The 59 Club – Reverends and Rockers in Hackney Wick

Brian Longman aka Traxcitement takes a look back on Hackney’s History. This time it’s the 59 club.

Reverend John Oates founded the Fifty Nine Club in its original form on 2nd April 1959 at the St Mary of Eton Mission Church Gainsborough Road, Hackney Wick. It was set up as a church-run club for teenagers living in what was considered a deprived area. The club room which still survives today is located on the right hand side of the internal courtyard up a flight of stairs. The 59 club was an immediate success and Rev. Oates was able to persuade top pop stars of the day to perform there. Among the luminaries who appeared at the club were Cliff Richard, The Shadows and HRH Princess Margaret.

Princess Meets Young Ones

Cliff Richard, The Shadows and HRH Princess Margaret at The 59 Club.

In 1962 Father Bill Shergold a motorcycle enthusiast wanted to invite fellow motorcyclists to a church service at St Mary of Eton, in trepidation he visited known motorcyclist hangout The Ace Café to try to persuade people to join him at the church. The service took place in a blaze of publicity and to the surprise of Shergold many of the teenagers he has invited at The Ace Café turned up; from here he decided to form a new section of the 59 club specifically for them.

Father Bill initiated a Motorcyclist and Rockers night at the youth club; this soon became even more successful than the club’s original incarnation. Along with Father Graham Hullet and others they took this section of the club to new heights with an increasing membership from far and wide. By September 1964 the 6,000 strong club had outgrown the Hackney Wick Youth Club and were looking to relocate to a bigger premises. An article in the Hackney Gazette reported the club members pleading “We are not wild ones” to reassure .prospective landlords. The club relocated to Paddington where Father Bill Shergold had also relocated to before returning to Hackney in Yorkton Street. In 1965 the 59 club became a registered charity. Today it is based in Plaistow and is recognised as a world famous motorcycle club.

Biker Service (photo by lone.rider60)

59 club logo

The iconic 59 club logo

Hackney Gazette article – Friday Sept 11th 1964.