The Club started originally as a youth club at the Eton Mission in Hackney Wick, London in 1959 and was led by the Reverend John Oates. Later, keen motorcyclist, Father William Shergold decided to hold a church service for motorcyclists in 1962.
He eventually plucked up courage to visit The Ace Cafe on the North Circular Road to hand out leaflets about the service.
He had an immense reaction. The church was full of 'Rockers'.
Even some of their bikes were brought into the church to be blessed.
As this had never been heard of before, the press had a field day!
A motorcycle section was added to the youth club and became so popular that it overtook the club and premises.
Hence The 59 Club was born.
Father Bill moved to Paddington in North-West London and the Club moved with him, even though the premises were much larger, the Club was full to bursting every night.
Father Bill, Father Graham Hullett (who ran the club for some years after Bill went), Mike 'Cowboy' Cook (paid youth worker) and a large work force of volunteers were needed to run the Club.
Again the Club moved, this time to Hackney, and Father Bill moved on to start the 69 Club in Dover.
The 59 Club carried on under the mantle of Mike Cook for many years with voluntary Club Leaders (as they were known) to help him.
Over the years, it has been a privilege for many members to have Father Bill marry them, others have been christened by him.
Undoubtedly a gentlemen, Bill was always ready and willing to officiate at these events and this is just one more reason why he is, and has always been, held in the highest esteem by everyone who knew him.
Due to lack of council funding, Mike Cook retired, this coincided with the Club's lease on the building expiring so the Club moved yet again, this time to Plaistow in East London.
Father Bill was involved in the club until he sadly passed away.
Mike Cook is still involved with the Club and for many years motorcycling vicar, Father Scott Anderson, was on the management team.
The workforce now is a lot smaller and are all hard working volunteers who are committed to keeping the Club up and running.
The team now have been doing so since 1992 and some members who attend each week have been involved since the 60's.
1992 to the present:
Personal view by Dick Bennett
Hi to all you 59ers both young and old, my name is Dick Bennett and some of you may know me.
I have been a member of The 59 Club since 1969 and involved in helping to run the club since the early 70’s.
Having attended some of the great rock and roll dances in the late 60’s, I used to turn up on my BSA 650 Super Rocket and race to Chelsea Bridge.
I am still involved now, when most people in the club have modern superbikes but some also have classic bikes for those special occasions, so feel able to put my personal view of how the club has evolved over the years in this potted history.
I own a 64 Bonneville that comes out on special occasions.
The Club History is well documented in regard to the 60’s, when Father Bill Shergold fired things up, but little has been written down about the club from the 90’s to the present day.
This is all the more incredible when you realise that it has done many things, has moved to new locations and has added another 12,000 members.
I am proud to say I still sit down on club nights, with the same mates I was drinking coffee with at the club 35 years ago.
The burn up to Chelsea bridge no longer happens, just as well we would all be locked up for driving like that now!
Not just one or two, but many of the guys and girls who still attend the club who were there in the 60’s and 70’s and have never stopped coming down, with all the newer members eager to listen to some of the old ‘war stories’ from these guys.
We are the people that kept the club open when it was not fashionable, and when people knock the club (rare but it does happen) remember without people like us, the 59 Club would be but a distant & lost memory.
Although the 70’s and 80’s were the era of coloured leathers, flares and disco, the hardcore of us still attended rock and roll events, but we all had to evolve to keep the club going, so tried to organise events that would appeal to the younger motorcyclists of the day.
The bond that held all this together was a common interest in motorbikes, so as always, it did not matter what creed or background you came from, we were happy that, as in the original aims of the club, ALL who ride had a place to go and just chill out with no dress codes and very few rules.
From the 60's until the early 90’s the club had been funded by council grants, so it meant all costs such as rent, insurance, heating, lighting, maintenance and including Mike’s pay had been financed by Hackney.
Two things were about to happen to the club that almost shut it down in the early 90’s, firstly all grants were withdrawn to the majority of organisations like ourselves, and secondly, our lease was about to expire on the Yorkton Street premises.
The result of this was that we could no longer pay Mike, so like some other major contributors to the club in the past, sadly we had to see him go.
Mike still sits on the Council of Management to this day and he currently still attends club events.
The lack of cash to keep the club going was now becoming critical as the current premises cost a huge amount to insure and heat, and on just these two items of expenditure, the incomings were falling short of out goings by several hundred pounds a week, we were in serious financial difficulties. This, tied to the fact that our lease was about to expire, made us act quickly.
The then Council of Management, who were basically the Board of Directors of the 59 Club had decided that the club had really had its day and with all the problems looming, should consider winding up. However, they had reckoned without the hard-core 59ers.
We had a meeting amongst ourselves following which, the other leaders and members sent Gary and I to speak to Father Bill and convince him that we would and could carry on in a voluntary basis, even if some changes would have to be made.
We had been lucky enough to have had Yorkton Street for a peppercorn rent for 20 years, in return we prevented the church, which was attached to the Club building, from being vandalised and kept the building in good order.
Unfortunately whoever had originally signed the lease on behalf of the club had agreed on vacating the premises in its original condition, although luckily they did not invoke this.
Due to the costs of running this huge building though, even if the lease had been extended, we could not have stayed.
The structure of the Council of Management then changed to include an increased number of club leaders who attended the club regularly.
The club leaders now started looking for new premises. We looked at many old church buildings which were either unsuitable or derelict and became despondent as it was looking more and more as if we would have to give up, then out of the blue one of our long-standing members, Micky Hammond, mentioned that his mother was church warden at the Memorial Baptist church in Plaistow and said they may have somewhere suitable.
Well, as a church based club, I suppose it is ok to get the occasional miracle and this was it, the top floor of the Church was to be our new home. Nothing would ever match Hackney, but with the more reasonable rent we had to pay for the new premises, the club could survive well into the foreseeable future.
59 Plaistow through the Nineties and beyond:
The 59 Club at Plaistow was, and still is, manned entirely by unpaid volunteers, a bit of a change from the old days, when one way or another it formed part of the day jobs of some of the leaders and committee personnel.
This was now a case of survive (also change) or cease to be.
A lot of the old school members of the 59 ceased to be around even more so than after the move from Paddington to Hackney and apart from the hard-core of people who ran the club such as myself, Gary, Sandra, Pete, Geoff, Del and some others, most of the membership were new to the club.
We changed the way the club worked and started to attend the places where motorcyclists like to go.
We became regulars at the BMF Rally in Peterborough, The Ace Brighton Burn Up, the Hop Farm in Kent, as well other events with a sort of mobile Road Show, where we supplied tea and coffee (not to mention Sandra’s famous bread pudding) to all our members from our new Hospitality Tent.
This tent also gives members and guests somewhere to chill out and leave their belongings.
This took the club out to people who would not know us and we gained many members both from home and abroad.
Although we were Rockers at heart and attended the Rockers Reunion events at Battersea and Reading, the people who went were older guys, and whilst it was great to see all of our club mates, it could not at that time survive on nostalgia (although thank goodness, in recent years there has been a massive revival in the Rockers movement).
The club also became more family orientated and has seen whole families and generations grow up with the club, with member’s sons and daughters becoming our new young members.
Yvonne (who used to help at the club and also look after the club accounts for many years) and I were married by Father Bill.
Later, our daughter Harriet was Christened by him, and she now has her own MV 312RR.
It is interesting to note that although the 59 Club was almost revered by the Rockers at places like the Rockers Reunion, where the club always has a stand and runs the raffle, sadly we never saw these riders attend the Plaistow premises to keep things alive.
The membership went from strength to strength with the Reverend Scott Anderson on board as our new Chairman, our link to the church remained as strong as always & Father Bill became our President until his passing. Mike Cook, Brian Hepburn and Sean Hayes are still on the Council of Management and so we never forget our roots.
We still hold Rock and Roll dances at the club to this day, with live music and sound sytems with a special Christmas Tinsel & Turkey buffet/dance around February each year which is always well attended by members from across Europe as well as regulars.
In September 2018, the club opened a new location at the first parish of Bill Shergold in All Saints Church, Hanwell, West London.
Father Sergiy Diduk, an avid motorcyclist and the priest of All Saints, has, since October 2018, become our church figurehead as due to retirement, Father Scott has hung up his 59 responsibilities but not his jacket as he is still active within the club
The overseas membership has just grown over the years and we have sections in France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, USA and Japan, also individual members in many other places around the globe.
I have many friends amongst them and every one is a member of the One and Only Original 59 Club in Plaistow, this pulls together the Spirit of the Rockers and helps to keep the club going so that you can pop along even after not attending for some years but still feel welcome and a part of it straight away.
Highs and lows:
The club has gone through its fair share of highs and lows, just a few years ago we had an electrical fire that threatened to shut all of the Plaistow premises, the whole property was rewired by club members led by Pete, that's how a club should work!
The stories of the people that have kept the 59 running show their commitment to the club and would fill a book on their own.
Roll of Honour:
The 59 Club People who have kept things going for many years:
Thanks to Pete Ellis who joined in the mid 60’s on his Triumph and who for most of that time has attended and helped to run the club (his picture is featured elsewhere on this site showing him when he was a tad younger).
He gave up many weeks of his time to completely rewire the 59 Club at Plaistow and the Swift Centre to enable the scouts and theatre groups to continue using this resource.
I remember Pete grinding the centre stand away on his Trident on the IOM, also forcing some chap almost off the road to offer him a babies dummy as an award for his poor driving (all of course in his younger days! ).
This is the same guy who opens the club on time twice a week and without his help we would have difficulty surviving.
I have known Pete for around 35 years and he probably knows as much about the club as anyone, he is one of the original Rockers.
Gary and Sandra
Like Pete, Gary and Sandra have been coming to the club since the 60’s, and again have been helping to run it for all that time.
Gary has given up many months of his time helping to maintain both Hackney and Plaistow using his skills as a master builder.
On top of all this Gary is our ambassador and always welcomes new members when they arrive.
In fact they are lucky if they can get away, most people who have visited the 59 always remember him and his warm welcome.
This again is the same guy I used to race from the 59 at Paddington to Chelsea Bridge when he had a much coveted Norton factory production racer with the original document from Norton to show it would do 130 mph, although Park Lane was probably not the best place to check its performance!
Sandra has looked after the memberships for many years now and can always be seen toiling away on club nights sending off memberships and regalia to the 4 corners of the globe.
She also manages the magazine on occasions, and anyone who sees our road show will meet her as she is the organiser of that & of course the Tinsel and Turkey party after Xmas.
She has the (difficult and demanding) job of organising Gary who is among other things our road show driver.
These two have given endless hours to running the club and it would be a poorer place without them.
They are both on the Council of Management.
Dick and Yvonne Bennett
I have been involved with the club since 1969 doing my best to kept the ethos of the club alive, we have worked closely with Ace recently to keep that tradition, all of which I could not have done without the support of my wife who has also on occasion been treasurer for the club
Del looks after the club finances and ensures that our accounts are correct and available for Companies House which as a registered charity we are required to do, Del is another long standing helper at the 59 who has been around for years since the 70’s.
Every penny we get from members is accounted for.
This is why we worry when people use the 59 Club name without consulting us or getting permission as a guise for raising funds no matter how worthy a cause they may be for.
George has been bringing us into the 21st Century by loading up all of the membership details onto a computer.
This guy has even started to load on all of the 29,000 original membership forms we have on manual records!
This all makes the mail shots etc. much easier so we can keep in touch with all members.
Geoff is always around to open when Pete is away on one of his long tours and has been coming to the club for years.
A regular attendee who when needed is there to give a hand, Geoff is also a regular at High Beech where motorcyclists meet at the weekend.
Derek Hooper (BBC Del)
Derek introduced me to the club, I first went with him when I was just 15 on the back of his bike.
In fact in the film of 1969 it’s us, at the beginning on his Honda!
He also took me down to Brighton in the sixties to meet our friends the Mods!!!
Derek has helped the club with many things over the years, from left of centre jobs such as providing a rahter large generator when the wiring burnt out thus enabling us to still open the club.
Derek is a 59er through and through and is always ready to defend the club against its detractors.
Brian is our long suffering accountant who has been around as long as Father Bill and still sits on the Council of Management.
He keeps us on the straight and narrow, making sure we comply with the charity rules.
Sandra is the club secretary.
Sean Hayes and Terry Batt
Sean has been on the Council of Management since the 60’s, and Terry has supplied the live rock and roll music for as long as I can remember, (particularly since Hackney) they both do it for the love of the club.
Our events would be nowhere near as good without these guys and we really appreciate the way they have supported us for many years.
There have been many more people I have not mentioned who keep the club going and thanks to them for all their help.
Ace Cafe London
Over the years we have formed a strong relationship with Mark and Linda Wilsmore (who are both long-standing members) and as our history is very linked with the cafe, we have always supported the Ace, the best thing of course is the fact that it is going from strength to strength.
In return they have always supported us, & this sort of Camaraderie is what keeps the spirit of both the 59 and the Ace alive.
It is very easy to criticise from the outside but it’s the hard work of a few that keeps this all so strong.
The Ace are now doing our memberships and regalia making it easier to manage.
Without who's help in constructing this website we would have been really stuck and like a true 59er gave up his time to help get this to you