Sunday, 12 April 2020

'A Monstre Cycling Social' - Blackheath 1886

Continuing my research on SE London sporting history, I came across this report of  'A Monstre Cycling Social'  held at the Green Man Hotel in December 1886. The Green Man stood at the top of Blackheath Hill (left hand side if you are going up it) for three hundred years before being demolished in 1970. It played an important social and cultural role, being at various times the HQ of England's oldest golf club (Royal Blackheath) and a significant folk, jazz and R&B in the 1960s (Paul Simon and Manfred Mann among the performers).

Green Man in 1880s - image from pubmywiki
There are a few interesting points to note about this 'large attendance of cyclists and their friends'. The lists of cycling clubs represented gives an idea of the popularity of the sport in this part of London at this early point in its history. South London clubs mentioned include New Cross, Argus (who were based in Deptford), Brockley, Dulwich, Brixton Ramblers, Norwood Safety, Peckham Rovers, Pelham (Sydenham), Clapham Park, Croydon, Anerley etc. 

Present too were a few running clubs - at this period there was quite an overlap between the two. One such club was Blackheath Harriers (today Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC), also based at the Green Man, which had moved to the area in 1878 due to urbanisation around its former Peckham home (they had previously been known as Peckham Hare and Hounds, formed in 1869). Other running clubs mentioned including South London Harriers, Brockley Harriers and Lewisham Hare and Hounds. 

As discussed in a previous post here, Catford CC itself had only been founded in April 1886, and grew out of Lewisham Hare and Hounds. The Cycling Club is still going today, and Lewisham Hare and Hounds became part of Kent Athletic Club, founded in 1898 and still running hard at Ladywell track.

Kentish Mercury - Friday 10 December 1886
 Another interesting feature of this report is that it mentions that the event included a 'Mile Open' race on a 'Home trainer' bike. I had no idea that stationary indoor bicycle trainers existed at this point, but seemingly designs based on riding on rollers or with one wheel were already being marketed. Would be interested if anybody had come across an earlier example of a competitive use of a home trainer/exercise back than this one from 1886.

The following example made by Longford Wire Iron and Steel Co of Warrington dates to 1897:

image sourced from Grace's Guide

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