Who would have thought that North and South Wheatley Local History Group’s guest speaker, Rosemary Beney, from Chesterfield, for 15th May, could have kept members interested, amused and even made us wiser, with a talk entitled ‘Velocipedes’? That, however, is exactly what she did! She had taught herself to use an iPad and how to use it to produce audio visual presentations. So the journey she took the group on, started in Germany around 1818, with what was also known as a running machine, consisting of two wheels roughly connected by a wooden frame with a central ‘saddle’ (no pedals) and the rider straddled the saddle and just ran, occasionally taking his (no lady riders yet) feet off the ground to ‘cruise’. These eventually sprouted pedals and very crude braking systems. The audience was shown 150 pictures and short video clips taking them through the development of bone shakers, hobby horses, penny farthings or high wheel bikes. There was even instruction not only on mounting and dismounting the latter, but a video of some rather fast and dangerous racing of them.
The talk progressed through a whole variety of single seaters, tandems and side by side tricycles. There was even a four wheeled velocipede to take the family out on. After wooden frames and wheels ,the use of metal and even solid rubber tyres were part of the progress made in the first few years. A pneumautic tyre was even made by Robert Thompson in 1845, but never used and it was 1888 when John Dunlop produced tyres and tubes for practicl use, and riding became more comfortable!
Tricycles were developed with big baskets for delivery, then small models for children and in 1895 ‘chain driven’ machines. Tom Stevens took two years to ride round the world in the 1880s.
The first ladies even tried to ride side-saddle, A style that was later to be followed by pillion passengers of today. We had folding bikes, carried inside a small suitcase, for businessmen in London as well as the cycle corps in WWI and the folding bikes taken to war by paratroopers. Beryl Burton, from Leeds, won world titles with her cylce racing between 1960 and 1968 and was competing at national level until 1986, even setting a tandem record with her daughter in 1982.
The group’s next meeting is a return visit by Ian Morgan on 17th July with ‘Inspector Hopkinson’s Discovery’ — this time it’s about a tragic event in 1895. Members will be the jury in this case of murder. Was Henry Wright guilty or not of a calculated murder or was he insane?