The Twickenham Museum
Exhibitions : Sporting History

Probably the invention of a Scottish blacksmith in 1839

The Hampton Court Great Bicycle Race of 1874 in Bushy Park

Until the early 1870s the discomfort of the wooden 'bone-shaker' with iron rims recording every bump of the roads, did not encourage cycling. Then came the development of the 'ordinary' bicycle with its steel wheels and solid rubber tyres, or 'penny farthing' as we now call them. This machine represented such an improvement that bicycling became widespread, not merely as a means of transport, but also as a sport.
The Hampton Court Great Bicycle Race of 1874 in Bushy Park

The most spectacular event in the area was the Hampton Court Great Bicycle Meet in Bushy Park which started off in 1874.

Emily Jane Davis at Hampton in about 1895

Growing in popularity the event reached its peak in 1882. New models of bicycle appeared at frequent intervals and the Hampton Court Meet became the place to display them. Many cycling clubs were formed and in 1882 there were 183 clubs with 2360 riders represented. For a further few years tricyclists made an impact but 1886 was the last Meet and cyclists returned to their own clubs and events thereafter.

Double and single tricyclists in the Hampton Court Road, probably in the 1880s. Note the pipe smoker on the right

Abraham Slade (1817-1903) acquired a tricycle in 1881. His diaries thereafter note many of his excursions, and the acquisition of new models. On 4 April 1881 he noted: “Rode 8 miles before breakfast on my Tricycle - the same for several mornings; one morning rode 14 miles, felt but little fatigue”

The following year he went for a spin with his son Archie. Later he acquired an “omnicycle”, a folding Assiger's tricycle, a Quadrant Louisa and a Crippen tricycle. He continued to ride until shortly before his death, as noted in a press cutting for 26 March 1902: "Mr A. Slade, of Twickenham, is a veteran cyclist, being now eighty-five years of age, and he has come into prominence lately, by reason of a claim to being the first maker of a machine driven within itself, instead of by kicking against the ground, as the hobby horse was propelled. In a letter to "The Cyclist", Mr Slade states that when a boy he can remember riding a hobby horse that ran away with him down a hill and deposited him in a deep ditch. Sixty years ago he made a tricycle for a Scotchman named Macmillan, who claims to be the inventor. It was made with lance-wood wheels, ash frame, and pedal levers. Mr Slade - who, by the bye, was one of the original members of the old Twickenham Local Board, and is now succeeded on the District Council by his son Archibald - is still an enthusiastic cyclist. Last year he rode his bicycle to Eastbourne. "The Cyclist" claims that he is the oldest living cyclist in the world."

The Clarendon Club in Bushy Park in 1920. Note the early example of dropped handlebars on the right

The 2012 Olympics include cycling and there will be a cycle run through Twickenham to Box Hill via Bushy Park and Hampton Court during the Games

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