Cyclists’ Touring Club Official Tailor 1890

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Just like today where cycling clubs have their own design of jerseys, in the early days of cycling it was also common for each cycling club to have an official uniform for riding. Unlike today, though, this usually constituted a tailored jacket and breeches, wool stockings, and a cap or even a type of protective helmet.

Recently I came across the certificate above, issued in 1890 by the CTC to appoint an official tailor for club uniform. The uniform specifications were laid down by the club in their rules, although the uniform was not compulsory. In the British Library there is a copy of the CTC Uniform Rules and Regulations, which is dated 1888. Remarkably this allows us to see the exact materials specified for the uniform, since there are samples of the actual cloth glued into the publication. Additionally there are details of the uniform requirements for women. The author of the regulations was E.R.Shipton, the Secretary of the CTC, whose flowing signature is on the certificate above.

Carton Reid on his excellent blog Roads Were Not Built For Cars writes about this publication and the CTC uniform in detail. Initially the club adopted green serge for their garb, but it was found that ‘it showed every speck of mud or dust’ of which there was plenty on the roads of the time, so it was discontinued in 1882 in favour of grey tweed. This was settled on ‘after many months of patient investigation’ and testing of over forty different cloths. At the time wool was favoured against the skin, as a hygienic and sanitary fabric, far better than cotton for the rigors of riding. Dr.Gustav Jaeger was partly responsible for this, with his ‘Sanitary Woolen System’ which was popularised by the Royal Family, amongst many other patrons. So, woolen undergarments were also specified.

Jackets were either Norfolk or Lounge style, with knee length breeches or knickerbockers, a grey checked flannel shirt, hand knitted socks, and a choice of headgear ranging from a cricket type cap to a helmet. The helmet would probably have been lined with cork, like a pith helmet of the period.

For ladies there was a coat bodice or Norfolk jacket in the same cloth, and a skirt with or without apron or pannier. Knickerbockers were also an option, and would seem to be a little more practical than the skirts pictured below. However, at that time there was still opposition to women wearing such a garment.

Three weights of wool tweed were available:

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After settling on the regulation uniform, the CTC then appointed official tailors in major cities, so that the quality of the product could be assured. The certificate in question appoints Gulland and Kennedy of Edinburgh as their official supplier. In London one of their appointees was Goy and Co. who made the racing cap in my previous blog post.

Gulland and Kennedy was a well known tailors established in 1886, and the certificate is a very rare survivor of it’s type.

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In The Cyclist Christmas Number for 1890 (above) the uniform colours of all recorded clubs are quoted. For instance, Clapton CC of East London, wore dark blue with white cap, whilst Edmonton CC wore grey check. This would generally have been of tweed or wool serge, with different weights of cloth available for summer and winter use… if you were wealthy enough! The Anfield Bicycle Club of Liverpool adopted an all black uniform, leading to them being dubbed ‘The Black Anfielders’. However, a number of clubs took a more casual stance with no uniform specified. Amusingly the Farleigh CC states ‘grey imitation CTC cloth’ for their outfit. The CTC would not have been amused having claimed that their fabric was of unsurpassed quality and warning about the inferiority of imitators:

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With thanks to Carlton Reid for the images of the CTC Uniform Rules and Regulations. I can also recommend his excellent book Roads Were Not Built For Cars.

Thanks also to Ray Miller and the Veteran-Cycle Club online library, for The Cyclist Year Book 1890

 

 

 

Forest Gate Cycling Club Enamel Sign c.1897

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Whilst signs for national cycling clubs are fairly common, for example Cyclists’ Touring Club, Clarion and NCU, those for individual clubs are hardly ever seen. In fact I have never seen one, and neither have collector friends of mine with far more years experience than me. So when I saw this sign in the boot of a trader’s car at the Beaulieu autojumble, I negotiated with the owner to acquire it, despite the fairly poor condition. It is no good waiting for a better one to come along as it is probably a one-off! The added bonus is that it is of a club that was based locally to me, less than five miles away.

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Forest Gate is a part of East London, bordering onto a large open area of land called Wanstead Flats. When this suburb was being constructed in the mid to late Victorian period, it was indeed the gateway to Epping Forest. Of course it was a great starting point for escapades into the Essex countryside, when the cycling craze took hold.

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It is probable that the club was founded under the name of the Glen Cycling Club, in early 1896, possibly because their headquarters were at the Forest Glen Hotel (above), in Dames Road, Forest Gate. In 1897 it seems that the name was changed to the Forest Gate CC. There is very little information available about the club, but they did take part regularly in the Woodford Meet, a very large local meeting of cycling clubs, at the end of the century, and the early 1900’s, as evidenced by the programmes for those gatherings. By 1905 they were no longer participants, and they may well have folded at that time as so many other clubs did, due to the decline of interest in cycling. Alternatively they might have amalgamated with other local clubs under a different name.

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The members of the club provided some amusing sounding entertainments for the revels of the Woodford Meet. For instance, in 1902 they provided a “Ping-Pong” tableau. The mind boggles at what that might have been – probably something horribly politically incorrect by today’s standards! They also appear to have participated in a concert and other entertainments opposite the Royal Forest Hotel in Chingford.

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Photo: The Woodford Meet 1903, Harry Gulliver

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In 1904 they provided the “Forest Gate Non-Slipping Band” with, as in 1902, some members being mounted on a ‘Quad’ – a four seat bicycle, and others on a ‘Trip’ or triplet, a three seat version, playing such well known instruments as the Cyclophone, Piccalooloo and the Kazoone!

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It is likely that this sign was a one-off, made to hang outside the Forest Glen Hotel c.1897 when the club was founded. It is a good size, measuring 32 x 24 inches, and was manufactured by the Patent Enamel Company Ltd, London. It’s a really very rare piece of cycling history.

 

With thanks to the Vestry House Museum, LB Waltham Forest for the Woodford Meet program information, and to local Forest Gate historians John Walker and Mark Gorman of the E7 Now and Then website, for further information.

 

Cycling Heroes 2: The great Tommy Godwin – 75,065 miles (120,805 Kms)… on a bicycle… in one year… 1939!

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Some time ago I wrote a post about my cycling hero G.P.Mills. I called him the ‘ultimate cycling hero’. Recent events lead me to think about another extraordinary cycling hero – Tommy Godwin, who even surpasses the great achievements of Mills. Let’s not get confused here… There is another famous cycling hero called Tommy Godwin, who won two bronze medals at the 1948 Olympics. Here I am talking about the ‘other’ Tommy Godwin…

Born in Fenton, Stoke on Trent in 1912 to a working class family, Tommy was working as a delivery boy by the age of twelve, and took part in his first time trial at the age of fourteen. He soon showed great talent as a time trialist, and won many events at all distances. Before the outbreak of War and now in his mid twenties, he set out to tackle the toughest challenge in cycling history… the year record. This consists of quite simply riding as far as possible over the course of 365 days. 1911 saw the French rider Marcel Planes set the first record of 34,666 miles. Various future attempts raised the bar, including 45,383 miles by Englishman Walter Greaves in 1936. This record was notable as Greaves had one arm! Despite this disability he set a seemingly huge total, yet within a year Ossie Nicholson of Australia raised the bar to 65,657 miles. It was this record that Godwin resolved to beat.

Setting out on New Year’s day 1939, he knew he had to average at least 200 miles a day, come rain or shine, headwinds or snow. That’s more than the average Tour de France stage…EVERY DAY for a year! Incredibly there was another challenger for the record, Bernard Bennett, who set out at the same time and whose progress helped to push him even harder. He used various routes, but a quite regular one was between his bases in Hemel Hempstead and Stoke on Trent. On 21st June he recorded his highest mileage in one day, a staggering 361 miles in 18 hours! On Christmas day he did an easy 59 miles, his lowest mileage.

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Tommy rode a Ley TG Special bicycle made by his employers at the time, for the first 27,000 miles, before switching to a new sponsor. Raleigh bicycles furnished him with a Record Ace, a popular high end bicycle of the period. The bike had a Reynolds 531 frame, Sturmey Archer 4 speed gear and a Brooks B17 leather saddle, and it would have weighed about 30 lbs.

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Being a vegetarian, common to a number of famous cycling record breakers, his diet was a little limited, particularly as rationing was introduced due to the outbreak of War. He was largely sustained by bread, eggs, cheese and milk.

By October 26th the existing record was beaten with 66 days in hand, and his challenger was lagging well behind. He went on to smash the record by over 12,000 miles. Astoundingly, not being content with this record alone, Godwin continued to ride on until May 1940, when he broke the record for 100,000 miles, completing this in 500 days!!!

It’s difficult to imagine the physical and mental effort required in achieving such a record. Physically he was in great shape before he started, and riding every day, he clearly became super-fit. But the mental effort involved in riding high mileages every day, in every condition imaginable, is simply staggering. Perhaps this is why the record has never been beaten? There is no doubt in my mind that this was the greatest single achievement in cycling history, yet despite this he seems to be little known. This very great man died in 1975, on the way back from a bike ride… of course!

This article came to mind because I heard that on 1st January 2015, British cyclist Steve Abraham, of North Bucks RC, will set out to attempt the record. The Guinness Book of Records will no longer sanction attempts as they decided it is too dangerous, so it will be validated by the Ultra Marathon Record Association, who organizes the Race Across America. Despite riding a state of the art bicycle almost half the weight of Godwin’s, coupled with modern nutrition and psychological coaching, I somehow doubt whether the record will be broken. Nonetheless, I wish Abraham the best of luck and safe rides on this Herculean task!

Update: Abraham was well on schedule to beat the record when he was hit by a moped, breaking his leg. As of March 4th 2017, he is again attempting the record which is now held by American Amanda Coker at 86,573 miles!

Vintage Bicycle Blog gratefully acknowledges the permission of Phil Hambley and Barbara Ford (Tommy’s daughter) for the reproduction of photographic images. Phil’s website about Godwin is undoubtedly one of the best websites I have ever seen on a cycling subject. It is packed with information about the man and his machine, and detailed information about the record, and is also beautifully designed. I strongly recommend investigating it and learning more about this extraordinary man.

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The Anfield Bicycle Club and D.R. Fell

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I recently purchased a silver button badge with the name ANFIELD on it, between stripes of blue and black enamel, with a knurled bezel. It is hallmarked 1909 and on the reverse is engraved D.R.Fell Anfield BC Liverpool. I recognized the badge as being that of one of the earliest and most famous of all the bicycle clubs, and the name D.R.Fell rang a bell with me. I reached for my copy of The Black Anfielders published in 1956, being the history of the club from 1879, when it was founded. This quickly established that Fell was President from 1913 to 1920. Clearly he was an influential member of the club, but more important to me was his earlier history.

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The Anfield Bicycle Club (ABC) was quickly established as having a reputation for hard riding and record breaking, particularly over long distances. They were known as ‘The Black Anfielders’ because in the early days they adopted an all black uniform even down to the braid on their hats. My all time cycling hero G.P.Mills was one of its members and as a youth of 17 in 1884, began establishing his reputation in the club and beyond, culminating in his many Land’s End to John o’Groats records over the period 1886 -1893, and his win in the Bordeaux-Paris road race of 1891. In 1884 a 24 hour ride was established as a club event, and later came regular 12 hour rides as well as 50 and 100 mile events.

At twelve minutes past midnight on Good Friday the 12th April 1885, D.R.Fell set off from Edge Lane, Liverpool in the company of G.B.Mercer, Lawrence Fletcher and a number of other notable riders, with the intention of achieving the gold star standard of the club, set at 200 miles in 24 hours. Fell was riding a Hillman, Herbert and Cooper Ordinary with solid tyres and ball bearing hubs. Most of the group decided on a different route for their attempts and headed toward Bettws-y-coed. Fell and Mercer headed towards Coventry, where they parted company, leaving Fell to press on towards London. The book provides Fell’s diary of the ride and details his progress and various stops for refreshments and rest. At 03.45 he got off to ‘trim lamp and eat some sandwiches (15 mins)’. Arriving at Stone at 06.40 he went in search of breakfast: ‘Tried to get something to eat at hotel, but servants not up so would not wait. (10 mins.) Three miles past Stone had some fresh eggs and milk at a farm (20 mins.)’ By 12.55 he had covered 114 1/4 miles and arrived at Coventry, where he had a dinner of soup and a chop and a short rest totalling 60 minutes. Tea and four raw eggs were consumed near Towcester, and at Stoney Stratford he stopped to light his oil lamp just before seven in the evening. At Dunstable he had covered 172 miles and had ‘Supper (three raw eggs, coffee and a little bread) (25 mins.)’ Passing through St.Albans and Barnet he arrived at Highgate Archway at 12.10.

He had covered 210 miles in 24 hours, whilst the actual riding time was 20 hours 10 minutes. The weather was recorded as being into a strong headwind, and we should remember the fact that he was on solid tyres, riding on primitive roads, and unable to escape the headwind being perched high up on an Ordinary. The ride could not be considered an official record because Liverpool to London had not yet been recognized by the Road Records Association, but it was always considered as such and of being one of the classic rides of the period, and indeed it helped establish the route as a record in 1890. In 1913, when Fell was elected President of the ABC, Cycling magazine published an article about this historic ride, with a wonderful drawing by George Moore, of Fell arriving at Archway. The text emphasized his ‘indomitable pluck’.

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In the ABC archive is a photograph of an Ordinary which purports to be that ridden by Fell on the Liverpool-London ride. I doubt very much that that this was the bike used since it appears to be a machine already a few years old at the time of the ride, with straight handlebars, and solid forks front and rear. It is more likely that the machine was similar to the one being ridden by him in the photograph from 1927 captioned ‘D.R.Fell in old age’, and also seen in the George Moore drawing above.

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Prior to 1891 club members wore an Anfield cap badge (visible in the club photo above) which had the letters ABC intertwined in a monogram. The club has a gold example, which some modern copies were made from, but does anyone out there have an original silver one? I would dearly love to have one.

In 1891 the ABC adopted the small button badge seen above. It was very understated, and the subtle knurled edge signifies the wearer as a record holder. Apparently Fell didn’t think he should wear one as the record had not been endorsed by the R.R.A., but the club insisted he should do so. The 1909 hallmark on the badge suggests that it is a replacement, or duplicate. Perhaps Fell lost the original one, or had a spare. In any event, in later photographs of the man such as this one taken in 1913, we can see him wearing this badge in his lapel buttonhole.

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It is very rare to find an object such as this badge, whose history can be traced with some certainty, and which can recount such an extraordinary story.

The Anfield Bicycle Club is quite unique in having a most extensive archive dating back to the very early days. This consists of numerous photographs, circulars and other ephemera. Following the award of Lottery funding, the club is in the process of scanning the archive to make it available online. Already there are some wonderful archive images available, a number of which are reproduced here. The project is titled ‘Amazing Anfielders’ and the story of just one of these remarkable club members above serves to emphasize the importance and significant place in history of this great club, which is still very active today, 135 years after being founded.

Vintage Bicycle Blog gratefully acknowledges the help of David Birchall and the archive of the Anfield Bicycle Club in the preparation of this article. Photographic images of Fell and the club are copyright of the Anfield Bicycle Club and reproduced with permission. Further ABC archive images can be found here.

Click on photo’s for large scale images

Cycling Heroes 1: Ultimate Cycling Hero – G.P.Mills (1867-1945)

Amongst my collection of original cycling photographs is this beautiful image of George Pilkington Mills, taken in 1893. He is perhaps my ultimate cycling hero. During the period 1886 to 1893 Mills collected no less than six ‘End-to-End’ records. End-to-End means cycling from Land’s End at the South-Western tip of England, to John o’Groats, at the North-Western tip of the Scottish mainland, a distance on roads of that time of approximately 900 miles.

His first record, on a solid tyred 53 inch Ordinary, or Penny Farthing, was made at the age of 19. Despite poor weather and high winds that even blew him and his pacing companions off their bicycles at one point, he rode the distance in 5 days 1 hour 45 minutes, and that record has never been beaten.

His other records for the End-to-End were:

1891 Bicycle (pneumatic tyres) 4 days 11 hours 17 minutes
1894 Bicycle (pneumatic tyres) 3 days 5 hours 49 minutes
1886 Tricycle (solid tyres) 5 days 10 hours 0 minutes
1893 Tricycle (pneumatic tyres) 3 days 16 hours 47 minutes
1895 Tandem bicycle (with T.A.Edge) 3 days 4 hours 46 minutes

When considering these feats one should bear in mind the road conditions during this period. Road surfaces were loose, often heavily rutted by horse and carriage traffic, dusty when dry and a quagmire when wet. The bicycles ridden were very much heavier than today. The 1891 record was made on a bicycle weighing about 45 lbs – over twice the weight of the average road bike today – and fitted with low pressure balloon-like pneumatic tyres which suffered numerous punctures. In many ways the 1886 Tricycle record is perhaps the most remarkable, being performed on a heavy solid tyred Cripper type tricycle probably weighing about 75 lbs. Carried out in dreadful weather Mills knocked 29 hours off T.R.Marriott’s record of the previous year.

The safety bicycle record of 1891 was also memorable. Mills covered 256 miles in the first 24 hours, after which it started raining heavily. He took his first sleep, of 30 minutes, at Penrith after he had reached 456 miles. With less than 20 miles to go to the finish, Mills collapsed seemingly with exhaustion. He slept for no less than 7 hours before finishing the final stage, nevertheless still beating the previous record by 14 1/2 hours! Later it was established that when Mills was flagging on the last day, one of his helpers gave him a dose of cocaine which would have killed a normal person. His doctor concluded that he was saved only by his massive exertions before his collapse. Although this story is often cited as an early example of ‘drug’ taking in sport, it is important to remember that at that time cocaine was considered to be little more than a stimulant. It was also utilised as an appetite suppressant. As late as 1910 the highly respected Captain Scott used widely available cocaine tablets to aid him on the expedition to the South Pole.

As well as his End-to-End efforts, Mills held numerous other records including 24 hour time trial, and 50 mile bicycle and tricycle. Also very notably, he won the first Bordeaux to Paris road race in 1891, with a finishing time of 26 hours over 355 miles.

He was a member of the Anfield Bicycle Club, and a founder member of the North Road Cycling Club, both of which had a reputation for producing record breakers.

Below he is pictured on the Humber tricycle with which he claimed the 1893 Land’s End to John o’Groats record.

PLEASE NOTE THAT I OWN THE EXCLUSIVE COPYRIGHT FOR THE PHOTOGRAPH ABOVE AND IT IS EXPRESSLY NOT TO BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT MY PERMISSION