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The Victorians - 1890 to1897

The Newbury Victoria Cycling Club is Formed

In 1890 Newbury saw the formation of two cycling clubs, the Guildhall Cycling Club, and the second, the Newbury Victoria Cycling Club, discussed here. The Victoria Club was formed by members of the Newbury Excelsior Football Club mid-year and rode in dark blue with a silver badge, presumably the colours of the football club. The principal difference between the two clubs was that the Guildhall Cycling Club was for young men of the district whereas the Victoria club was for the wider community of cyclists.

Handicap Race for Newbury Wheelists

Mid-June 1890 a twenty-mile handicap race was held for Newbury “wheelists”, according to the “Roadster” writing in the Newbury Weekly News, and seventeen riders entered, although apparently only ten appeared at the top of Pyle Hill, Greenham for the start.  Mr Stradling, who had previously been actively involved with the Newbury Cycle Club, acted as judge and starter.  From the top of Pyle Hill, riders were helped by a “young hurricane” as they rode over Greenham Common through Brimpton to Aldermaston and onto the Bath Road, then back through Midgham and Thatcham to finish at the “Greyhound” in Newbury. The worse stretch of road apparently being the Newbury side of Thatcham, although not clear in reports what that actually meant. About 400 spectators saw the finish where P. Oftedahl came in first in 1hr 12 minutes 15s, apparently having only learned to ride six weeks earlier, with E. Duke second, both receiving a silver medal for their efforts. There were doubts over the distance amid speculation the race was short at 17½ miles.  This appears to be the first time this particular group of cyclists had met up to race and it had proven extremely difficult to determine the rider’s handicaps apparently; handicap racing being the favoured format at this time.  It was not clear if this race was the catalyst which led to the formation of the Guildhall Cycling Club and/or the Newbury Victoria Cycling Club, either way it seemed to kick start cycle racing in Newbury towards the end of the century.

Victorians Start Club Runs

Club runs seem to have been a mainstay of the club calendar.  The first run of the Victoria club was on the first Wednesday of July 1890 where 15 riders turned out at 7:30pm for a ride to Hungerford where they visited the “Plume” and watched the “military evolutions of the Newbury Volunteers” (presumably on the Hungerford Common), before finally returning to Newbury at 10:30pm. A second run was held on the first Friday of July when twelve riders turned out. This ride was over Crookham Common to Woolhampton where they stopped at the “Falmouth” before their return journey. It was noted by “Roadster” that the Victoria Club also had its rides on Wednesday and Friday, as per the Guildhall Cycling Club and shared to the same destinations!

It is not clear if the two clubs had joint runs or not but given the Guildhall Cycling club was only open to young men of the borough and the Newbury Victoria Cycling Club appears to not have had these restrictions, it is quite plausible that they coordinated rides.

The Wednesday Mid-July ride was cancelled due to the weather, but they had another Friday ride to Woodhay and Highclere where 15 riders started, acquiring two more en-route so were 17 by the end of the run. The following Wednesday the cyclists had a run to Newtown and Burghclere, but only eight riders started, and there was no ride on the Friday of that week once again due to the weather.  At the end of July, the club held a Wednesday run to Hungerford again and had eighteen riders turn out, but once again the Friday ride was hit by bad weather.

Challenge Road Race

On Tuesday 22nd July a challenge road race was held on the apparently discredited 20-mile course between two club riders, Mr F. Bailey and Mr Snook, with Bailey completing the distance in 1 hour and 8 minutes and Snook a “long distance behind”.


“Roadster” also noted that the Bath Roaders second 50 miles handicap road race had taken place on the Bath Road, with the winner, H. Stone, having a 27-minute start completing the course in 3 hours 19 minutes 25s. “Roadster” also reported that riders were paced during the race, and those with pneumatic tyres were penalised an additional eight minutes.

Annual Sports Meeting at the Cricket Club

Wednesday mid-August 1890 a sports meeting, which included athletic and cycle races, was held at Newbury Cricket Club, in aid of the newly formed Newbury Gymnastic Society.  Races included a one-mile bicycle race for boys, which was won by T. Dyer, who won a lamp.  There was also a two-mile bicycle handicap which saw Guildhall and Newbury Victoria cyclists going head-to-head, being won by E.J. McLennan of the Guildhall Cycling Association (or Club) in 6 minutes 32 seconds who took home a cake basket for his efforts. Loose dogs seem to be not uncommon and in the second heat, Rankin, was thrown when a dog got under his wheels!  The five-mile bicycle handicap was also won by MacLennan by nearly a lap from the next finisher, Jarrett with Wilson in third.

The interestingly entitled combination race took place over one mile.  Each competitor had to ride one lap on a bicycle, then run one lap, repeating until they had completed the distance. The finish was marred as the first two collided after they passed the post! The first prize was won by C. Cummins and second by W. Jarrett, prizes were a lamp and pair of carvers respectively. The race meeting made a profit of £4 of which 50s was given to the Gymnastic Society and 30s to the Newbury Cricket Club.

General Meeting of the Victoria Cyclists; August 1890

At the end of August, on a Monday evening, the Victorians held a meeting at their headquarters (probably the “Cricketers”?), where they decided to continue weekly runs until the end of September and then to hold another meeting.  At the end of the evening, they held a “smoker” with songs from several club members.

Twenty-five Mile Road Race

One outcome of the meeting was the decision made to hold a twenty-five-mile road race in August.  The course was to be the one held recently over Greenham Common which went via Brimpton and home along the Bath Road to Newbury.  The roads were described as “very sloppy” from the afternoon’s rain and reported they were unlikely to see any record-breaking times as a result. The first prize was a silver medal, presented by Mr James Stradling, the second a bicycle lamp and third a cycle gong from Mr Smart.  Two riders were disqualified as they failed to ride the full course, and this resulted in W. Bailey being declared the winner.

Although this was reported as a twenty-five mile race the course description and times would suggest that this may have been a twenty-mile race.

Ten Mile Race to “Jack’s Booth”

In September the club held a 10-mile evening road race to “Jack’s Booth”, near Theale, on the Bath Road.  Eleven riders entered although there were only three at the finish.  First was W. Jarrett (1/2-minute handicap), second, H. Eggleton (1 minute) and third C. Cummings (1 minute). First prize was a meerschaum pipe, ideal for the smokers, and second half a dozen cabinet photos.

Annual Meeting October 1890

The annual meeting of the Victoria club was held at the headquarters, the “Cricketers” in October under the presidency of Mr. C. Cummings.  Prizes were presented for the road race and a “subscription” was raised of 8s presented to H. Eggleton for his “plucky” riding.  Proceedings were wound up with a smoking concert.

Twenty Mile Road Race July 1891

In July 1891 the Victorians held another twenty-mile road race on a Wednesday evening starting at seven o’clock.  Unfortunately, the start was marred; “proverbial cats and dogs were being poured from the water pot of Jupiter of the pluvial ilk” however the race started, nonetheless.  There were perhaps not surprisingly, objections from some of the riders who wanted a re-run on a more pleasant evening, but these were overruled.  In total there were seven riders, the starter being Mr W.E. Pope, on roads that were described as “very heavy”.  The course started from the “Swan Inn” and took the London Road to “Jack’s Booth” where they were turned by Messrs. C. James and H. Rankin, the road apparently inches deep in mud, to finish at the “Greyhound” in Newbury.

As was quite common at the time, crowds of spectators were there at the finish to meet the intrepid racing cyclists.  The first prize, a silver medal, was donated by the club captain, and a “similar” prize given for the second finisher from the vice-captain.  Times were slow due to the poor conditions, the winner finishing in 1 hour 21 minutes.

Club Runs Restart in 1891

Club runs continued in 1891 and in August the Spectator reported the Captain, H.W. Parker leading rides to Woolhampton, stopping at the “Angel”, as well as further rides to Cold Ash.

Annual Meeting April 1892

The annual meeting in 1892 was held in early April at the Guildhall Coffee House in Mansion House Street in Newbury, with Mr H. Parker in the chair. (The Guildhall Club was established in November 1886 and took its name from the Coffee House).

The club had a balance of £1 6s 2d, “after all expenses had been paid”.  Six new members were elected bringing the total membership up to thirty.  The election of officers ensued, Mr Parker was re-elected captain, Mr W. Lewis appointed secretary and Mr James Stradling was re-elected treasurer with further committee members also appointed. They decided to reduce club runs to once a week, the first of which to be held on Good Friday, presumably due to lack of demand.

Club Runs Begin in 1892

Good Friday saw the Victoria cyclists ride to Marlborough under bright sunny conditions, following the sharp frost from earlier in the morning, leaving the marketplace at 9:45am. About twenty-five members made their way to the “Angel Coffee Tavern” where they were entertained by the proprietor Mr. Brown.  The riders then explored the college and Savernake Forest before leaving for home, although there was a further stop at Hungerford for half an hour on the return, before reaching Newbury at 8:30 in the evening following their days outing.

The Victorians club ride mid-May was to Chieveley on a Wednesday evening; the same evening the Newbury Cycle Club held a run to Hungerford and the Guildhall cyclists had a run across Greenham Common, so runs were clearly very popular at the time for the local clubs.

Road Race August 1892

At the end of August, the club held a road race.  The prizes were on view at Mr Stradling’s shop window in Northbrook Street, the first prize was a challenge cup value £4 4s (four guineas) and a Gladstone bag, value 22s 6d; the second prize was a pair of “ball pedals” value 15s, given by Mr James Stradling; the third prize a cycle lamp, value 10s 6d (half a guinea) given by Messrs. Smart & Sons and the fourth prize an inkstand, value 7s 6d donated by the Committee.  The bicycles ridden by Rhodes and the brothers Eggleton were of the “pneumatic variety” and made on the premises of the Stradling bicycle shop.


Prize Presentation at the Coffee Tavern

Mid-September the Victoria Cycle Club held their prize presentation at the Guildhall Coffee Tavern in Mansion Street.  The captain H.W. Parker was elected to the chair and proceeded to hand out the prizes.  Mr Rhodes won the cup and first prize which had been secured after a hard road race; in response he commented that he would do his utmost to win the prize the next season.  The club also hoped to hold races in the grounds of the Cricket Club the next season.  The meeting was finished off with a vote of thanks for the treasurer, Mr James Stradling, having already presented the secretary with a marble clock as thanks for his work during the season.  As was traditional the meeting finished with a smoking concert, and a rendition of “God save the Queen”.

Head-To-Head Road Race

At the end of September, two members of the club, Rhodes and Eggleton held a head-to-head 8-mile race.  Mr Stradling was the timekeeper.  Eggleton made the pace for half the race when Rhodes then led until 500 yards from the finish post. However, Eggleton moved up and they were racing head-to-head for some distance until 200 yards from the finish post where Rhodes faded and was fairly beaten.  Eggleton came in alone winning in a time of 21 minutes 45 seconds for the eight miles. The winner received a silver medal and rode machines provided by Stradling, so great publicity for the local cycle shop.

Annual Dinner 1892 at the Guildhall Temperance Hotel

The annual dinner of the club was held at the Guildhall Temperance Hotel in October with the mayor, Councillor A. Jackson, presiding.  The cyclists had a hearty meal consisting of roast beef, pork, mutton, and vegetables, with plum puddings and apple tarts.  Captain Parker commented that the club had only been started three years earlier but already had a membership of over forty.  Again, the dinner ended with toasts and singing of the national anthem.

Invitation from the Rover Cycle Company

In February 1893, A. Morton and H. Eggleton received an invitation from the Rover Cycle Company to join them at Crystal Palace when they were presented with a silver medal as a memento for their recent victories on their Rover machines supplied by Mr Joyce of Hungerford at the Victoria and Guildhall Cycle Sports the previous year.

Annual Meeting 1893

In 1893 the annual meeting of the Newbury Victoria Cycle Club was held at the Guildhall Coffee House on Wednesday, March 23rd at 8pm. The report showed that 25 new members had joined the club, and they had a balance in hand of £2.  The club again decided to hold a race meeting in the summer.  Mr W.G. Mount, M.P. had consented to become the president of the club, Mr H. Pearce was elected captain, Mr A. White sub-captain, Mr W.R. Lewis secretary, and Mr James Stradling treasurer.  The club decided that the opening run would be on the Friday that week to Pangbourne via Reading and a paper chase was proposed for the Bank Holiday.

Athletic Sports Meeting

Mid-September club members took part in the athletic sports events at the Newbury Cricket Club.  There were a number of events and with some members, such as Rhodes, who was a member of both the Victoria and the Guildhall Club participating in races for members of both clubs.  A three-mile handicap race held for Victoria members only had six starters, was won by A. Morton, by two yards, from H. Eggleton in second with J. Eggleton in third.

Annual Ten Mile Road Race

In 1893, the annual ten-mile road race of the Victoria club was held in mid-September where eleven competitors lined up to compete for the challenge cup and prizes. The race being won by A. Morton by 30 yards from H. Eggleton, who started with a minute handicap from behind and Rhodes who was off scratch was 1 ½ minutes behind in third.

Annual Meeting 1894

In 1894 the annual meeting of the Victoria Club was held mid-March.  Once again Mr. J. Stradling was elected treasurer and Mr B.C. Rhodes secretary.  The balance sheet showed a balance to the good of £3 4s 6d.  Those who were interested in joining the club were informed they could apply to Mr B. Rhodes 17, Craven Street, Newbury.

Victoria Cycle Club Members in Court

In July proceedings were taken against the Victoria Cycling Club for racing on the highway at Greenham Common.  In the absence of a local track the Victorians had chosen to use the “straight and level” road at Greenham for racing for several years.  According to the Newbury Weekly News, “the race was held as there was no racing track and the road was not well used by     too many others”.  However, County by-laws forbid racing on public roads and the police had chosen to intervene.  Harry Eggleton, James Eggleton, Joseph Walker, George Salmon, Joseph Cherrill, Frank Stevens, Henry Barrett and Alfred Brazier, were summoned for engaging in this race on the highway, contrary to the county by-laws, on the June 27th. The police even prosecuted the timekeeper and starter, James Stradling and B.C. Rhodes.

According to witness reports, Ernest Gravett was out for a walk on the common when he saw three men riding bicycles and he was “knocked down”, although it was reported he did not complain to the police at the time.  On the Thursday afternoon Constable Gibbs went to Walker’s home who told him he had won the race.  Shortly afterwards he also met Mr Stradling who said he would “rather the race was not run”; no further explanation given and Stradling stated “he had nothing to do with the race other than keeping time”.  Stradling asked the magistrates to be lenient with the defendants as there was “no warning given at all by the police”.  Apparently, the Club had held the race “without interference in the past”.

The magistrates, however, recorded no convictions except for costs, for the riders pleading guilty.  The magistrates recorded that racing was not to be held on the public roads, but they would not record a conviction, the defendants, except for Rhodes and Stradling, would pay costs of 6s and the latter two would pay 7s 6d, presumably because they pleaded not guilty.  Reports indicated that the Court was crowded during the hearing.

Annual Athletic Meeting 1894

In August the Guildhall Club held their half-yearly general meeting, where B.C. Rhodes, who was involved with both clubs, suggested that the Guildhall and Victoria clubs could hold their race meeting together.  This proposal was also welcomed by the Guildhall members. Subsequently the Victoria Cycling Club promoted the race meeting on Saturday September 8th at the Cricket Ground. 

The annual sports meeting was held on the Cricket Ground on Saturday 8th September.  Proceedings began at half past two and the “ropes were well lined with crowds”.  Again, there was considerable excitement when a terrier ran across the track in front of competitors, but in this instance not appearing to bring anyone down!  The officials all turned up except for the referee, who “fortunately was not needed”.  Other officials were members of the Victoria Club.  The meeting also included the race for the Guildhall Challenge Cup, as well as numerous running events alongside the cycle races. The half-mile handicap cycle race for club members was won by J Salomon in 1 minutes 23 3/5th seconds, who won a salad bowl presented by Mr W.G. Mount M.P.  The Victoria Challenge Cup was held over five miles and run as a handicap race.  K. Wheeler won the race from J. Salmon with Cherrill in third.  Prizes included a cup and Gladstone bag for first, and lamps for the other top finishers.  There was some criticism of the handicapping, as Wheeler who had a 700-yard start from H. Eggleton on scratch was beaten by more than two-and-a-half lengths in the final.

Annual Meeting, March 1895

In 1895, the annual meeting of the cycle club was held at the Guildhall Coffee House on Monday, 25th March.  The accounts showed a balance of £3 2s 2d.  Officers were elected with A. Brazier, Captain; G. Salmon, sub-Captain, W. Jordan honorary secretary and J. Stradling, treasurer.  The first run of the season would be held on Good Friday, leaving the marketplace at 9:30am with the destination of Reading and Pangbourne.

Whit-Monday Sports Gala

In 1895 the Victoria Cycle Club decided to hold a Whit-Monday sports, fete and gala, which would appear to have been moved forward from September in 1894 where they lost £20 promoting the previous meeting.

The clubs second annual sports event was again held at the Cricket Ground, the weather was good, and the crowd were five or six deep in places.  There was a total entry of over 100 runners and riders for the races.  The highlight was “Batty” Wheeler, who although riding off scratch in all the races managed to win all the events. The handicappers for the cycling events were A. Morton and W. Jordan, C. Stradling was the timekeeper.

The one-mile handicap race appears to have been marred by riders falling on a sharp corner near the pavilion, although they all remounted, however, Salmon who fell suffered severe lacerations on his neck and arms. Wheeler won a travelling dressing case for his efforts in this race.

Reading Standard Friday June 7th, 1895

Wheeler was handicapped an extra 50 yards in the two-mile handicap race, “on accord of him winning the first race”, so started behind the scratch rider in the second heat, although he was obviously on good form and still won his heat and subsequently the final.

The final race of the day was the Victoria Club Challenge cup held over five miles.  There were eight competitors with riders completing the circuit 25 times.  At the beginning of the fifth mile, Walker      was leading from Pearce and Wheeler, who was on scratch.  Wheeler made up ground and eventually won easily.  Prizes were given to the first 6 finishers, so the other two must have felt a little disappointed!  Wheeler winning the Challenge Cup and clock presented to him by the mayor.  The Town Band played a few renditions and, in the evening, played dance music, refreshments were provided by Mr. Thompson of the “Globe” and the remainder of the ground was occupied by swing boats and coconut allies.

Due to the good bank holiday crowd, the Victoria Club took £40 in gate money and would have expected to cover their costs, as most prizes were donated by local tradesmen, an improvement on the previous year.

Wheeler was also presented with a silver medal in recognition of his success in the sports events, riding a “Premier” Safety Bicycle.

Annual Meeting 1896

In 1896 the annual meeting, in June, was once again held at the Guildhall Coffee House.  There were twenty-five members in attendance.  Mr W.G. Mount M.P was elected president and Mr A Brazier, Captain with Mr J. Stradling treasurer once again.  The meeting decided to promote the annual cycling and flat races again and it was also proposed to add some ladies’ races. 

What appears to be the first club run of the season was held on Wednesday 10th June to Brimpton via Woolhampton started at 7:30pm from the marketplace.

This was the only report which could be found reported of the Victoria Club that year in the Newbury Weekly News, so it’s quite possible that the annual race meeting did not take place in 1896.  It should also be noted that the first club run was about two months later than previous years, so perhaps interest in the club and/or cycling may have been waning.

Dissolution of the Newbury Victoria Cycle Club

In 1897 the Victoria cyclists held their annual dinner at their headquarters, the Guildhall Temperance Hotel.  After the dinner they decided to dissolve with the club.  It was proposed by Mr H. Eggleton that E. Wheeler should hold the challenge cup which he had won two years in succession.  The other properties of the club would be presented to the Church Institute who were starting a cycle club.  A vote of thanks was proposed for the officers of the club and finally a hearty vote of thanks to the hosts, Mr and Mrs Hiscock, for the spread provided that evening.

It was not clear what the reason behind the closure of the club was, whether the ruling in the county court case had had an impact, as it seemed to stop racing on the local roads, or whether the lack of a successful annual sports meeting, or indeed low attendance on club runs, impacted their decision.


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 (  Content in this report was abstracted from a number of local and not-so-local Newspapers, predominantly the Newbury Weekly News, but also the Reading Mercury, The Reading Standard, Berkshire Chronicle, Reading Observer. The author would also like to express his thanks to Brian Tate and Gordon Fry for reviewing and proofing the content. 

Newbury Weekly News, Thursday May 23rd 1895

Some things never change!



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