About Me

My name is Will Manners and I have been studying the social history of late-Victorian cycling since stumbling on the topic as an undergrad looking for a subject for my history dissertation. Whilst writing my MA by research on the topic at the University of York I started up this blog to share the wonderful stories, anecdotes and pictures I had come across during my research. This led to me being given the opportunity to write a full length book on the topic by the publishers Duckworth Overlook, which will be published at the end of May. You can follow both the blog and myself on Twitter at https://twitter.com/theviccyclist and https://twitter.com/WillManners1

13 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Congratulations on a thoroughly enjoyable blog Will. Two questions if I may. First, do you have any plans to publish your MA thesis, or a version of it, here when you have completed it? I would be very interested to read it. Second, where are you accessing the archives for ‘Cycling’ magazine. It’s a publication I would love to get my hands on!


    • Hi Aaron, thank you for your comments. I will look to put some of my thesis up on here- the content is a lot more academic than the blog posts so might not be quite as readable (it will also be 40,000 words in length so would have to do several rather long posts!) There are sights where you can publish your thesis online so might do it more that way than on here- will put a link on here if I do! With the ‘Cycling’ magazine I am accessing it online through a Nineteenth Century Periodicals Archive which is run by a company called Proquest. My university subscribes to them so I get to view them for free- if you know of anyone who is studying at university then if you could borrow their username and password and that would be one way to view them! I’ve had a look at their website and it looks like some libraries subscribe to them as well so that would be another way to do it. I think you can also sign up for a free trial for a short period of time- a link to the sight is here: http://www.proquest.com/products-services/british_periodicals.html. If you live near London the British Library have hard copies as well if you fancied seeing them that way. Thank you for getting in touch, very happy to talk more about any aspects of the topic you are particularly interested in.


  2. Wonderful to find your fascinating blog as it relates to the research I am doing locally. I am looking at all aspects of the early days of cycling in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Information really only begins to appear in the 1880’s and 90’s, of course. My main areas of focus are: Ilkeston Bicycle Club (formed 1884); one of the club’s members, Fred Fletcher, who held two NCU titles in 1889; local manufacturers and retailers, including one inventor, Joseph Hollis. I have a Social Science background (now retired!) so I’m interested in your thoughts on moral panic about cycling. Also the IBC was not merely a sports club but a major institution in the town, with a membership made up of the mainly self-made men of power, influence and wealth in the town – a gentlemen’s club on wheels.

    My main sources are the two local newspapers. I’d like to discover more about Fletcher’s exploits on the track but I’m struggling to access the cycling press of the time. Your mention of of Cycling magazine gave me hope, but it seems to be accessible only through an institutional membership, including the free trial. Did this publication covered the sport or just the more social aspects of cycling? Any suggestions for getting at this and other cycling journals?


    • Hi Jeff, thanks a lot for your kind words on the blog and getting in touch! Your research sounds really interesting – I’ll try to help out as best I can.

      As you say Cycling is only available through a subscription unfortunately (luckily I can still use my uni log in). Cycling is actually the only cycling journal from this period that there is a full collection of – they are all at the British Lib (which has lots of other good cycling sources from the period) if you have the time to visit. It looked to cover lots of different areas – did have a big emphasis on racing to appeal to the young middle-class clerks etc. who made up much of it’s readership! For other cycle journals searching in local archives might be your best bet – they do tend to be scattered around.

      I thought I’d search it for Fred Fletcher – there are two entries which I’ve copied below:

      Cycling (London, England), Saturday, May 02, 1891; pg. 236; Issue 15. New Readerships.
      ‘The idea of enclosing the spokes of the wheels of a safety with a light substance to prevent ‘wind resistance’ was practically tested on the Long Eaton Track last Wednesday afternoon, on the machine of Fred T. Fletcher, of Ilkleston; and that gentleman, together with Edgar Taylor, or Long Eaton, and our Nottingham representative, gave it a fair trial, but nearly with disastrous results, as the cross wind prevented any accurate steering and the greatest risk was run in taking the corners; the machine being blown almost off the track altogether, to say nothing of the additional weight added by the material enclosing the wheels.’

      Cycling and Moting (London, England), Saturday, May 05, 1900; pg. 333; Issue 485. New Readerships.
      ‘The friends and supporters of the brave foresters of Nottingham forgathered at the Trent Bridge County Ground on Saturday afternoon in great numbers. The gate reached nearly 15,000. The classic enclosure which has witnessed in bygone years, the triumphs of Synyer, Sansom, Fred Fletcher, Howard, and other fliers was for the once given over to limit and middle-class riders, and the racing was rather uninteresting in consequence.’

      Hope that’s of some help – sorry there’s not more. From my experience studying cycling clubs from this period your description of a gentleman’s club on wheels makes absolute sense! If you can access any cycling club journals in local archives I would really recommend giving them a read – they are really entertaining and provide a real sense of the everlasting joys of cycling off into the countryside with good friends! A good online source is that of the Anfield B.C. – their annual reports are all digitised and online. They were a big racing club so might tie in well to your research – the website’s here: http://www.anfieldbc.co.uk/archive.html.

      The Veteran Cycling Club also has a really good online resource of primary and secondary material which I think you’d find useful. If you search for ‘Malvern’, there’s an article on Malvern Cycling Club from this period which I imagine again would fit in well with your work: http://veterancycleclublibrary.org.uk/library/.

      Thanks again – hope this is useful!


  3. Yes, Will, that’s useful, thanks. I’ll have to keep trying to access those magazines. I understand that Warwick University also has a sizeable archive on Victorian cycling.

    Thanks for those two entries on Fred Fletcher. I didn’t know that Trent Bridge cricket ground had been used for cycle races. I did know that Fred Fletcher patented some inventions e.g. motorbike stands and something to do with gas meters(!). The “enclosed spokes” idea was before its time as it is now standard for indoor track racing. If this was his idea presumably it was one he did not patent as the experiment failed.

    Attitudes towards the behaviour of cyclists at the time are interesting. The two local papers in Ilkeston were edited in the 1880’s and 90’s by men who were members of the IBC, and it shows in the reporting.
    They make much of the “respectability”of the club and its officers. They were also conscious, as was the club, that the behaviour on club runs was not always respectable, and on a couple of occasions remind the club that action needs to be taken. At the same time they quite happily report on the number of “liquor stops” taking place on club runs. Interestingly another club was formed in the town about 10 years after IBC. This was much more working class in membership and only lasted a few months before it closed down because of unspecified bad behaviour. This was held up as a warning to IBC to maintain its standards, but I can’t help feeling that the behaviour by the two clubs might have been similar, but one was middle class high spirits and the other working class hooliganism.

    The reporting of the many”spills” experienced by club members was quite jovial, whereas accidents involving individual cyclists were treated more seriously. Court cases involving “scorching”, “furious” riding” and cycling on footpaths are quite common, usually involve an estimate of speed and are quite severely dealt with by magistrates. I don’t detect much “moral panic” in the reporting, and perhaps this is because the two papers were the mouthpiece of the local elite, most of whom were in the Bicycle Club.

    I’m happy to send you some stories about accidents, club runs etc.



    • Thanks Jeff, interesting to hear about the closed spokes being ahead of its time – guess moving towards using more indoor tracks has helped with wind resistance issues. Sounds like Fred Fletcher was quite the ideas man!

      Can very much identify with your research on the IBC and the gap between their public and more private face. Probably the first thing that really drew me into the topic was reading the journal of the Bristol Bicycle and Tricycle Club from this period and being struck by the same thing – liquor stops were certainly very prevalent from them also!

      When looking at moral panics and cycling from this period (I must say I’m not too familiar with the theory behind the term – might be a case of a historian lazily applying sociological theory!) I’ve always thought the two are most applicable when looking at the sudden increase in women’s cycling, particularly with issues surrounding rational dress. But think it could apply to scorchers also – there was an article in the Times called a tyranny of the road which I think I’ve quoted in full on here before which I’d say might be a good example, particularly the letters criticising about young middle class men away from home behaving badly.

      Would love to hear about any interesting stories from the club. I do need to update the blog but I’ve been lucky enough to sort out a book deal to do a full length book on the topic, and one of the chapters will be about sociability/club life during the 1880s/1890s. So any entertaining stories you’re happy to share I’d find really interesting for that and many other reasons! If did want to email anything my address is w.manners2@gmail.com



      • Hi Will,
        Glad you enjoyed reading my article. I’ve been collecting for about five years and found most of it at local book fairs and markets but also have bought a few items from online book dealers. The latest item is a a copy of the Freeman’s Journal (Irish Nationalist newspaper 1763-1924) dated April 26 1922, which contains an article on the Dublin cycle manufacturer John O’Neill Ltd Dublin who was in business from 1894 up to the 1930s at least. They made the ‘Lucania’ bicycle.
        No I haven’t used the Veteran Cycle-Club but will have a look at it online.
        Mecredy’s writing has a certain old world charm and romanticism but obviously William Bulfin the author of ‘Rambles in Eirinn’ viewed him as insufficiently nationalistic and has a few veiled jabs at him in his book.



    • Hi Brian,

      Many thanks for getting in touch and for your kind words on the blog, much appreciated. Thanks also for sharing your article – found it really interesting going through the quotes and illustrations. I particularly enjoyed the section on short cycling tours and the descriptions/illustrations of the separate male and female tents!

      Your collection sounds pretty impressive, how long have you been building it up for? Mine sadly consists of a few pictures from magazines I’ve purchased from ebay, but I have found the online library of the Veteran Cycle-Club hugely useful when researching the topic, I don’t know if you’ve come across it before?

      As a quick aside I have also come across RJ Mecredy quite a few times before and always enjoyed reading his articles. In England I know that a similarly prolific cycle racer turned cycle journalist was George Lacy Hillier – both seem to fit the model of men from this period who were incredibly energetic/driven/opinionated (although I don’t think Mecredy was as bad as Hillier in this final regard!).



      • Hi Will,
        I’ve been collecting for four or five years, mostly sourcing items locally but I have bought a couple of things also on the internet.

        Glad you enjoyed the article.



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