AT the beginning of this century, car and motorcycle races were held up Rivington Pike. Today, and next week, Mr Denis O'Connor of Bolton History Society, tells the story of these surprising events. MOTOR racing up Rivington Pike? No way, you might think - but you would be wrong!

From 1906 to 1912, Bolton motorists had the opportunity to witness the performance of a variety of cars and motor-cycles in the hands of some notable drivers of the day on the private roads of the Rivington estate of W H Lever (later Lord Leverhulme).

Under the auspices of the North-East Lancs Automobile Club and the Lancashire Motor-Cycle Club, the first of these hill-climb races took place on July 25, 1906, was limited to members of the former club, and was divided into 10 classes according to the list price of the car; this ranged from £200 up to 'exceeding £1,000' which equated to 6 hp Belsize and Rover cars up to 35 hp Daimler (1), 40 hp Napier (2), 60 hp Mercedes (1) and 70 hp Darracq (1).

In order to provide some form of balance between the cars, a handicap for each was calculated using to formulae, one to determine a horse-power figure and the other to arrive at the handicap figure in seconds based on the horse-power resultant of the first formula.

From an entry list of 37 there were 27 starters. These were weighed in Horwich in the morning, then, after a suitable lunch interval, made their way to Rivington and the actual venue which was the road directly behind the Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School. At the end of the day a number of gold medals and cups were awarded to the winners, and Mr Birtwistle, Secretary to the Club secured, according to the 'Autocar' for August 4, 1906, "a special prize given by the Anglo-American Oil Co." In mid-July, 1907, the Club met again, and out of 60 entries 45 turned up. A contemporary issue of the 'Autocar' got a bit more expansive and noted the average gradient to be 1:10 and that the critical portion was 1km in distance with a good surface and that "altogether it was a delightful and busy scene and a glorious day". The previous night the cars had been weighed and the drivers reminded that they must "avoid any doping with oxygen and other adventitious aid" and to stress this "a clause against any such faking was inserted in the rules, viz: disqualification for using any other fuel than petrol".

The names of the cars show that a sizeable number were from the Continent: Minerva (Belgium), Darracq (France), La Buire (France), Metallurgique (Belgium), Horch (Germany), Berliot (France) and Sizaire et Naudin (France).

Among the contenders were examples of cars which either still exist today in one form or another, or have recently disappeared; Wolseley, Talbot, Humber and Daimler. Some of the cars were of local manufacture; three Belsize, 6, 20 and 30 hp models had been made in Manchester by Marshall and Co of Clayton, founded in 1896 making a Benz pattern car based on the French Hurtu and surviving as a maker up to 1925; a single Critchley-Norris of 30/40 hp made by Crossleys of Gorton between 1906/8 and was a chain driven tourer based on Mercedes practice; a 10/12 hp New Eagle made at Broadheath, Manchester, by a Ralph Jackson who progressed from cycle making to founding the Century Engineering and Motor Co to produce three and four wheelers called the 'Eagle' the company wound up in 1907 but Jackson continuing as the owner of St Georges Motor Co (Manchester), and two Bell cars from the firm of that name at Ravensthorpe, Yorks, after the 1914/18 war were made in Manchester by the Co-op Wholesale Society.

Among the drivers was H. Hollindrake on his 35 hp La Burie - his name still survives in the Stockport motor trade; a Mrs E A Riley (believed to have been connected with E J Riley billiard table makers of Accrington) drove a 20 hp Belsize, coming third out of a field of 12 with a time of 1 minute 39 seconds to mount the hill.

Aristocracy was represented by the Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot on a 12/16 hp Clement-Talbot and a Viscount Ingestre on a similar mount in the 15/20 hp class. The fastest time of the day was achieved by Selwyn Francis Edge with a time of 58 seconds on a 60 hp Napier, and a close compatriot, Charles Jarrott, on a 9 hp Sizaire et Naudin took 2 minutes 24 seconds.

NEXT WEEK: The final years.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.