The Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club
The first official meeting of the Vegetarian Cycling Club was held in October 1888 in London, at the Central Vegetarian Restaurant in Farringdon. In 1891 it’s headquarters were listed as being at The Vegetarian Hotel, Charing Cross, London. It is a common misconception that vegetarianism is a relatively new movement. In fact it was created before the 1800’s, and was popular particularly in the 1880’s. Vegetarian Restaurants were not uncommon at the time, most commonly in London. So it was an unsurprising consequence of that popularity that the club was formed.
The stated aim of the club was to prove that vegetarians could compete on the same level as meat eaters. This they did admirably with moderate success in competition during the remainder of the decade.
In 1896, Jim Parsley won the Catford Hill Climb, at the time a very prestigious event, in record time. The club was delighted and he was presented, at a celebration dinner staged by the club, with a piano in recognition of his great performance!
In the late 1890’s, the successes continued to accrue, and in the early 1900’s the great George Olley broke long distance records including London-Edinburgh, Land’s End to John O’Groats and the 1000 mile record in 1907, and Land’s End to John O’Groats for a second time in 1908.
Whilst Olley’s star faded, Fred Grubb came to prominence as a prolific record breaker on road and path. Charlie Davey broke seven RRA records between 1914 and 1926.
An excellent history bringing the story up to the present day can be found here.
In 1909 the club changed it’s name to the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club, so the badge seen here dates from the period after that. The green triangular motif is still used today on the club’s kit.
The Willesden Socialist Cycling Club
The Willesden Cycling Club was founded in 1884, but in 1914, along with with many other clubs, it was disbanded at the outbreak of the First World War.
In 1926, a group of socialist activists led by Eric Macdonald, formed a new club, the Willesden Socialist Cycling Club, with the aim of spreading the Labour Party word to a greater audience. Club runs consisted of a ride out to a town or village outside London, where they would hold a political meeting. A platform for the speaker was devised, which could be broken down to component parts carried by the various members on their bikes!
The club rapidly grew, and in 1931 it was decided to change the name to the Willesden Cycling Club, since cycling had overtaken politics as the main aim of the club.
This very rare and wonderful badge thus dates specifically from between 1926 and 1931. It is one of my top favourites, and suggests with it’s motif of hammer, sickle and quill, that the politics of the founders were firmly to the left of the socialist movement.
St. Peter’s Cycling Club
The St. Peter’s Cycling Club was formed in 1888. It’s headquarters were at the St Peter’s Institute and Gymnasium in Buckingham Palace Road, London.
In that period ‘gymnasium’s’ were often used to teach people how to ride a bicycle, and there is reference to this in a journal from 1896 ‘The Wheelwoman and Society Cycling News’ – ‘ST. PETER’S INSTITUTE GYMNASIUM, BUCKINGHAM PALACE ROAD, 3.W. The Most Select School in London. Inclusive fee for Tuition until perfect. The Auto Instructor is used for first lessons. Specialities :—Correct Ankle Pedaling and Graceful Carriage. The Proprietors are the Makers of the Celebrated ” KINGSTON CYCLES”.’ The ‘Auto Instructor’ was presumably a static bicycle trainer.
Their uniform was dark grey with black cap and stockings. It is much larger than most badges, at 40mm diameter, and is backed by purple velvet. It was probably originally silver plated, and was made by the ubiquitous Vaughton and Sons.