Vintage and veteran bicycles of quality and how to preserve them for future generations, with a particular interest in the French 'constructeurs'. Please note all images are my copyright unless otherwise stated, and may only be used with my express permission.
A beautiful badge with intriguing imagery. The handlebars have the shape of typical 1890’s road racing bars, although the grips are more like those of an Ordinary. These are topped by a Castle, and behind the name there is a dog like creature and a star above. What is all that about?
There is a photograph in existence with a group of cyclists (and a dog) captioned with the club name. Judging from the style of the bicycles, this dates from the mid 1890’s.
South Shields Cycling Club
This club from the North-East coast of England, was formed very early in the history of cycling, on March 22nd 1878. In the 1891 ‘Cycling’ Annual, its headquarters were listed as being in the Royal Hotel.
The motto on the badge reads ‘Always Ready’ and depicts a rowing boat packed with men. This is the motto of the town, which relates to the World’s first purpose built lifeboat stationed in South Shields in 1789, and the later formation of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade in 1866.
Lombard Cycling Club
The reasons behind the name of this club remain obscure, but it was based in Stoke Newington, London, N16. Founded on April 3rd 1889, headquarters were at the Neville Arms public house (below). This pub still exists, but has strangely now lost the ‘e’ at the end of it’s name. Their uniform was listed simply as ‘grey’.
This is a most unusual badge, as the three legged central section rotates on it’s central axis.
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.
Cycling clubs have been around since the earliest days of cycling. In the days of the Ordinary, or penny-farthing bicycle, it was common for clubs to wear a uniform. For instance, the Anfield Bicycle Club rules of 1882 stated that ‘the uniform be Black Patrol Jacket, Breeches, and Hose, Black Huntsman’s Cap, with Silver Monogram…’ The silver monogram was usually attached to the front of the cap. Each of the clubs had their own cap or lapel badge to identify their members, and the Captain, Sub-Captain, Secretary and other officials commonly had their attachments to distinguish them.
By the peak of the cycling boom in 1896/7 there were many hundreds of clubs, ranging from City, town and village clubs, to those of companies, schools and universities. Religious and other specialist groups such as the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club, and political leaning groups such as the Clarion C.C. are other examples. To give an idea of the numbers, there were 30 cycling clubs in Newcastle alone, and 38 in Birmingham, whilst several hundred were listed for the London metropolitan area, in ‘The Cyclist’ 1890 Xmas number.
After it’s peak, cycling lost a huge proportion of these clubs. Some amalgamated to survive the decline in interest in the past time, whilst many others were lost entirely to history. In many cases little remains of that history except for the cap badges they used to wear, and these are by no means common. With their significance obscure, I am sure that the majority were melted down to recycle the silver.
Most of the badges above date from the 1890’s and early 1900’s, and the majority are of solid silver, often with coloured enamel inlay. Judging from the markings on them, it seems that the insignia makers Vaughton and Sons of Birmingham almost had a monopoly on the production of these items. Pleasingly, the company, formed in 1819, is still in existence, and continues to make badges, Regrettably though, they have no archive of the designs from that period.
Identifying cap badges is a bit of a minefield. Whilst the winged wheel is a common motif, and easily identifies the ‘CC’ as a Cycling Club, others are more difficult to prove. Of course ‘CC’ can also mean ‘Cricket Club’! In the early days, cap badges were often a simple intertwined monogram which today is difficult to decipher, and could mean all manner of things. In the 1880’s many clubs were ‘BC’, standing for Bicycle Club. Sometimes they are ‘RC’ for Road Club, or ‘AC’ for Athletic and Cycling (also can be just Athletic Club!)
This post is the first in a series of articles about cycling club cap badges. In the next post I will discuss some of my favourite badges.