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University Wins Lottery Funds to Preserve UK Cycling Heritage

Archivist Christine Woodland
Archivist Christine Woodland
Originally Published 23 September 2002

The University of Warwick has won £37,350 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to preserve a vital archive of material on the UK cycle industry and the history of cycling as a hobby.

The grant will ensure the National Cycling Archive, the largest collection of cycling archives and books in the UK, is preserved. "On yer bike", a one-year project, will safeguard many rare publications and ensure that information currently kept in storage is made available to the public. The archive includes cycling magazines, photographs, cartoons, pictures, cycling club and manufacturers records, and even personal letters and stories of cycling holidays.

The University of Warwick is based in Coventry - the birthplace of Britain's cycle industry and was the world centre for cycle manufacturing in the mid 1880s. A key feature of the collection will be artefacts about Coventry born industrialist George Gilbert, a pioneer of the modern bike and one of the best designers of his day. Coventry based Centaur Cycle Company, set up by Gilbert in 1871, sold cycles all over the world.

Christine Woodland, Archivist at the University of Warwick's Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick said: "We are delighted to receive this grant as it will ensure the University of Warwick plays a dynamic part in preserving our local heritage and making it accessible to everyone. The collection isn?t only of interest to cycling enthusiasts, scholars and historians, it will also excite local people and schoolchildren."

Christine continued: "The bicycle has been a cheap and easy method of transport for over a hundred years and almost everyone at some time has owned or ridden a bike, so it's something that everyone can relate to. The real value of the material is that it gives a true picture of what it was like to be cyclist, a cycling club member or even a worker in a cycle factory in the nineteenth century."

The archive was first collected together in 1990 by the Cycling Touring and Countryside Club and traces the development of cycling as a hobby.

Many books in the archive comment on the social etiquette of the day, and can be used to trace changes in fashion. Tips for Tricyclists (1888) contains a list of clothing, suggested by the The Cyclists' Touring Club, that could be worn by women in the late nineteenth century, which condemns the wearing of trousers:

"It will be observed that the list contemplates, at any rate as a possibility, the use of trousers (!) by ladies. If the lady tryciclist be 70 years of age and rheumatic, by all means let her wear trousers, but we can conceive no other case in which they would be even tolerable."

Coventry's City Library and Museum of British Road Transport also have unique cycling collections and there are plans to hold joint exhibitions with the University of Warwick once the archives are catalogued. All archived material will be posted on the internet so people all over the globe can access the information.


The image on this page is of the cover of a publication in the collection - The Hub, a nineteenth century illustrated journal for cyclists. (Vol. vi, 6 November 1897-January 1898).

There is also a large print quality image of a picture from the archive of -The 'Rucker' - a bicycle tandem that was the first cycle tandem and ridden many thousands of miles by A.O Maclennan and A.G Rennie (1884). This image can be found at:-
This link to Rucker picture
For more information, photography or interviews contact:

Jenny Murray
Assistant Press Officer
Communications Office
University of Warwick
Tel: (024) 7652 4255
Mobile: 07876 217740

Christine Woodland
Archivist, Modern Records Centre
University of Warwick
Tel: (024) 7652 4219