The appearance of a City of Cardiff bicycle hire rack in City Road inspired me to have visions of the past – velocipedes (boneshakers) and ordinaries (penny farthing bicycles) hurtling up and down Heol y Plwca or Castle Road (as it later became known in the 1870’s), on a road surface that was little more than a dirt track with ruts. Most of these cyclists would have been members of the middle class and very few of them women. To ride a Penny Farthing one needed to be fit, active and male and not encumbered by long heavy skirts and layers of petticoats. The middle aged rode tricycles and quadricycles and from 1881 to 1886 more tricycles were built in the United Kingdom than bicycles. They were more expensive, perceived as more genteel and were thought to be more suitable for women from middle class families. With the emergence of the safety bicycle more women began to participate in cycling. It was seen as part of the struggle for their social independence and critics were concerned by the risqué clothing they wore, such as divided skirts or bloomers. Cycling was not embraced by the working class until after World War 1 when it was a means of travel to work (to the docks?) and an alternative to public transport.
The earliest known cycle dealers in Castle Road (now City Road) were Wheeler and Company trading at 10 Castle Road in 1889. By now James Starley’s Rover safety bicycle had evolved to the extent that it had the appearance of a modern bicycle and was no doubt available from Wheelers’ cycle depot, complete with such refinements as Dunlop’s pneumatic tyres (1889) and the Silver King oil cycle lamp produced by Joseph Lucas of Birmingham (1879). Electric batteries appeared after 1890.
Tandem cycles made their appearance in 1886 and the Cyclists Touring Club announced that ‘ladies, like luggage are wisely consigned to the rear’. The Kennard Cycle Company followed in 1894 at 20 City Road at least until 1924. By 1937 they had moved to 195 – 201 Richmond Road where they advertised themselves as agents for Raleigh bicycles. The Raleigh Bicycle Company of Nottingham had been founded in 1888 and became the largest cycle manufacturer in the United Kingdom. They probably also sold bicycles manufactured by the Hercules Cycle and Motor Cycle Company, founded in 1910. The business prospered and by 1935 the company produced 40% of the total output of the United Kingdom, largely due to the adoption of mass production methods.
By the decade beginning in 1910 there were three cycle dealers including the Worrell brothers who took over the former Wheeler premises at no. 10. Expansion really came in the 1920’s, when there were 10 outlets in what was by now City Road. This included a branch of the Halfords Cycle Co. Ltd. founded in Birmingham in 1892. The City Road branch opened in 1929 at 210 City Road and closed in 1972. They were of course agents for Raleigh bicycles including the Raleigh Chopper in 1970’s. The Moulton folding bicycle had been developed in 1960 and the patent rights were sold to Raleigh in 1967.
Halfords was the last recorded cycle shop in City Road.
I have recently been searching for information on the Cardiff Bicycle Ground that was on the land where the CRI (King EdwardVII Hospital was built 1883. It appears that a parcel of ground was leased short term by a Mr Hutchins of the Cardiff Bicycle Club (who I believe to be Captain W Horton Hutchins) in March 1879, the first competitions both cycling and foot races took place on Easter Monday 1879. Competitions continued to take place at the ground until March 1880 when the lease expired. By September of 1880 Cardiff Bicycle Club were holding competitions at Alexandra Park and by 1891 cycle races were taking place on the new track at Cardiff Athletic Ground (Harlequins).
Brian Lee (South Wales Echo) wrote in 1997 that the penny-farthing races at the Cardiff Bicycle Ground took place in 1897 but the newspaper articles I have found show that the race he wrote about took place on 26th July 1879 where David Stanton the English penny farthing cycling champion broke the world 50 mile record by covering the distance in two hours 59 mins.
With the introduction of the safety bicycle there was a massive boom in the popularity of cycling during the 1890s hence the number cycle shops opening to supply the demand for these much safer bicycles. There was also a boom in the number of people taking up competitive cycling both on the track and road. The Cardiff 100 miles Cycle was one a many cycle clubs formed and one of the founding members was Edward Fideli Kennard. His sons Albert, Henry and William took part in many cycle competitions throughout the 1890s both on the road and track. Albert a boiler maker by trade turned his hands to veterinary work and then became a renowned bonesetter opening a practice in Harley St London in 1920. William and Henry started a cycle business the first premises in Church St in 1891 before moving to City Rd (then Castle Rd).
Edward Fideli Kennard was elected as a councillor for Roath in 1887 as a Radical representing the working man, and later went onto to be the gymnastics and swimming instructor at the Cardiff Corporation Baths Guildford Crescent in 1896.
My grandmother was born above the cycle shop in 1908.
Would be happy to share information with anyone who has an interest in the very early days of cycling.
A lovely bit of research Richard. Thanks for sharing.
I was really interested in your post on Cardiff cycle tracks, it helped with some research that I am doing.
Please you you contact me.
tomorrow i say my good by to my friend malcolm kennard he talked a lot about his family connections to kennards cycles a fine plumber and keen single handicapgolfer will miss him a lot we shared the same dob raymond
Lovely to see uncle George worrells shop in cowbridge Road. I would love to have a copy of this for my family tree . My mother Dora Worrell . Has photos of her grandfathers shop in Albany Road with very similar signs.