The History, Origins and Early Rules of Bath Cycling Club by Brian Turner

23 Oct , 2019  

I’ve recently become the custodian of a large archive of Bath Cycling Club (BCC) history comprising in the main  books containing the original meeting, membership, Rules and Rules of the Road for the Club.

The Club began in 1880 but was originally a loose affiliation of the Bath Arial Rowing and Bicycle Club.  By 1881 the Club amalgamated with an earlier Club, the Bath Wanderers Bicycle Club that was celebrated by a Club dinner.

By 1884 the rowers and cyclists separated and and this marked the official start of Bath Cycling Club as we know it today. Some of the original members were: – William Ellis, William Sylvester, William Hayward (a lot of Bills!). There was also messers AC Turpin & EC Bartlett.

The inaugural meeting of the Club was at 8 pm  on 24th April 1884 at the Atheneum (I’m not sure if this was a public house or meeting room). All of this information is in the original Minutes Book written in beautiful copper plate and another printed book, which contains much information about the Club up until 1914.  Unfortunately the author and date of publication of the latter is not included but remains an interesting and informative text that I will quote in later editions for the Club website.

The inaugural meeting of the Club proposed Club Runs be held at 7pm Wednesday evenings and 3pm  on Saturday afternoons. Bearing in mind almost 140 years of inflation, it was suggested that a jacket and knickerbocker trousers of grey cloth and dark socks be purchased by each member at a cost of £2. 6 shillings (£2.30) and Club fees would commence with an initial joining fee of 5 shillings (25P) and an annual subscription of 7/6 (37.5P). Potential members had to write and propose themselves to the committee along with details of a seconder.  From this information it can be deducted that cycling was to be not only a pass-time for the well-to-do, but also the person of leisure. Note no Sunday Club Runs.  “Ungentlemanly conduct” could result in expulsion from the Club though no details of what comprised “ungentlemanly conduct” are provided. Failure to write to the Club Secretary in the event of wishing to leave the Club would result in the member still being liable to pay “His subscription.”

Rules were formulated detailing how the Club would be run, the Committee membership (President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary) “To remain in office at the pleasure of the Society” (so, nothing really changes!). Club meetings would be held on the first Wednesday of the month at 8pm.

Next were the “Rules of the Road”, though the minutes of the meeting fail to mention who was responsible for these Rules so it should be assumed there was a joint effort involved.
The Leader,  Club Captain or Sub Captain’s directions should be obeyed. At this point no mention of who the original Club Captain is included so, presumably,  was yet to be appointed. The Club Captain, or Leader, would appoint another member to ride at the back of the Club run in case a slower member is “outdistanced”. Six yards distance to be maintained between riders (brakes not so good then?). Members passing the Leader to be fined 6d (2.5P). Presumably this rule still applies?  As there were no cars on the road at this time, Section 6 of the Rules of the Road deals specifically with horses a) A horse shall never be passed on both sides b) A led horse shall in all cases shall be passed on the same side as the man who is leading it and c) A rider should not if avoidable take ground in front of a horse unless he is at least 10 yards in advance (of the horse).
Other Rules of the Road deal with issues such as not racing on Club runs. Not riding in any town or crowded area. This would be very difficult to enforce today. Members should dismount when their riding is likely to cause annoyance “especially in the case of ladies riding or driving.”
The rules go on to explain that the Club will pay expenses of any member who prosecutes a person  “for stone or cap throwing or other mischievous interference with cyclists providing the Committee approves the prosecution.”
In addition to information given about the jacket and knickerbocker trousers to be worn, it was also stated that “Bicyclists to wear helmet with one peak, tricyclics two peaks (goodness knows why?) and wear a badge made of silver though the design of this has not been provided.

There is so much more to write about the 140 year history of the Club which I’m happy to include should it be of interest to members.

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