Dennis Horn - Racing for an English Rose
Posted: Sunday 16th August 2020
While doing research for the Horn brothers entries on this website I became aware that Dennis had been a hero for the generation I was riding with in the early 1950s. Most were older than me as they had been riding pre-war and I think some had bikes that Dennis had ridden in his heyday. As I did more and more research I began to visualise a book describing Dennis’s feats in the decade or so before WWII and I am taking the liberty of promoting the resulting book which is being published by Adrian Bell of Mousehold Press.
The story focuses on one rider, Dennis Horn, who was a legend in the Fens and Norfolk where I grew up and went on to become a national and international track champion. The book provides an insight into the lives led by a band of grass and hard-track racers who travelled the country fighting for prizes which, in view of the time they devoted to this, must have become a way of life. It portrays the track world of the Thirties in which Horn competed, where crowds of tens of thousands followed these gladiators to events around the country. The book also deals with Claud Butler’s involvement in the track world during that era.
At the age of 20, Dennis Horn won his first English Rose – the emblem of a National track champion. Throughout the 1930s he rapidly graduated from the rough and tumble of makeshift grass track racing at country fairs and gala sports days in provincial towns to assail the heights of British track cycling on the great urban cycling bastions of the time – the hard-surfaced stadiums of London’s Herne Hill and Manchester’s Fallowfield – and become the star of British track racing.
Every year from 1931 to 1938 he was awarded the season-long Meredith Trophy to add to those legendary gold and silver cups he’d won in fiercely contested track battles in front of crowds of tens of thousands. It was a cycling scene entirely unique to Britain in the years before World War II.
But this is more than a simple tale of a strapping rural lad who took on and beat the streetwise metropolitan champions of his era. Dennis Horn, son of a Fenland blacksmith, proved himself to be as astute as any of his urban contemporaries at treading the fine line between amateurism and professionalism as defined by the puritanical British cycling establishment of their day.
Dennis Horn – racing for an English Rose is available from: