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The Newbury Bicycle Club – 1877 to 1887

Updated: Feb 17



Much of the history of cycling in and around Newbury can be found in its local paper, the Newbury Weekly News, whether it be reports on cycling clubs and their activities, cyclists being prosecuted for breaking the law or the many advertisements from cycling shops informing the readers of their latest equipment and services on offer. 

 


Newbury Weekly News July 1869

Another advertisement below is for cycling tuition as owning and riding a bike was quite a novelty back then.

 


Newbury Weekly News August 1869

One of the earliest reports in the Newbury Weekly News (Thursday, March 30, 1871) of a local cyclist was when Mr Robert Martin “completed a feat which we have not heard equalled or approached in this part of the country”, rode from Newbury to Bridgewater a distance of 97 miles in 12 ¾ hours, riding the last 16 ½ miles in 1 hour 50 minutes.

 

Another early record in 1872 was of Carylon and Spencer who completed a race on the Bath Road from the Sparrow’s Bicycle Club, Knightsbridge to Thatcham (near Newbury).  According to the report thousands of spectators came out to watch. Apparently, the crowd was so thick in Reading that a “poor pig” on the course was run over by Carylon’s machine which threw him, giving Spencer a good lead. Thousands turned out in Thatcham to welcome the riders, however, owing to the state of the roads the riders decided to call it a draw.  Spencer then returned by train, but Carlyon returned to Colnbrook on bicycle.


In 1874 the Middlesex Bicycle Club were using the race from Bath to London for the Captaincy of the cycle club.  The riders passed through Newbury late morning stopping at the Chequers for refreshment. Again, many people assembled to watch the spectacle.  In 1875 the Middlesex B.C. raced from Newbury to London with wheels varying in diameter from 46 to 56 inches! And so, the Bath Road was intrinsically linked with cycling folklore and the folklore of cycling clubs for decades to come.


The Newbury Bicycle Club

The Newbury Bicycle Club was formed in 1877 as reported in the Newbury Weekly News in June.   “The objects usually set forth in associations of this kind are the promotion of friendship amongst members, of emulation and consequently increased excellence in their attainments”. 


The first President of the Newbury Bicycle Club was T. Gurney Esq. and Mr Robert Martin, mentioned earlier, was elected the first club captain. The annual subscription was set at 10s 6d a year and a preliminary run was held on Thursday 14th June 1877.  Members assembled in the marketplace, as they do today, and the first run was to Hungerford. Large crowds gathered to see them leave on their adventure on that Thursday in June, it must have been quite a sight! In the first-year summer club runs were also held to Highclere (to the Temple of Diana), Pangbourne and Kintbury, the later run starting in Speenhamland not the marketplace. The members of Newbury Bicycle Club wore a grey serge uniform with a pill box cap with riders being controlled by the club captain with the aid of a bugle and whistle. 


The annual dinner held in December 1877 took place at the “White Hart” Hotel in Newbury.  T. Gurney Esq., the president, gave a speech in which he commented that “considering he was no bicyclist, nor the owner of a bicycle, it would seem somewhat strange that he should occupy the position he did that evening”. Strangely curious, but following further investigation in the Newbury Weekly News, it appeared he had had his arm twisted into the role of club President! He was probably not the only club member who didn’t own a bicycle. Mr Robert Martin commented “it was about seven or eight years since he took to bicycle riding, and for some time he was the only rider in the town; but now he saw scores of riders”, apparently because bicycle riding had become regarded as a “manly” sport!


Even back in 1877 there was an issue with nuisance riding and cyclists riding on pavements. There was reference to “bicycle riders driving machines to the danger of pedestrians and the drivers of vehicles”. 


At the end of its first year the club had 27 members and carried £5 or £6 towards prize funds for the following year.


1878 Newbury Bicycle Club in Full Song

The first club run was held mid-March, when members met on a Tuesday evening attired in their grey uniform with blue stockings assembled at the Marketplace for a ride over Crookham Common returning via Thatcham and London Road.


At the Annual meeting in March, held at the “White Hart” Hotel, T. Gurney Esq. was again re-elected as president and Robert Martin to the post of club captain. The club now had 30 members, the balance in hand was £5 2s 2d.  It wasn’t stated if the President had acquired a bicycle by this time! At the meeting the club decided that “a challenge cup will be competed for, open to members of the club only, the first week of May, the race to be a distance of 10 miles, between Theale and Newbury” along the Bath Road.


Easter, the club decided to ride to Portsmouth for the weekend, leaving Newbury on the Saturday afternoon under “the command of their efficient captain, Mr R Martin”. Riders took part in the bicycle races on the East Hants Recreation Grounds on a cinder path laid by the Portsmouth club. After the riders visited the “Island” (Hayling I presume “Ed”), the Dockyard and other places of interest the club left for Newbury on Tuesday afternoon via Winchester.


The club championship was held mid-June. Not May. The start was two miles west of Theale, from “Jack’s Booth” public house to the top of Shaw Crescent, near Newbury. Competitors took the train to Theale, “their machines accompanying them”. Mr Robert Martin was the starter, apparently the weather was favourable with the wind behind the riders, but the going was heavy with mud on the roads. Villagers came out to watch the event and at Woolhampton and Thatcham a number gathered and gave the riders an ovation as they did on arrival at the finish in Speenhamland. Henry Flint won the event in 39 minutes, and the silver challenge cup; a total of seven riders taking part in the race.


The annual dinner of 1878 (together with the Newbury Cricket Club) was held at the “White Hart” in Newbury on December 2nd, when “an excellent spread was provided by Mr Hamlen”.  As was typical of the day toasts were given to the Royal Family, the Army, Navy and Auxiliary Forces and finally the members of the Bicycle and Cricket Club! Entertainment was provided by members singing “Will o’ the Wisp” and “Jack’s Yarn” sung by Mr Wintle and Mr E. Staples respectively. Mr F. Adnams gave the toast on behalf of the Bicycle Club, noting that membership now numbered thirty-eight and “during the summer they had enjoyed several pleasant runs, the longest of which being to Brighton”. The evening appears to have concluded with further singing and some very long speeches!

 



Newbury Weekly News Thursday June 5th 1879

 

The annual meeting of 1879 was again held at the “White Hart” Hotel.  A few changes ensued at the meeting as the outgoing officers felt it was good to move on, Mr Frank Adnams was elected captain and Mr R. Martin secretary. The first club run of the year was fixed for the first week of May and a “card of rides” was to be produced with short and long rides on alternate Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with a start time of 4 o’clock. Members were expected to attend runs otherwise they would be disqualified from competing in any of the races the club organised. The badge for the championship was presented to Mr H. Flint for the race held in the previous year.


Newbury Weekly News, Thursday 3rd April 1879

Close Encounter with a Bear

Whit-Monday the club accepted an invitation to attend the Midland Counties Bicycle Meet in Leamington. The bugler sounded the assembly at six o’clock and they were led off from the marketplace by the club captain in the direction of Ilsley where the twelve intrepid riders stopped for a milk break. 


At Chilton they met “two foreigners” leading a brown bear! “Bruin was struck by the amazement at the approach of the club and the sound of the bugle, and the smart equipage of the sub-captain overpowered his feelings, and but for the strong arms of those in charge of him and the powerful chain with which they held him he would have expressed his administration with an uncomfortable cuddle!”


The riders arrived in Abingdon at 9am and breakfast was taken at the “Crown and Thistle”.  The journey continued and the “roads were found to be very bad”; one member came off when his wheel entered a deep rut and was thrown.  At one point the roads were sufficiently bad they had to walk several miles.  The riders pushed on to Hopcroft Holt, where they consumed a beer, then on to Banbury, followed by dinner in a hotel.  At Southam they stopped for tea at the Craven Arms, followed by a piano rendition and a song or two!  At the steep hill at Ufton one of the riders was sufficiently disappointed at being unable to ride up the hill he threw his bike against some railings in disgust! Eventually they arrived in Leamington at 8.30 in the evening and the “Crown Hotel” for their overnight stay.


Sunday, the riders took a stroll to Guy’s Cliff and Kenilworth Castle, having tea in the gardens.


Monday, the riders polished their machines for the parade.  After breakfast they visited Warwick Castle and on return to Leamington found the town to be full of bicycle clubs “arriving from all directions, the various uniforms adding enlivenment to the scene”. At 12 o’clock the bugle sounded, as was traditional, and the procession moved off in the direction of Warwick, 300 bicyclists in a queue nearly two miles long.  The whole route lined by thousands of spectators.


The procession continued to the Skating Rink where lunch was presided over by the Mayor of Leamington, G. Wise, Esq., and several other “influential gentlemen”. After the usual toasts, the assembly broke up and riders made their own way with many going to watch the bicycle racing in Coventry. The Newbury Bicycle Club prepared themselves for the return journey.  However, rain threatened, so they took the train to Reading and Newbury was reached shortly after 7pm.



In 1879 the championship race was held at the end of July, but earlier in the month the club held Wednesday evening races over one-mile and three-miles (handicap) next to Greenham Common.  Riders met at Speenhamland and rode to Greenham Common, where a course had been marked from the Rectory towards Brimpton following a straight line.  There had been rain the previous evening and the road was in a “sloppy” state, but it was still deemed good enough for the races.


The one-mile race started near the “Noah’s Ark”, Stradling riding a 54 inch “Challenge” weighing 54 lbs 2 oz and Heath riding a “Duplex Excelsior”, weighing 43 lbs 3 oz. The mile was covered by Spackman (no report of his steed!) in 2 minutes 34 seconds, winning the princely sum of £2, with Stradling coming in second winning £1.


The three-mile event was a handicap, Spackman was again victorious, beating Heath, Holland and Stradling in 8 minutes 38 seconds, winning £2 with £1 for second. “There were many cyclists present and with the exception of a spill owing to a boy running behind and laying hold of the backbone of a machine, no further accident occurred”.


The annual championship was again held on the Bath Road on a Wednesday evening. The course was once more from “Jack’s Booth” to Newbury starting at 6.30 pm with six members taking part.  Spackman was again the winner completing the distance in 38 minutes 10 seconds, Heath coming in ten yards behind in second place.


The annual dinner held in 1879 was in collaboration with the Newbury Cricket Club at the “Queens Hotel” in Newbury. It was unclear why the two clubs celebrated the end of the year together, but it was clearly very friendly and probably beneficial for both clubs.  The Club had 24 “members in uniform” with ten or twelve turning out for rides. However, the collaboration appeared to go as far as proposing that the Cricket Club consider installing a cinder path around the cricket ground for racing.


In 1880 the Club held its annual meeting in April at the “Queen’s Hotel”.  A committee weas elected with Mr F. H. Adams appointed to the prestigious role of club captain. The club had taken £29 13s the previous year and after expenditure of £21 3s 8d, made a profit of £8 9s 4d to be carried forward to the new season. The runs would commence in May.




Annual Race Meetings Begin

The Bicycle Club held its second Annual Race Meeting (which suggested that the races over Greenham Common the previous year were their first annual race meeting) at the Cricket Ground Newbury on Wednesday, August 20th, 1880, at 2.30 in the afternoon. There was a full program of events, including bicycle races but also pole jumping, foot races and tug-of-war.  Musical entertainment was provided by the band of the Berkshire Rifle Volunteers and the Great Western Railway provided cheap return tickets to passengers leaving Reading and Hungerford to allow spectators to attend the event. Admission was charged at 6d or 1s for a reserved enclosure with races appearing to have been for amateurs only.


An extensive report of the second annual race meeting appeared in the copy of the Newbury Weekly News dated August 26th, 1880. The two-mile handicap race, open to Newbury Bicycle Club members only, was won by Hollands closely followed by J. Stradling with Platt third and A. Stradling last of the four competitors.  First prize was a silver cup presented by J.B. Stone Esq., Mayor of Newbury.  The one-mile race, open to any amateur, was also won by Hollands, who was presented with a second silver cup for his efforts. The one-mile race open to club members only was run by J. Stradling from his brother A. Stradling; Hollands decided to step down having had a good day already! The club also held a slow bicycle race, eight riders started, three falling off at the start, and two others during the race, eventually three riders were left to contest the finale with Platt finally winning, very slowly! The course was between two lengths of fireman hose in the arena. In the two-mile handicap open to any amateur, the race was won by Mr A. Hollands again, proving, if proof was needed, that he was the strongest rider of the day.

 

In collaboration with the bicycle event, there were also other athletic events including a tug-of-war, in which the bicycle club also fielded a team, but were easily beaten by the Fire Brigade team; a 100 yards flat race, a 220 yards handicap hurdle race and a “high pole jump”, the winner clearing 7ft 4ins!


The Club Championship race, for the Challenge Cup and Badge now, took place from Theale to Newbury on Tuesday August 21st starting at 6.30pm. The riders took the 5.16pm train from Newbury and arrived at Aldermaston where they rode the short distance to the “Jack’s Booth” public house for the start. The race along the Bath Road again finished in Newbury, at the “Greyhound” after 10 miles. There were four competitors, A. Holland (who rode a 52in Club), J. Stradling (54in Club), R. Platt (50in Duplex Excelsior) and J.P. Spackman (52in Keen). The four were together until they reached the “Coach and Horses”, Midgham, after six miles, here Holland left the others reaching Newbury in 35 minutes 10s, finishing 100 yds ahead, and as was commonplace he was greeted by loud cheers from a large crowd.


The fifth annual general meeting of the Club was held at the “Queen’s Hotel” in Newbury in March 1881. Membership numbers had not improved but the Chairman commented that it was not as important as the “enjoyable rides”. Three members of the committee, Messers. Davies, Heath and Hollands, while serving as active members of the committee had taken an active part in the formation of another club (South Berks Bicycle Club. Ed.).  Whilst the club could not find fault with the establishment of another club, their conduct, as committee members, was deemed “reprehensible”.  Explanations from the three were deemed unsatisfactory and a vote of censure was passed by the meeting, and they were requested to retire. A committee was subsequently elected for the year with Mr Ernest Church elected captain and Mr James Stradling honorary secretary.  New members were proposed and elected at the meeting. 


Club rides began slightly earlier in 1881, at the start of April, with runs to Thatcham, Crookham Common and Hamstead via the Bath Road.


One of the early seasons highlights that year was the secretary Mr A Stradling winning an open 4-mile Challenge Cup (and £5 prize money) at Hungerford on the Easter Monday from a field of 8 or 10 others from across the country. Among the field was Mr A Hollands, the winner of the Newbury Athletic Sports races the previous year, who had recently left the club under a cloud.  


In May riders took a club run to Welford, through the park to Wickam, and then Stockcross before returning home.


The 1881 Championship for the club took place on Friday June 17th. Again, riders starting at Theale at 6.30pm arriving at Shaw Crescent at around 7.00pm, a distance of 10 miles. The race was won by Stradling from Ernest Church and Barron Platt of Hungerford in a time of 35minutes and 15s; seven members competed.  During the event Mr W. Collis was thrown from his bicycle in Thatcham and had a serious fall. He received severe cuts to his face and shock, but after treatment recovered.  It was not uncommon for riders of old ordinary machines to find themselves face planting the road, especially after hitting one of the many large ruts on the Bath Road they would likely encounter.


Royal County Bicycle Meeting

In July members of the Newbury Bicycle Club (and South Berks Bicycle Club) attended the Royal Berkshire County Bicycle meeting in Reading. From a proposal, instigated by the Reading Club, this was the first time that clubs from across Berkshire had met together. Ninety-five riders took part in a procession starting from the Royal Horse Repository, Friar Street, through St Mary’s Butts, Southampton Street, Crown Street, and Kendrick Hill.  As the gradient increased an order to dismount was given and once over the top the riders proceeded along Christ Church Road and through Whiteknights Park, where several falls occurred over the bridge! After leaving the park the riders continued via Earley Church, down Shepherd’s House Hill and past the cemetery eventually arriving at Station Road and the end of the ride.  Evening entertainment was then provided by the Abbey Institute Bicycle Club.  An agreement was made for the Reading and Newbury Bicycle Clubs to meet at Aldermaston the following Wednesday; possibly the first of many inter-club events for Berkshire clubs.  The event had been well supported by both the Newbury B.C., 12 riders and the South Berks B.C., 11 riders taking part.


The third annual athletic sports day, open to all amateurs, promoted by the Newbury Bicycle Club was due to take place on Tuesday 23rd of August with prizes on view at 78, Northbrook Street, Newbury, Mr Stradling’s cycling establishment.


Unfortunately, due to heavy rain which continued for the whole of the Tuesday afternoon the event was postponed until Tuesday 6th September. On the subsequent occasion it also rained on the Monday and Tuesday morning before the reorganised event. However, the afternoons races were finally run off without a hitch. 



 

The open one-mile handicap race, where riders were competing for a biscuit box, a bicycle lamp and a bicycle bugle, was won by Cotterell, Grantham B.C. with Turner, Reading B.C. second and Platt, Newbury B.C. third, in 3minutes and 48s.


The two-mile handicap race was for Newbury B.C. riders only; with riders competing for an inkstand, a goblet, and a cup. Church and J. Stradling collided in the second heat with the former suffering a buckled wheel forcing him to retire.  The final was won by J.D. Smith who took home the inkstand. It seems to be commonplace for the riders to have to perform maintenance on their bicycles during the races, for example, adjusting their machines treadles before continuing.


An inkstand was again on offer for the winner of the open slow bicycle race, which was won by Rupert Adey, who was described as a “wonderfully good slow rider”.


The combination race was won by A. Stradling; not quite sure how this would go down in the modern era, but competitors would walk one lap with their bicycle, then run one lap with their bicycle and finally ride one lap. Prizes included a dressing bag, tobacco box and an album.


The two-mile bicycle handicap race, open to all, prizes included a two handled goblet, a butter cooler, and a travelling bag, was won by R. W. Roffe of the South Berks Bicycle Club.


The one-mile bicycle handicap race open to Newbury B.C. members, was won by J.D. Smith who won a clock for his efforts, followed by J.B. Platt, egg stand, and F.H Adnams who won a copy of Tennyson’s works!


The final race of the day was the open one-mile bicycle handicap, where one competitor broke his handlebars and fell, the event being won by E. Turner of Reading.  No prizes were mentioned.


The annual dinner of the Cricket Club was held in late November, at the Queen’s Hotel. Mr E. Church of the Newbury Bicycle Club attended and responded to a toast where he commented that even though the bicycle club had been established for just five years it was looked upon as one the towns institutions. Whilst the Bicycle Club was at a disadvantage not having a cinder path, they produced “men capable of coming out well in any contest”.  Church commented he would very much like to see the various Athletic Clubs in the town come together in one association; this could have been a prophetic call which led to the formation of the Guildhall Club a few years later.  He thanked the Cricket Club for allowing the bicyclists to use their field free of charge for the annual athletic meeting, hoping it would be a “greater financial success” in the coming year. 


The annual meeting of the club took place in December 1881 at the “Queen’s Hotel” in Newbury.  The secretary (A. Stradling) reported that the club had 33 members and during the previous year had promoted 32 runs and a race meeting.  The treasurer reported a “balance in the club’s favour”, but no figures were presented.  The club unanimously decided to form a junior bicycle club.


The club held a further general meeting in March 1882 at the “Queens’s Hotel” where the captain (Mr Ernest Church) presided.  The captain commented that the club was in a satisfactory position regarding membership numbers and finances, and he was expecting a successful season. With the retirement of the incumbent sub-captain the role was taken on by A Stradling, stepping down from his role as secretary.  Mr J.D. Smith was subsequently appointed into this position. The desirability of forming a branch for juvenile riders was discussed.  There was a consensus in support, as there had been earlier.  This would be open to boys up to an age of 18 and their attire would be like the senior members in grey. It was hoped this would encourage “youths who are lovers of bicycling”.


The first run of the year was at the end of May 1882, to Kingsclere and back, starting from the club’s headquarters, the “Queen’s” Hotel.




 

Once again, the annual sports were to be held at the cricket ground in August. The event was gaining popularity and riders could get a permit to practice on the track before the race day from the secretary of the club, J.D. Smith.


According to reports in the papers, the annual race meeting promoted by the Newbury B.C. was now regarded as one of the principal fixtures of its type in the South of England. Unlike the previous year, the event in 1882 attracted good weather for the fourth annual meeting and promoters had attracted some of the best bicyclists from within a fifty-mile radius. There were many spectators “including ladies” in the crowd.


The two-mile handicap for Newbury B.C. members only, prizes included a marble clock, a pair of bronzes, a plated inkstand, and a nickel hub lamp. The race was won by W.R. Collis after two heats and the final, with A. Stradling second and J. Stradling third. The winner’s time was 7minutes 40 1/5th seconds. Interesting to note the improvement in prizes to the previous year.


The 120-yard slow bicycle race, where the winner was the last to cross the finish line with any competitor falling, dismounting, or standing still (not clear if this is beside the bike or a track stand) disqualified. Fallers appeared to be quite commonplace, riding slowly proving quite a challenge. The potential for controversy surrounded the question of whether riders should be allowed to proceed in zig-zag fashion or not; the race being won by P.J. McKinlay who as the slowest competitor won a handbag.


The principal event of the meeting, a two-mile handicap race was clearly one of the highlights.  First prize was a breakfast dish to the value of £5, which was donated by the “Ladies of Newbury”.  The prize easily being of greater value than any of those on offer in the other events being promoted on the same day. The race attracted riders from afar, with the entrants coming from Beckenham, Hammersmith, Brixton, Hounslow and Reading as well as local competitors from the South Berks B.C. and Newbury B.C. The winner was W.R. Collis of the Newbury B.C. in a time of 7minutes 3s hence recording the “fastest time on this grass track” to date.  


The combination race, which was open to any amateur, had similar rules to last year but with the caveat that any rider running before the first lap or riding before the second lap would be disqualified.  First prize was a dressing case, value £2, second prize a nickel clock and third a “Multum in Parvo” bag value 10s. In the second heat only two competitors turned up (at the starting bell) and A. Stradling decided to join in during the race eventually winning easily but was later disqualified by officials for not being at the starting post when the bell rang. The final was won by A. Hollands, who appears to have won comfortably.


There was also a one-mile handicap open to members of the Newbury Junior B.C. only. Six riders took part which showed that the efforts of the club to encourage young riders had borne some fruit since the creation of the junior club.


The athletic events also included the high jump, an obstacle foot race and hurdles; and it was not uncommon to see members of the bicycle club taking part in none bicycle related races.


As befits an event of such significance in the South of England, prizes were presented by the Mayoress of Newbury. Mr Collis of the Newbury B.C. received an ovation, having won several events during the afternoon. The band played “God save the Queen” and the day’s proceedings were brought to a close.


1883 Name Change to Cycling Club

The annual meeting of 1883 was held in March.  Overall, the accounts showed a surplus, however, even though the cricket ground was loaned by the club for the race meeting, and they clearly had a good turnout of competitors, the club made a loss from the meeting, which was put down to a poor attendance from the spectators, presumably not covering the prize money.


Membership numbers were in good shape having increased from 20 in 1879, 22 in 1880, 30 in 1881 and to 37 in 1882, including 5 non-riding members. The committee had revised the club rules which they hoped would result in improved management of the club. Club runs had been held on a weekly basis, but apparently attendance had not been good. Votes of thanks were given to the committee for service over the last year and a new committee elected. The major discussion of the evening was a change of name for the club from the Newbury Bicycle Club to the Newbury Cycling Club to encourage the admission of tricyclists into the club which was in line with a similar name change by the Bicyclists Touring Club to the Cyclists Touring Club (C.T.C). The renamed Newbury C.C also decided to adopt similar club outfit to the C.T.C.


The Cyclists Touring Club had been formed in 1878, originally known as the Bicycle Touring Club, had developed into the largest institution of its type in the world with over seven thousand members in 1883. It was at the council meeting of the club that year in Carlisle, that the name change was approved to ensure those with three wheeled machines could take part in club activities. Apparently, the tricycle “appealed irresistibly to thousands of gentlemen of mature years, also to ladies”.


The aims of the CTC included, (i) the means of arranging through the Gazette suitable companions to go on tours (ii) the protection of members against unprovoked attacks (iii) appointing hotel headquarters throughout the country, at reduced rates for members (iv) the appointment of “consuls” in various towns to give members assistance on the journey.


The headquarters in Newbury was the “Queen’s Hotel” and the Consul was Mr Frank H. Adnams of Speenhamland.


The first Newbury C.C. club run of the season, in March, started from the “Queen’s Hotel” in the marketplace and went to Hungerford, later in May the club run went to Kingsclere.


County Procession in Newbury

One of the highlights for the Newbury C.C. was undoubtedly the County cyclists’ procession around the town midsummer.  The two previous meetings had been held in Reading and this year it was to be held in Newbury. This meeting was attended by riders from local clubs (including the Reading Bicycle Club, Reading Abbey Institute, Thatcham Bicycle Club, Oxonian B. & T. Club, Reading Tricycle Club) where a total of 65 riders processed around the local roads.  Riders mounted their steeds, in the marketplace, at 5 o’clock, at the sound of the bugle given by Mr A Stradling from the Newbury C.C.  The club, the oldest in the county, led the bicyclists up Cheap Street, St John’s Road, Bartholomew Street, and then Northbrook Street, where upon the riders became mixed up with pedestrians returning from the Agricultural Show, which was on at the same time; the route then taking the riders through Shaw, Donnington and Speen, before returning to the Marketplace. Cyclists finally stopping at the “Queen’s Hotel” for tea.


In 1883 the fifth annual race meeting was to be held on the August Bank Holiday Monday on Newbury Cricket Ground. The club were able to promote the event on the Bank Holiday weekend because the Horticultural Society had shifted the date of their show. The hope of course was that the club would attract a larger crowd and be able to cover the expenses of running the meeting.



Once again, the highlight of the race meeting would be the two miles handicap with the first prize of value £5 and prizes down to fourth place.


Despite a few rain showers, the race went ahead with good crowds and participants, for one of the highlights in the south of England. The track was laid, five laps to a mile, screened so the public needed to pay to watch the racing. Reports of the meeting filled more than two full columns in the Newbury Weekly News.


Prizes for the prestigious Open Two Miles Bicycle Handicap Race for amateurs, included a case of dessert knives and forks for first (value £5); bronze candelabra for second (value £2); toast rack for third (value £1) and brass inkstand for forth (value 10s). This was an increase in the number of prizes from three to four from previous years. The meeting also included additional races to encourage junior riders who were not club members by having open races for boys aged under sixteen years.  Entry fees were 2s 6d for each event but there was a discount if entering four events, which cost 7s 6d. As well as Newbury riders, competitors came from Thatcham, Hounslow, Maidenhead, and Bournemouth amongst others.  This showed the pull the race meeting had to the cycling community. The whole program took five hours so great entertainment for those watching and racing.


The Open Two Miles Handicap was won by J. Brooker, Maidenhead; second, A. Hollands, Newbury C.C.; third, J. Stradling, Newbury C.C.; fourth, C. R. Fry, Stanley B.C. The winning time was 6minutes 58s.


At the end of the meeting the club members and visitors dined at the club headquarters, the “Queen’s Hotel” in the Marketplace.


The Club held a general meeting of its members in September at the “Queen’s Hotel”, for the purpose of receiving the report of the Sports Committee responsible for the Athletic Meeting. They were able to report a surplus of £8, so a good result all round.  A vote of thanks was given to the Executive Committee and their energetic secretary, Mr Fred C. Seymour.


Smoking Concert

One of the challenges of the time was how to keep the club active during the winter months.  In October a concert was organised at the “Queen’s”.  It was reported that the “roads are bad, and machines are for the most part obliged to be laid aside, and there are few opportunities for reminding wheelmen of their obligations and privileges as members of a cycling club”. To resolve the matter the club organised a smoking concert which attracted club members and other tradesmen and supporters of the club along.  The evening was finished off with the National Anthem and a proposal for further social events. A second smoking concert was held in December which followed a similar pattern of singing and smoking, again at the “Queen’s Hotel”.


In 1883 the Clubs Championship from “Jack’s Booth” to the top of Shaw Crescent was held the same day as the social event in October.  This year it was a ride over by Mr Alfred Stradling, being the only competitor.  As a result of having won the event for the last three years he retained the trophy in perpetuity.


Social activities continued into 1884 with a soiree dansante at the Town Hall in Newbury. Approaching 130 people attended including the Mayor and Mayoress together with visitors from nearby towns and London. Club members attended in uniform, and they performed 24 dances in nine hours.  (Presumably not in shoe plates!). Music being provided by the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.


The 6th annual meeting of the Newbury Cycle Club was held in March 1884 at the “Queen’s Hotel”. In 1883 the club had 37 senior, 2 junior and 4 honorary members slightly up on the membership in 1882 (37 versus 43). The increase being put down to the admittance of tricyclists. The previous year had been good for the club, the success of the annual sports event and the two smoking concerts had gone down well. The club was in good financial position with a balance of £13 2s 4 1/2d. The club proposed joining the National Cyclists Union, which was referred to the committee.


The National Cyclists Union had been formed in 1878 with the purpose of defending cyclist’s rights and to organise and regulate bicycle racing in Great Britain.


Club rides started in April, where both bicyclists and tricyclists were encouraged to join the first ride of the year to Hungerford.  Subsequent club runs going to Aldermaston, for supper at the “Hind’s Head Inn” with the Reading Club; to the “Langley Hall Inn”, out on the Chieveley Road, for supper; and, to Kingsclere, Beacon Hill, Marlborough, Silchester and Wickham.


The committee meeting in May resolved that the club would join the National Cyclists Union, as per the wishes of the annual meeting, and proposed that the annual race meeting would again be at the Cricket ground on the August Bank Holiday.



The annual race meeting of 1884 attracted a large crowd, probably because the committee had reduced the entry fee this year to 6d, seating was again available at extra cost. Amongst the usual fare of events, tricycle races and a 5-mile race were organised. Two members of the club, A. Hollands of Donnington and A. Stradling of Northbrook Street won first and second prizes in the two-mile bicycle handicap.


As per usual, competitors convened at the end of the race meeting at the “Queen’s Hotel” for supper.


Deficit at Race Meeting

A general meeting of the club was held at the “Queen’s Hotel” in November. The committee presented the accounts for the race meeting that year which unfortunately showed a deficit “of a few pounds” which the club offset from funds.  The meeting also agreed to hold a Ball (the annual soree dansante) at the Town Hall in December, which was held on Friday, January 2nd, 1885.


The eighth annual meeting of the Newbury Cycle Club of 1885 was held at the “Queen’s Hotel” in Newbury.  Twenty-five members of the club attended. A presentation of an album with photos of the club members was presented to the club captain, E. Church, who had held the role of club captain the previous five years and was re-elected into the position. The club membership was now up to 60.  It was reported that the season had started with a run to Hungerford for the Easter Monday sports event and runs had been well attended during the year.

The club had changed its name to the Newbury Cycling Club to admit tricyclists and formed a specific division for them with their own captain. There was also the first suggestion of encouraging ladies to join the club, as apparently, was being practiced by other leading clubs. The race meeting held on the August Bank Holiday had led to a loss of between £5 and £6. There was also a suggestion that unless this situation was to improve that the race meeting “must” be abandoned. The annual dance was held in January and proved a great success and club members had gathered over the winter at smoking concerts.


The seventh annual race meeting of the Newbury Cycling Club was again to be held at the Cricket Ground on a Wednesday evening, June 24th.  It was not clear why the date had been changed, but presumably this was one of the changes desired to improve the financial situation of previous years. The Horticultural Society had also decided to move their event back to the August Bank Holiday Monday, so the cycle club needed to find a new date.




 

The change of dates appeared to attract some of the “best men in England”. The two-mile race this year being open to “Safety” or “Kangaroo” pattern bicycles. (Apparently, the “Safety” cycle was finding “favour” amongst cyclists). Wednesday was early closing day in Newbury, so the hope again was to attract a large number of spectators to the grounds for the racing. The change of time and date meant that only cycle racing was included in the program of events.  Indeed, the adverts for the events included a nod to the fact that competitors can leave Paddington at 3.30pm and return from Newbury on the 9.48pm train. Prize values were still set at £5 for the winners of the premier races, the one-mile bicycle handicap, two-mile handicap and the one-mile tricycle handicap races. Later adverts for the events included references to some of the stars of the day, Engleheart, King, Corselles, and Harrison competing, so clearly the change of date appeared to be a positive impact.


As is typical of a British summer the rains and a thunderstorm hit at four o’clock and the Committee, were considering cancelling the event.  Fortunately, the rain stopped by six and the race meeting continued in deference to the fact that several of the riders had travelled some distance to the race.  They also decided to defer the club specific races to a later date. As might have been expected the gate monies were not what was wanted, but it was felt this was the best they could expect.


As a result, the races run were the one-mile handicap, two-mile safety bicycle handicap, one-mile tricycle handicap and the three-mile bicycle handicap, which were won by Briginshaw, Maidenhead W.B.C., Engleheart, Croyden C.C., Williams, Brixton Ramblers, and Briginshaw, Maidenhead W.B.C., respectively.


The evenings races were finished just before it started to get dark.


Unfortunately, there was an incident during the evening’s races when James Stradling, the club’s secretary and organiser of the races was assaulted by a member of the public, George Randall.  According to the report, Stradling had asked several people to move back when Randall appeared to take offence, and upon not moving back was gently pushed when he struck Stradling in the eye such that he needed medical treatment. According to witnesses Stradling did not strike the defendant. The defendant was found guilty of the affray and the mayor, who took a lenient view, fined the defendant 10s and was ordered to pay costs, 13s or 10-days hard labour.  (Monies were paid).


The eighth annual race meeting of the cycle club was held on Wednesday 19th August 1885.  The second meeting of the year was held to try to raise money to offset losses from the earlier race meeting in June which was adversely affected by the bad weather. The weather was much improved for the August meeting, and this positively impacted the crowd numbers. Again, the meeting was organised by James Stradling. The club had made a loss of £20 for the June meeting and £28 was taken on the gates for the August meeting.  It was unclear if this would be sufficient once all the prize monies had been paid out to cover the expenses.


As well as the usual one-mile and three-mile handicap races, they also held a menagerie race. Entries included a pig, lamb, monkey, ferret, a fowl, and a sea gull. Two heats were held with “Piggy Wiggy” winning the first heat and the second by Mr B Platt’s “Missing Link”.  The final was awarded to the monkey with the pig second!


Ninth Annual Athletic Meeting

The ninth annual meeting of the Newbury Cycle Club was held in March 1886 at the “Queen’s Hotel”. The second race meeting in August the previous year had clearly had a positive impact. Profits from the second race meeting had helped leave the club with a profit of 8s 11d.


The annual report indicated that the club had 52 members after nine years.  The club runs had lost interest during the year, and the committee were considering what they could do to increase the level of interest. The report indicated that the June meeting had been “disastrous financially”.  The second meeting proved a success, but clearly the crowds were not as large as would have been liked and the cost to hire the ground had become an increasing burden for the club. (Interesting to note that previously the Cricket Club had allowed use of the ground free of charge).  The club decided, therefore, to abandon the race meetings.


Formation of Tennis Club

As a complete about face the club decided to introduce lawn tennis as one of the clubs’ offerings for members, to try to get more interest, whilst also introducing paper chases and “tea at picturesque spots in the neighbourhood” for the cyclists. 


The committee would report back the arrangements for the proposed lawn tennis club.





As in previous years the club held a ball in January with 130 people attending, starting at 9pm in the evening and finishing at 6am in the morning.  Music was from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.


The first club run of 1886 was held in April starting at the “Queen’s Hotel” going out via Enborne, East Woodhay and returning via Wash Common. Following the run, the club then held a general meeting.  The secretary reported on the outcome of discussions on a proposed lawn tennis club for use by cycle club members. The committee had been looking at finding a suitable site and the favourite was a meadow behind the Police Station in Speenhamland where there was space for three courts. Play first took place on the 5th of May 1885. James Stradling was the secretary for the new club.


In June the club held a paperchase – the club called it a “Kangaroo Hunt” – the hares started ten minutes ahead of the hounds and were given a large paper supply to leave as a trail for members to follow. The route taking in Enbourn lodge, Woolton Hill and Highclere, returning via Newtown common and Sandleford. The hare was not caught.


The End of An Era

Further efforts by the club to raise funds included the promotion of an event at the Corn Exchange in Newbury on Friday 1st October featuring W. G. Hurst giving an exhibition of his skills on the bicycle and unicycle. Once again it appears the poor attendance was put down to the fact that there was a heavy thunderstorm during the evening.  Although it sounds as though a successful night’s entertainment was had by all. But once again, the club appears to have made a loss on the evening’s entertainment.


The Newbury Cycling and Tennis Club held their first annual meeting on Friday 18th March 1887.  The secretary, Mr James Stradling read a report of activities. He commented that this was the tenth annual meeting (of the cycle club) and there was not a particularly rosy picture. When the club formed, cycling was in its infancy and the club runs had a certain charm which has now been lost.  The present committee had tried to make runs more attractive but had failed to attract riders. Stradling commented that “there is no doubt the Newbury Cycling Club is dead”, and although the committee had tried, introducing a paper chase, the Lawn Tennis Club has arisen from the ashes like a “Pheonix”.  Despite efforts by Mr F.J. Bennett to name the new club the “Newbury Cyclists’ Tennis Club” there were no takers, and as such the club ended. However, cycling club members were encouraged to join the Cyclist Touring Club and become part of the club with 20,000 members and the benefits this affords. F.H. Adnams was the C.T.C. Consul for Newbury.


There was, interestingly, a meeting in 1891 to try to restart the club with James Stradling presiding, however their efforts seem to come to nothing although they had a few club runs, activities were much lower key. However, at this time within the town the Newbury Victoria Cycle Club and Guildhall Cycling Club were up and running and the town was probably very well provided for with cycle clubs.

 

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to express his gratitude to the Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).  Content in this report was abstracted from a number of local and not-so-local Newspapers, predominantly the Newbury Weekly News, but also The Berkshire Chronicle, Reading Mercury, Oxford Gazette, Newbury Herald, Berks County Paper, Reading Observer, The Morning Post, Leamington Spa Courier, Nottingham Evening Post, The Swindon Advertiser, The Globe, The Sporting Life, The Sportsman. The author would also like to express his thanks to Brian Tate and Gordon Fry for reviewing and proofing the content.

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