Cyclist Beryl Burton OBE given posthumous top civic honour

Caption: (L-R) - Cllr Neil Buckley, Cllr Judith Elliott, Cllr Lucinda Yeadon, Cllr Keith Wakefield (leader of Leeds City Council), the Lord Mayor of Leeds Cllr David Congreve, Cllr Stewart Golton and Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan, with Beryl’s daughter Denise and Beryl's husband Charles.

It was a memorable occasion at Leeds Civic Hall this week, as famous Leeds cyclist Beryl Burton was granted posthumously the city’s highest honour.

Beryl’s name was added to an illustrious list of people that now feature on the ‘Freedom of the City’ board following a special meeting of council at the civic hall. Those who have previously been granted the award, include Jane Tomlinson CBE, playwright Alan Bennett, former South African president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and former British Prime Ministers, Clement Attlee and Sir Winston Churchill.

Present at the ceremony were members of Beryl’s family including her husband Charles and daughter Denise.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said:

"Beryl Burton OBE is quite simply the greatest British cyclist of all time, and it was only right that as a city we formally recognised her amazing achievements in the sport by the award of our highest civic honour.

"If Beryl was competing today she would be a true global sporting superstar, and through this Freedom of the City award, we are helping to ensure that her vast accomplishments and legacy will not be forgotten and can be used as an inspiration for future cyclists.

"To see so many of Beryl’s family also present at the ceremony was really humbling, and I hope that by bestowing this honour we were able to give them a sense of how proud the city is of her."

Beryl, who died aged 58 in 1996 having lived throughout her life in Morley, enjoyed a stellar career and left a record that is undoubtedly one of the greatest that the sport of cycling has ever seen. These include being crowned five-times world champion over 3,000 metres, 13 time national champion and in a truly incredible feat, British best all-rounder champion for 25 successive years.

In what is Beryl’s arguably great accomplishment, the former Morley Cycling Club and Knaresborough CC rider also held the men’s world 12-hour time trial record for two years in the 1960s. In 1967, this included pedalling 277.25 miles in 12 hours, and it was only in 1969 that a man was able to beat this record. To this day, no other woman has been able to beat the time set by her.

This civic recognition will help ensure that Beryl’s achievements, which did not always receive the plaudits that they truly deserved during her lifetime, are not forgotten, and also act as a real inspiration to future cyclists.

For media enquiries, please contact;

Colin Dickinson, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 39 51578

Email: colin.dickinson@leeds.gov.uk