Beryl Burton - Biography - Total Women's Cycling

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Beryl Burton – Biography

A short history of the life of female cycling phenomenon Beryl Burton.

Beryl Burton cycling mural at the memorial gardens in Morley


Beryl Burton Biography

Female Cyclist Beryl Burton was born as Beryl Charnock on the 12th May 1937 in Halton, Leeds. She suffered from health problems as a child and spent a year and a half in hospital due to rheumatic fever.

Burton only discovered cycling later on in life and was introduced to cycling by her husband, Charlie Burton. She took her first National medal in 1957; the start of an incredible cycling career.She dominated women’s cycle racing in the UK, across Europe and around the world, winning almost 100 domestic championships.

Burton is  considered by many as the ‘best ever female cyclist’. She raced for Morley Cycling Club and later on Knaresborough CC. Despite being arguably the greatest woman cyclist ever, Beryl Burton, remains little known outside of Yorkshire and the cycling fraternity.

She died from a heart attack on the 8th of May 1996.

Want to know more? Check out these facts about Beryl Burton we bet you never knew before now.

Beryl Burton Records

Beryl Burton’s cycling success reads like the script of a Hollywood film. Five times world pursuit champion, thirteen times national champion, twice road-racing world champion and twelve times national champion. Her accolades include time trials, former world record holder, former British record holder, numerous sports awards, an MBE and an OBE.

She set a 12-hour time-trial record in 1967, covering 277.25 miles, beating the men’s record by 0.73 miles.

Burton also managed to set or break over 50 National records and her 10-mile, 25-mile and 50-mile records stood for two decades before being broken. Burton’s 100-mile record stood for almost three decades while her 12-hour record still stands.

Beryl Burton never competed at the Olympics, as Women’s Cycling was introduced at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, too late in Burton’s career; she was 47.

Beryl Burton also holds the women’s bicycle tandem record for the 10-mile distance, set with her daughter Denise, it took them just 21 minutes, 25 seconds.

Beryl Burton Play

Actress Maxine Peake wrote a play to celebrate Beryl Burton’s extraordinary achievements. Simply called ‘Beryl’, it was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the 27th of November, 2012.

The play has since been adapted and will be shown at the West Yorkshire Picture House between the 30th of June 2014 and 9th July 2014. Leeds will be hosting the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France – a great time to go and watch the Beryl Burton play.

Beryl Burton Book

Beryl Burton’s book is called ‘Personal Best: The Autobiography of Beryl Burton’. The book gives a detailed account of a gritty Yorkshire woman with a dry sense of humour, who took on the world on her bicycle and the prejudices she faced off it. As a female athlete with endless determination, she gave nothing but her best. The book features a 17-page picture gallery and it is well reviewed, with three 5-star reviews and one 4-star review on Amazon.

Beryl Burton Gallery

Beryl Burton Film

The Beryl Burton film is called ‘Racing is Life: The Beryl Burton Story’ and it’s available on DVD.The 130-minute film is an 88-minute documentary of unique archive film footage from the late 1950s to the 1970s with 42-minutes of bonus features, including interviews with her daughter Denise, brother Jeffrey and sister Maureen and we hear from Beryl herself, who in her spare time loved knitting, as she had no television or radio in her home. You can also watch an 8-minute documentary of Beryl Burton on YouTube.

Beryl Burton Memorial Garden

Two years after her death, the town of Morley where Burton lived, honoured its favourite daughter with an impressive mural in her own memorial garden, just off Queen Street close to the town centre. The Beryl Burton Gardens also features a commemorative plaque which reads: Beryl Burton OBE 1937 – 1996: Was a cycling phenomenon. Born in Halton, Leeds and living in Morley for much of her married life, she became 3000 metre Track Pursuit World Champion in 1959, (the first of five victories). She was Road Racing World Champion twice and every year from 1959 to 1983 British Time Trials Best All Rounder.

Beryl Burton’s Death

Beryl Burton died of a heart attack during a social ride shortly before her 59th birthday in 1996. She was out delivering invitations to her 59th birthday party.

Her daughter Denise suggested that Burton’s competition spirit and drive just wore her body out.

Click here to read about more inspirational cycling women.


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