 1946, proper rules were drawn up, membership cards printed, and conferences attended in Leeds. A logo and badge in black and green were designed by Fred Harrison. In 1947 Jack Godley welcomed the club to the Trunce farmland at Green Moor; Dean Head was also used in Trials through the help of Chad Steel. Mr. Macro Wilson helped the club by contacting the farmers, in order for the courses to be built on the club’s behalf. Walls had to be taken down and a swamp drained - the latter after Jack Hughes on his O.E.C. (Osborn Engineering Company) bike (known as O'eck) sank up to its handlebars and had to be dragged out by a tractor. However, there was still an area in the bottom field that was always wet and soggy, and riders struggled to get through it.
According to Joan Firth, writing in the Hunshelf Chat newsletter in 2002, the early officials were:
President: H. Battye, esq.
Vice Presidents: T. Westward, W. Hayward, E. Knowles, Brook Donkersley
Chairman: Jack Hughes
Treasurer: A. D. Leather
Competition Secretary: Fred Harrison
Assistant Competition Secretary: John Mason
Social Organiser: K. Rowlands
Convenor: Frank Fox
General Secretary: George Torry
Assistant General Secretary: B. Shale
The membership at this time [no date] was about 25.
My grandad Brook Donkersley's membership card. He was also the president (in at least 1946, 1947, 1949)
I have an original photograph of the group on a run, but there are no names on it. Fred Harrison’s son Graham also has this photograph and has been able to supply some information about it. The photograph was taken near Bamford on the way to Derbyshire. The note on the back says 1947/8 first club run, taken between Ladybower and Bamford near the old petrol station. Graham thinks it’s more likely to be 1947 rather than 1948.
Fred Harrison’s combination is on the left. We are unsure as to the bike but it looks very much like Fred's Ariel Red Hunter 500; Fred is on the second row, sixth from the left, holding his son Graham. His wife Muriel is on the front row second from left above the number 7. The Combination on the right is a BSA V-twin and side car which belonged to Jack Hughes
Front row: ? , Muriel Harrison (wife of Fred), ? , ? , ? , Joyce Hanwell, Dora Fox (sister of Frank Fox, married name Drabble), June Birch, Alfred Reynolds, man on bike is Frank Fox
Centre: ? , Alf Harrison, Alf’s wife Sylvia Harrison, ? , Aubrey Sutton*, Fred Harrison holding his son Graham, ? holding child, possibly Jimmy Birch?, ? , Brook Donkersley with the trilby hat on is on the far right
Back row: ? , ? , ? , Jack Hughes, Jack’s wife, ? , ? , ? , ? , man holding child , ?.
* Aubrey has been identified by Jack Hanwell; Aubrey married Jack's sister Joyce (Aubrey has his hand on Joyce's shoulder). They emigrated to the U.S.A. a year or two after this photograph was taken.
Shauna Ellison has identified her uncle Alf Reynolds, her mum June Birch next to him (she married Frank Fox junior), and her grandfather Frank Fox senior.
Graham Harrison has also identifed several people
I can’t see my grandma on here, Brook’s wife. My mother Margaret would have been about nine years old in 1947, and I can’t recall her ever saying she went on a bike run. Perhaps she just stayed at home with her mum.
Leather coats and goggles seemed to be the order of the day, and some of the bikes would have been fitted with windshields to provide some protection. Jack Hughes has some goggles perched on his hat. Fred Harrison acquired a full-body flying suit at some point, no doubt ex-RAF issue. Helmets were optional; they did not become a legal requirement until 1973. Graham Harrison remembers that his dad later dad got another side car, a sportier model with a crash bar around the body. This had a boot with a pull-out lid which he converted into a “dickey seat” in which his younger sister sat.
The club organised the annual Green Moor Scrambles at Trunce Farm. These were organised on official lines. First a permit had to be acquired from the Auto Cycle Union; then the Scramble had to be announced six weeks prior to the event. Applications were sent out to competitors and entrance fees collected; the St. John's Ambulance and a doctor were contacted for attendance, track stewards appointed, and the track marked out and double roped for safety.
Mr. Eric Shales who frequently rode in the Scrambles apparently collected hundreds of linen wallpaper bags for the first Scramble, washed them, and used them as flags to line the course (he was a decorator). Programmes for this event were 1s. 6d. each. Ellis Hughes thought the first riders’ numbers in 1947 were made from silver wartime barrage balloon material, with the numbers painted on in black.
For each event in the Scramble, four heats were held and the fastest from each heat went through to the finals. The Scramble usually ended with a Grand National, where any competitor who wanted to race could do so. It was a free-for-all, with as many as twenty to thirty riders on a mass start. The Scrambles attracted some very good riders from all over the country. Two local riders, Frank Fox and Alan Raynor, went on the ride in the Isle of Man T.T. The events attracted a lot of spectators.
In October 1947, twenty-seven riders competed in the “Invitation Scramble” from not only the Stocksbridge club, but also clubs from Bradford, Rotherham and Sheffield North End. The following year saw riders attending from Leeds, Halifax, Bradford, Horsforth, Ilkley, Middlesbrough and South Yorkshire. Winners from Stocksbridge were A. Raynor, J. Cox, W. Baraugh and P. Masheder.
Graham Harrison remembers that the Scrambles were the highlight of the year for him. His dad Fred used to ride in the early scrambles but Graham was too young to remember this. He does however remember going to the Trunce with his dad when they were roping out the course, setting up the start and finish tents and the elastic start tape. His dad used to let him drive the motorbike and sidecar up and down the start & finish straight when he was only ten years old! He had a 500cc Ariel Red Hunter at the time. Fred used to ride to the grass track events with the sidecar and then disconnect the sidecar so that he could race the bike.
Wilf Coldwell remembered my grandad Brook Donkersley retiring from riding trials just as he himself was beginning to ride in them. This was in around 1953 when Wilf rode in his first Scramble at Green Moor – he went on to ride in them nationally. He died in 2017. In later years, Brook used to start the Scrambles; he had a long piece of elastic with cloths tied to it, which he held taut in front of the bikes before dropping it to start the race.
In 1954, the club staged a Scramble in aid of the A.C.U. Benevolent Fund (Auto-Cycle Union), but the event had to be cancelled after the third event because of the rain. The winning rider in the second event was Frank Fox from Barnsley, who had been the Junior Manx Grand Prix winner the year before
The last Scramble was held at Green Moor in the early 1980s.
Below: photographs from the Scrambles - click on a photograph to enlarge it
In winter the club organised Trials, which tested the skill of riders over sections of rough ground. Ellis Hughes (son of Jack) told me that there could be ten sections of different, difficult riding conditions, perhaps up to a mile apart. The rider had to negotiate various obstacles such as rocks and water without stopping or putting a foot down etc. Penalties were given for slow time or stopping.
Graham Harrison used to go with his dad Fred to mark out the sections and even help observe by watching for riders putting a sneaky foot down on the blind side. He remembers that the points scoring system was 1 point for a single “dab” (foot on the ground), 3 points for more than one dab, and 5 points for a complete stop. The maximum possible point penalty for a section was 5 and there were zero penalty points for a “clean” run. This could be a cold and wet job for all involved.
Graham doesn’t know if the riders were given any guidance beforehand on how to get from section to section, but he does remember that paper bags containing a blue powder were thrown on to the road at strategic points to help guide them around the route. The bikes developed quickly during this time from little more than road bikes with special tyres to more purpose-built machines with better ground clearance and suspension and lower weight. The DOT Sport model was specifically designed so that it could easily be converted to trials and scrambling use by removing the lights.
In 1956, the South Yorkshire Group of Motor Clubs organised a Trial in which some 100 to 150 riders competed, the route going over several South Yorkshire courses in Barnsley, Mexborough, Conisbrough and back through the Bolsterstone area to the Trunce, ending up at the Rock Inn at Green Moor
The following article appeared in the South Yorkshire Times newspaper (Stocksbridge edition); there is no date on the cutting but we think it dates to 1949.
A TRIP OVER MOORS
Pioneers use Motor-Cycles
From Flouch to Derwent
Stocksbridge Party of Six Men and Three Machines
The advice of at least one of the six intrepid motor cyclists to those who contemplate following their suit and crossing the Moors from the Flouch to Derwent is: “Walk it.” The motorcycle expedition of Stocksbridge and District Motor Cycle Club members which set off on a February Sunday morning, was F. Shale (rider), E. Shale (passenger), G. Shires (rider), G. Torry (passenger), R. Whittaker (rider), F. Harrison (passenger).
Each carried sandwiches for a meal, and passengers were armed with ropes, camera, compass, maps, etc. Barnside Moors and its mysteries, known only to local inhabitants and hikers, had aroused their curiosity.
Pebbles to Rocks
They were determined to discover what that vast stretch of moorland held in store. Their appetite was whetted all right. After riding for about eight minutes, they came to a bridge spanning the narrow end of the reservoir and bringing the track to an abrupt end.
Crossing the bridge, they came to a narrow path on to the moors. It was very steep, littered? with anything from pebbles and wall toppers, to great big blasted rocks, with a gully about two feet deep running down the low side. These conditions made the Scott Trial look an amateur event.
As they went up, Reg Whittaker hit a large rock which threw the bike and himself into the gully, his passenger, Fred Harrison, jumping clear. When they caught up with the others, they found them standing over George Shire’s machine with puzzled expressions. Seemingly, George Torry’s seven stones were too much for the pillion seat – it had broken, and 20 minutes were wasted while the seat was patched up with rags and tape.
The ground was levelling, but not the path. This was riddled with potholes and frighteningly big ones. First one motorcycle dropped into a hole and had to be lifted out and then another. After three miles of these ups and downs the party stopped to view the scenery. “It was really marvellous” says Reg Whittaker. “To our left the moorland stretched for miles; not a house or sign of civilisation anywhere, and to the right a deep ravine with a stream running in the bottom.”
A Slip And …
The path which the party had to take ran along the edge of this ravine and it did not look too inviting. A slip and they would have been over the top. “Speaking for myself, I felt none too good,” said Reg, “and I think the pillion passengers must have been feeling the same way as Fred Harrison hung on to me until my breathing was practically nil.”
After leaving the ravine they struck a very uneven path, up and down the hills, with a few nasty little bogs thrown in. Francis and Eric Shale did a power dive when their front wheel dropped into a deep pothole. A little further the silencer dropped off Whittaker’s machine. Some bogs covered with ice were worse than others and the machine sunk to the axle in mud when they started to cross. Then it was a case of all hands on deck with ropes and the bicycles looking very sorry for themselves.
“After what seemed hours of this trial-come-scramble run, we finally saw in the distance the end of our trail and, boy, were we pleased,” Reg continued. “As we descended on to the roadway a man and woman passing by looked at us with surprise as though they could not believe their own eyes. Still I guess we did look a strange sight, me without a silencer, George Shires with a pillion badly battered and a machine minus a footrest, and all six looking like long lost relatives of Barney’s bull. We got down to a little café on by Lady Bower Reservoir in record time and were soon sinking our teeth into welcome food.”
Barney’s Bull – old slang for in a very bad state
CLUB RUNS AND SOCIAL LIFE
The club also provided a social life for its members, providing many activities both with and without bikes - dinners, dances, picnics at the Trunce, club runs, treasure hunts, time trials and quiz runs. Graham Harrison remembers that the Club was an important part of the social life of his family when he was growing up; indeed, it was like an extended family. He writes: “We looked forward to the regular Sunday “runs” to places of interest including Derbyshire, north Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire. As far I remember we ate our packed lunches had a quick look round the place and checked all the other bikes and sidecars. When members started getting cars the interest waned and the origins of the club i.e., motorbikes were lost. I think the club then declined but I don’t know how it all ended up.” A popular spot was Matlock Bath, which is still a popular venue for motorcyclists today.
Fred's daughter Janet also has fond memories of the Club. She writes: “My memories are mainly about the parties behind the Co-op or spending a day on the moors at one of the trial positions, or Greenmoor watching scrambling. I remember Shales had a caravan near the track and maybe gave us refuge in bad weather. Oh, I do remember the trips and the fact that people started getting cars, so it wasn’t the same, it created a divide. Those that had and those that didn’t have! I remember that dad used to repair other people’s motorbikes in the back yard. I don’t think he charged anything either!”
The annual dinner and prize presentation was held in 1950 at the Flouch Hotel, Hazlehead. Trophy winners were my grandfather Brook Donkersley, as well as D. Turner, G. Shires, A. Reynolds, R. Whittaker, J. Birch [Jimmy], Keith Slater and Mrs. H. Jennings. Brook Donkersley presented a cheque for five guineas to Mr. S. L. Wood for Stocksbridge old folks’ outing [reported in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 23 January 1950].
The annual club family Christmas party was held at the hall situated behind the Co-op building on Manchester road, known as the Guild Rooms.
In 1955, the club organised a dance, which became an annual event. The third annual dance was held at the Victory Club in November 1957. In 1958 it was decided that a Member’s Night would be held on the first club night in each month.
PHOTO: Club Christmas party c1952/3, held at the Co-op Guild Rooms
Front row left to right: Graham Harrison, Graham’s sister Janet Harrison, ? Shales, Shales (son of Francis Shales?). Behind Graham is Rex Davis (seated, wearing glasses), then Ron Williams and then Fred Harrison.
Standing on the chair far right is Francis Shales, next to him is probably his wife, with Muriel Harrison next to her.
The man standing behind Muriel in the glasses is Mr. Docker.
Extreme left, Hubert Palfreyman.Next to back row extreme left is Alf Reynolds
Presentation of prizes. Brook Donkersley is on the far left, and his wife Connie is presenting the cup. Standing just behind the man receiving the cup, partially obscured, is Ron Williams. The man seated behind the man receiving the cup, partially obscured, could be Harry Marshall. The man just behind Connie with the bow tie is George Torry. George’s wife is standing behind the daffodils. The lady seated on the extreme right is possibly the wife of Francis Shales. On the table behind Connie I can make out that the 2nd best time trials prize of a pipe rack was to be awarded to B. Reynolds.
Extreme bottom right: Fred Harrison. Next to him, seated on another lady’s lap, is Mrs. Torry. Her husband George Torry is next to her with his arm on the back of the chair. Next to him, the man wearing glasses is Rex Davies.
Seated at the back table with the prizes on: Brook Donkersley is behind the daffodils, and his wife Connie to his right (as you look at the photo), sitting next to Frances Shales. Extreme right at the back, second head in is Alf Reynolds.
Presentation of prizes.
Front row: ? , ? , Brook Donkersley, Brook’s wife Connie Donkersley, ? , George Torry’s wife
Middle row L-R: ? , ? , ? , Alf Reynolds, George Torry
Back row L-R: ? , Harry Marshall, Mr. Docker, ? , Ron Williams, Amy Williams
Left to right: ? , Brook Donkersley, Connie Donkersley (obscured by the cup), ? , ?
There are no further references in the newspapers to the Club after 1958 (although the Stocksbridge edition of the South Yorkshire Times is not online at the time of writing, 2021), and I do not know when it folded.
More related photographs
My grandad was also a member of the Hillsborough Motor Club. The following is taken from a news-sheet of the Hillsborough Motor Club, dated September 1932. Brook would have been 26 years old.
Club Personalities No. 2: Brook Donkersley:
Having the capacity to consume enough of "CARTER MILNER & BIRD'S" body builder for two normal persons, his parents thought it wise to give him two surnames. [Carter, Milner and Bird were Sheffield brewers]
He wants to be a butcher when he grows up [he already was, having served his apprenticeship in the family firm]. Can tell the difference between a Cow and a Bull. Says the only way to tell is to walk up to a Cow, and if it grunts…it’s a Pig. Has recently graduated from a [Scott?] to a real motorcycle. To wit, a ’90 Beam’ (You will all agree that Brook deserves the best [.?.] because as a motorcyclist he is unique.
If there were "pots" for the best kept machine, he would, by now, have an outsize in sideboards groaning under a perfect shower of ironmongery.
He is undoubtedly the "Champion Social Member," rain or fine will find him at Leacroft, ready for a day's outing, or to observe at some out of way spot, whilst a trial is in progress.
Can stand having his leg pulled. Likes a good yarn and enjoys a "Blind." He is the most popular fellow we know, and the reason is this. Brook would give his right arm for the Club, or the shirt off his back for any of his fellow-members. Makes a good captain, and is a good sport. To coin the words of an old song, "Brook’s a jolly good fellow. And so say all of us."
His cars were always immaculate, and it's no surprise to hear he kept his motorbikes in similar good condition.
For more vintage motorbike photographs see HERE
An article in the Hunshelf Chat Magazine (Issue 24, August 2001) by Joan Firth, whose brother Fred Harrison was one of the founder members of the second incarnation of the club
Ellis Hughes (son of Jack) (died 2020)
Graham Harrison (son of Fred)
Janet Harrison (daughter of Fred)
Keith Hanwell (died 2020)
Wilf Couldwell (died 2017)
Family photos and papers from Brook Donkersley
Fox Magazines, published by Fox's steelworks 1946-1966 and available at Stocksbridge Library