Memorable stories as Banbury Run celebrates 70 year this weekend

Banbury Run
Banbury Run

In its edition of June 30, 1949 the Banbury Guardian reported on the Veteran and Vintage Motor Cycle Club reliability run from Birmingham to Banbury.

Biggest surprise of the occasion was the earlier than expected arrival in our town of a 1902 Clement Victoria, the oldest machine in the event. Owner Mr M F Walker of Harrow, Middlesex was three-quarters of an hour in advance of his expected time. He did the 44 mile journey in just over two hours.

This event began as the Birmingham to Banbury Reliability Run in 1948 and from the start attracted huge crowds.

In the Horse Fair alone in 1949 it was estimated that over 1,000 people seized the opportunity to inspect the machines and put their various enquiries to the riders. Interestingly only one of them was a woman. She was Mrs M Savage of Farnham in Surrey and the rider of a 1913 Douglas 346.

As for local participation in the occasion this was left to Mr RD Thomas of Bicester on a 1913 ABC.

A man behind a remarkable story was Mr J Masterman of Bolton in Lancashire who had entered a 1928 Norton. Before the outbreak of war in 1939 he regularly covered 20,000 miles every year on the machine. By 1939 he had visited 19 countries; astonishingly the machine was still in its original state, quite an achievement bearing in mind that on one occasion he had had to resort to paraffin because no petrol was available. This was not the only adverse experience. Once he got stuck in a bog. Then there was an incident in which his bike was the only protection between himself and a savage bull. On more occasions than he liked to recall prison beckoned because of his determination to take photographs in foreign countries.

Banbury run

Banbury run

In the years up to 1995 the Banbury run was locally based at locations around the town, latterly at Drayton School . Then a year later Rosanne Edwards reported in the Guardian that the rally had been lost to the area.

New hosts were Towcester Racecourse in Northamptonshire. The reason for the move was twofold: sports fields such as the one at Drayton were being sold off for house building; and secondly an adverse development from the point of view of the Run organisers was a proposed construction of an all-weather track. An added difficulty was then caused by the resignation of the entire organising committee who at the same time urged that the event should be cancelled.

Fortunately for competitors and supporters alike a new committee was formed and the race was accommodated at Towcester. It attracted riders from as far away as New Zealand.

Come the year 2000 and the Banbury Guardian recorded the good news that the event was back in town at Drayton School. The newspaper devoted a whole page to the happier news. It was captioned ‘hundreds take part in motorcycling event’.

Banbury run

Banbury run

The column reminded readers that ‘only bikes built before 1930 were eligible to enter. In the event entrants came from as far away as Tasmania.

A bonus of the Run’s return to Banbury was that routes could include Sunrising Hill on the Banbury to Stratford-upon-Avon road. This challenge has always been a very popular spectator point. A welcome surprise among the welter of bikes was Peter Old who sold Cornish ice creams from his 1926 BSA special outfit.

Five years later and the Run of 2005 was memorable for the appearance of certain local riders. Roger Philpot rode his 1927 BSA S28 De Luxe. George and Richard Gibbs, father and son had mixed fortunes: the former broke down at the foot of Sunrising whereas Richard was accompanied by wife Nicola in a sidecar of his 1928 Ariel Model D.

The annual Banbury Run links town and village. 2018 will be no different in this 70th Anniversary year hosted at the British Motor Museum this Sunday, June 17, ensuring that June will be a notable month in the Banbury and District sporting calendar.