Victorian Weymouth Bicycle Club.

Cycling, or rather as the Victorians referred to it, bicycling,  became a popular up and coming sport in the late Victorian era, and a few of the  Weymouth residents were quick off the mark to take up this physical past time.

As usual, there were those who took it very seriously, they’d formed a Bicycle Club in the town, but as these new fangled machines were extremely expensive, only those with the necessary funds could indulge in this past time.


As my grandparents had owned and run a bicycle shop in St Thomas Street, the Darch Cycle Shop, and my Dad had been a keen sportsman and cyclist, I thought it very apt to write a little about the antics of the Weymouth Bicycle Club.

The club first operated during the 1880’s, the era of the birth of the bike as a means of transport.

These speed men of the Victorian era would often be found racing along the main fairway of the Seafront, a historic (albeit much shorter) version of the Tour de France. These cycling events were often linked to other Weymouth celebrations such as the arrival in town in the May of the Dorset Yeomanry, when the whole town would come alive with visitors and grand entertainments.

Those earlier bikes were the ubiquitous Penny farthings…as the ones in the picture above, with the daring riders posing besides their machines in front of the Kings Statue before some event.

Oh Boy…did you have to be daring to ride one of these, they were unstable, difficult to mount and dismount safely, even stay on during the ride…many a man (and woman) came a cropper!


In  August of 1890, the Weymouth Bicycle Club were invited to join the Dorchester Rovers Bicycle Club in their grand illuminated procession. Taking it all in good spirits, the riders were kitted out in fancy dress  costumes and their bikes adorned with Chinese lanterns, the whole procession through the streets of Dorchester drew large crowds to admire these men of the wheel.

At the  cyclists annual general meeting of 1891 held at the Guildhall under the leadership of town Mayor, the Honourable Secretary of the club, who at the time was  Mr E Y Wood, a report given at that meeting proudly announced that their membership had increased 100% that year.

In 1890 they had a total of 35 members. By October 1891 that had increased to a whopping 73.

During the season they had completed a total of 19 runs, 25 had originally been planned for, but bad weather had prevented some from taking place. The average distance of each run had been 16.2 miles, the total distance covered over the 19 runs  was 308 miles.


A careful log was kept of those who had attended each meet, the number of meets  each man had attended, the distance in miles that they had covered over the years membership.

Leading the proverbial pack was Mr William Burcham Custance who had made himself top dog by attending every single one of the runs and completed all 308 miles. William also earned himself the much coveted Attendance Medal. The Custance dynasty  were owners of a large grocery store in St Thomas Street.

So it went on down through the list in the order of total mileage that each man had ridden.

Mr Ernest Yates Wood, son of a local business man, David Woods, a tailor. Ernest was 29, single, living at home with his widowed father, and working as a clerk to the local Gas Company.

Mr Samuel Board, aged 43 and a builder by trade with his own business, who lived in Ellendale House in Ranelagh Road.

Master Alfred George Board aged 16, Samuels son, and apprentice in the family firm. Alfred was awarded the bronze medal for his punctuality and frequent attendances at the meets.

Mr William  Bowles  Barrett was a local solicitor, and a wealthy man, who lived at no 2, Belfield Terrace.

Mr Isaac John Brown,(another single man living at home with his parents) at their family business in St Thomas Street. Thirty one year old Issac was a jeweller and watch maker. Isaac  also held the lofty position of captain of the Weymouth Bicycle team.

Mr Warren.

Mr Henry John  Butcher,the 26-year-old unmarried son of Moses Butcher. The Butcher family owned and lived in St Thomas Street over their stationary and printing shop. Henry  also held the responsible position of the honorary treasurer for the Bicycling club.

Mr Webb and  Mr Churchil,

Mr Christopher Joseph Russell, an Irish born gentleman, (not exactly in the first flush of his youth,) and a Colonel in the Royal Engineers. He and his family lived in Teramina house which was near Argyle Terrace.

Mr George Apsey was a  gunner with the Royal Artillery Volunteers that trained at the Nothe fort, he was listed as an army pensioner in the 1891 census. His home was also where Harper Hubbard lived, another member of the Bicycling Club, both men were single and in their late 20’s. (There seems to be a theme appearing here!)

Mr Pratt.

Mr Harper Isaac Hubbard, a single lad (again!) a brewers clerk aged 30. he lived in lodgings with the widow Frances Apsey,  and her son, George, his fellow rider.

Mr Jeanes.

Mr Robert  Archibald  G Reid, a New Zealander by birth, travelled into Weymouth town from Fordington in Dorchester, where his wealthy family lived. Robert was in his early 20’s and was employed as a bank clerk..

Mr Reginald Robert Case, a 27-year-old (yes you’ve guessed it) single man. He held a very responsible position of trust, Reginald resided at and was a clerk in charge at a bank at no 84/85 St Mary Street.

Mr Watkinson, Mr Drew, Mr F B Woollard, Mr Bartlett, Mr Kerridge, Mr S R Miller,

Mr George  Dominay, a butcher with his own business at Belgrave Terrace.

Mr Ayles, Mr J A Samways, Mr Turner, Mr Bateson.

At the bottom of the proverbial bicycling rode  Mr Fowler, out of the whole sporting year, he only managed 1 ride!

During the 1890/91 season the club had organised numerous events, including their own rather novel illuminated procession of bicycles which was held during the busy and popular Dorset Yeomanry Week. This had taken the form of a night time display of bicycle adornment at its Victorian best…nearly 70 riders had entered the festive event, they and their gaily lit bicycles proudly paraded before the crowds along the Esplanade .

Club members even ventured into a bit of off road cycling in the form of an over hill and dale, mounted paper chase…not too sure that the Victorian bikes were built for such things, but it seems to have gone down well with its members, if not the bicycle spokes!


August of 1891 saw a race from the Kings Statue to the Crown Hotel, nothing special you might think, but this wasn’t the Weymouth Crown, it was the one in Southampton…a lengthy total of 122 1/2 miles.

There was the reward of a gold medal for the first man home. Despite the design of bicycles coming on during this period, and the softer, safer, pneumatic tyres having been introduced, for some unknown reason they were banned from using them for the race!

In the October the young (and not quite so young) dandies of the club gathered together for a slap up meal at the Golden Lion,(this time the Weymouth one) which was also where they held their meetings…hhmmm, sounds about right for an all males club!


During the evenings festivities, they were bemoaning the lack of the facilities of a Recreation ground in the town, but that was soon to be on the cards.

Move on a couple of years and in the June of 1893 were reports of a days races which took place along the seafront, from the Kings statue to the end of Victoria  Terrace. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon the men and their machines gathered, the road was sectioned off, and the local bobbies patrolled the scene, making sure that no unauthorised persons made their way onto the course. After all, these were the speed merchants of the day…danger lurked.

For the 3 1/2 mile handicap race, the competitors had to ride over the course four times.

A plethora of novelty prizes awaited the lucky winners for the days racing, from a silver-plated tea service to a carriage clock, an aneroid barometer to a silver plated egg stand…one suspects that the men weren’t racing for the prizes.

The day ended with a half mile Novelty Race, where the competitors had to make their way over an obstacle course, including lighting a lamp during the proceedings, they certainly knew how to live it up in those days.

Their  meeting in August that year was held again along the seafront, which drew forth more complaints about a lack of a designated sports grounds that they could race on, but they drew the crowds in to admire men and machine. To finish the days  events a  display of trick riding was given by two of the younger members of the club, Carter and Dovey.

September saw the club members racing over a 121 miles course. A certain Mr Holmes of London had donated a  gold medal for the winner and local businessman, Mr Hodges gave a silver medal for second place.


Above is a photo of William James Hodges and his son George Hodges stood in the doorway of their bicycle shop, reputedly the first place in Weymouth to ever stock bicycles.

Thanks goes to George’s great grand daughter, Laura Hardy for permission to use this incredible family photograph.

John Brown Gray finished the course in 5 hours 5 1/2 minutes. Forty-year-old John Gray was another wealthy local businessman, he ran a tarpaulin and grocery business down in Lennox Street.

Webb finished 11 minutes after him, and earned himself the silver medal.

The third entrant had earnt for himself a few bumps, bruises and scratches as he came a cropper…..

By 1894 the New Recreation Ground had been opened up for the use of the local residents, to the relief of the bicyclists it contained a grass track that they could use, no more racing along the main sea front road, and suffering gravel burn from their tumbles.

As cycling became more and more popular, and the machines more affordable, so a succession of cycling clubs came into being. There was even a Breweries Novice Handicap race which was open to members of the local Breweries Cycling Club.


But not all was sweetness and light in the biking brigade…competition often brought conflict.

In September of 1899, there was mutiny in the bicycling ranks. At a committee meeting held at their headquarters, the Golden Lion, a protest was lodged by E Perkins against the awarding of the prizes in the Chave challenge cup the previous week.

He claimed that he had been seriously fouled during the race, and that the results should be null and void.

After deliberations, the committee announced that the results stood.

The cup was  finally awarded to D H Guy, what made it worse was that he kept it because he had already won it three times.

F Hillear won second prize, W Cockerham won third prize.



Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not bring them to life with historical graphics.

I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy, military and naval life…


Weymouth’s long history with the luxury yachts.

I had always heard my Dad talk about the Yacht Regattas that used to take place in our beautiful bay in the early 20th c, and the luxurious and immense vessels that would sail into view in all their glory to attend these momentous occasions.

Like most self-centred youth, it used to go in on ear and out the other!…stifling a yawn as his tales went on to describe the scene and the people.

How, oh how I wish I had listened to those tales.

With age and hindsight, I realised too late they were not  in fact boring old family stories, they were part of Weymouth’s history… her maritime history, of which there is a great deal.

Weymouth has always had a variety of vessels sailing in and out of her quaint harbour, or moored out in the beautiful bay. Some were work vessels such as trade ships, or troop carriers, some were smaller ships, used locally, coastguard men, pilots, naval, then later there were the pleasure boats.

With the arrival of King George III in town, so too followed the rich and elite, many arrived on our shore via their luxury vessels.

flying kite 1

As time went on, Weymouth started to attract more and more those who had the money to own and race these great luxurious yachts, our sheltered bay being the perfect setting for such events..

During the Victorian era, for Weymouth, the season started with the arrival of the Queens Own Dorset Yeomanry troops to the town in the May, this kicked off the years festivities of parties, balls, fireworks and fun, it marked the arrival of the long term tourists and day trippers, and it closed with the Weymouth regatta at the Summers end.

Weymouth Regatta was born. A seaside festival to celebrate the maritime history of our shores and the advancing age of Victorian technology.

english racing yachts

The rich and the working man both pitting their skills in competitions and races…there was money to be won, as well as the prestige and of course, the obligatory cups that went along with these occassions.

One such cup is now in the hands of the V&A Museum. Produced in London by Emes and Barnard in about 1827-1828, this large, ornate silver-gilt cup and cover was once a much cherished prize for the Weymouth Regatta races.


One of the scenes depicted on the cup itself is of yacht racing off Weymouth.

Each year, men fought for the opportunity to hold this cup, those that could afford to race such vessels weren’t interested in the prize money, it was the prestige they coveted.

What follows is a little snippet from one of the years reports on the weeks events.

‘London Standard-1828.

Weymouth-August 22nd.

The annual regatta of the Yacht Club of this town commenced yesterday, and as the weather for a few days previously became remarkably fine, the town was filled to excess by persons of respectability from all parts of the country, as well as from Portsmouth, Cowes, Southampton, and Bath, to witness an amusement which has become so fashionable, and one which is so truly characteristic of the nation. The superb large silver cup, value fifty guineas, was won in fine style by Sir George Leed’s Charlotte. Several matches took place in the course of the day, together with row boats, and canoes, which were very interesting to witness in this splendid way.

In the evening the members and their friends dined together at Luce’s hotel, when a superb dinner was prepared for 100 persons; the whole was placed under the direction of Captain Stevenson, to whom the regatta club is under very great obligation, from the exertions and zeal which he has uniformly manifested in the formation and support of the regatta, and particularly for the order, regularity, and conviviality, which closed the evenings festivities.

Sir George Thomas Bart, being the steward for the year, presided, and was supported on his right by Lord Ilchester, on his left by Sir George Leeds, Bart., and on each side of the table by all the distinguished members of the Royal Yacht Club.

The usual toasts were given on this occasion. The Duke of Clarence was drunk,(not literally…I hope!) coupled with the prosperity of our navy.”Lord Hill and the Army,” followed.

The second days sailing is for a superb silver cup, presented by the ladies of Weymouth to the successful candidate, whose yacht is not to exceed 25 tons, and the bone fide owner to be a gentleman.

The ball will take place in the evening at the Royal Hotel, the commodious and elegant rooms of which are to be decorated in the most brilliant manner.’

The coveted cup that year was won by Sir G Leeds with his magnificent yacht Charlotte. He beat Hebert Corbett Esq.,’s vessel, the Corbett.

On the second day of the events, not for racing, but for the boats themselves, was the Weymouth ladies cup, it was presented to James Weld Esq. for his yacht Paul Pry.

Winning second prize was the boat of J Wright Esq., with his vessel, Little Vixen, he walked away with 10 sovereigns.

Third prize went to a fishing smack, they too won a prize of 10 sovereigns, that was awarded to William Shilston with his working boat, the Fox.

The days events were open to one all, not that one and all could afford to sail in such magnificent vessel, despite that, people flocked to the town to watch the grand occasions, and enjoy the entertainment laid on in the form of rowing races and the obligatory grand firework display out in the bay to end the night.

This tradition of the Weymouth Regatta continued on up through the Victorian era, it drew the crowds in to the town, when the railways arrived, so too did the trains by the dozen from all around the country, these were specially organised day trips to these much advertised events.

book 2

The esplanade would be chock a block with the day trippers and locals.

Even on into the 20th century, the tradition of the Regatta continued, here depicted on a postcard from 1923, with people watching the smaller boat racing from the pier.

weymouth regatta 1923

I wonder if my Dad could have been in that crowd somewhere, dressed in his smart sailor suit and straw boater hat?

In fact that year the big race had to be abandoned, because the large yachts couldn’t make their way over from Cowes where they had been attending the Cowes regatta.

High winds and stormy seas prevented their travel!

Even in the 1930’s, Weymouth Carnival and Regatta still made the seasons entertainment, (and the front cover of the holiday brochure.)

Marsh & Wright bathing tents 1

The decade I was born, the 50’s and still the tradition held, by now the Carnival and regatta were combined in one week. But it wasn’t to last for much longer….a great tradition lost and confined to history.

Marsh & Wright bathing tents 3

But Weymouth still managed to attract the rich and famous, and the TV coverage from worldwide media when we were chosen along with Portland to host the 2012 Sailing Olympics and Paralympics.

The yachts were smaller, far more technical, but probably cost every bit as much as those earlier luxury vessels.


The eager crowds gathered along the piers, cliffs and esplanade, pretty much as our forefathers had done in the Victorian era, waiting to cheer on Ben Ainsley’s attempt for a gold medal in the games…it was a moment to savour.

So now I too can sit and tell my own Grandchildren all about the yachts and the people in Weymouth, the excitement, the history…

…did one of them just yawn?

***************************************************************************************Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not bring them to life with historical graphics.

I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…

Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.

Cycling on the Weymouth Esplanade…nothing’s new under the sun!

Ever since the Georgian era the beautiful curve of Weymouth Esplanade was the place to be seen.


This grand gravelled walk, defined on one side by the sea wall and the other by its reknown line of white Portland stone posts and chains was where people from all walks of life like to promenade of a daytime or evening.

Later, a set of ramps were built that led down from the Esplanade that enabled easy access for horse and rider or horse and carriage onto  the beach.

Man and horse shared the space quite happily.


But  time and technology moved on up through the years, all was not well with those Victorian promenaders who liked to partake in a stroll and enjoy the virtues of the fresh sea breezes….and not all of those new fangled Victorian inventions were fully appreciated.


In recent times, there has  been many heated debates about cyclists and those on various modes of transport with wheels of varying styles and degrees in size using the busy Esplanade alongside pedestrians.

It seems that the two opposing fractions seem to be unable to get along  with each other.

Those promenading on foot complain about having to dodge those ‘inconsiderate’ persons who whizz past on their sets of wheels, whatever they may be, bike, blades or scooters.

Those on their small-wheeled transport ask why they too shouldn’t be able to travel freely and in relative safety ‘off road,’ 

But it seems this problem is not just a 21st or even 20th century one.

Even back in Victorian times those same old, same old arguments were being had…and not just for riding on the pavements!.

In August of 1873 a piece was penned in the Southern Times berating the nuisance of these new fangled machines.

‘1873 9 Aug



We have been requested to draw the attention of the authorities of the town to the great annoyance caused both to visitors and residents through bicycles being allowed on the Esplanade- a state of things not only occasioning inconvenience and obstruction, but positively becoming a dangerous nuisance.

Some time since we recollect hearing the Mayor give the Superintendent of police strict orders to prohibit bicycles being driven on the esplanade, but somehow or other this seems to have been forgotten.

It would be also well if the police were to prevent the furious manner in which some of the riders drive their machine through the public thoroughfares of the town, to the great danger of any one who happens to be in their way. It was only a few weeks since that four or five bicycles were being driven up the front as hard as the rider could propel them, when a poor boy, who happened to be in the road, was knocked down by one of them, the bycle going right over his back.

Fortunately, the lad was not much hurt, but when an officer who witnessed the affair, remonstrated with one of the party, he was soundly abused for his trouble.

The police summons people for furiously driving, and they would be only discharging their duty if they similarly served those who in order to show off their abilities, rush so recklessly through the streets.’


                            It also seems that even the good old Victorian Bobby had to put up with his share of abuse!



Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not bring them to life with historical graphics.

I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


Lennox Street; 1915

Taken from the Weymouth website that covers the Park district.



 Not with the Victorian period, but with the commemorations of WWI coming up, I thought something from around that period might be appropriate.

These are two of the buildings in Ranelagh Road mentioned in the piece,  The top one is what was once the Ranelagh Hotel and public house, sitting at the start of the road and opposite the railway station.

The lower one the butchers shop at no’s 9 and 10,  home of the Holton family.

Holtons the butchers store

The piece in the link below is part of the Park District group that looks at the history of their heritage and the area where  they live.

click the link to read on……….

Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.