Sir Charles Dilke on Cycling (1884)

Sir Charles Dilke on Cycling

The annual dinner of the West Kensington Tricycle Club was held last evening at the Holborn Restaurant, Mr C Cordingly, the president, in the chair. Among the guests was Sir Charles Dilke, MP the Chairman, in opening the postprandial proceedings, congratulated his hearers upon the fact that tricycling had not only been the means of providing healthful amusement for a large body of people, but had created a new industry in many parts of the country, particularly at Coventry, whose fading industry had been well nigh restored by the growth of cycling. In proposing the health of the Queen, the President informed his hearers that Her Majesty has been for some time a tricyclist and that her children and grandchildren are also cyclists. The Chairman, in proposing the health of Sir Charles Dilke said that the right hon. Baronet, in winning the suffrages of Chelsea made many friends, none of whom he had lost. The “bitter cry of outcast London” had not been a cuckoo cry with Sir Charles Dilke. He had seen for himself what was to be in reference to the matter and his cool head and warm heart were sure to evolve something greatly to the advantage of the poorer classes in this great metropolis. (Hear, hear.) Sir Charles Dilke, in responding, said the dinner had been remarkable for many reasons. It was, as far as he knew, the first great banquet of the tricyclists of the part of the metropolis to which he belonged and which he had the honour to represent in the House of Commons and it had been remarkable also in the fact that one of the vice-presidents of the club (Mr J B Marsh) had enjoyed what must have been an unmixed delight in running down hill for 120 miles through the great pass of the Simplon. One of the speakers had made observations in regard to the bad state of the roads in the country districts of this Island; but he was afraid to make any remarks on that subject lest he might be tempted to diverge from the condition of rural roads into a disquisition on rural representation throughout England. (Hear, hear and a laugh.) He might remark, however, upon the somewhat curious (act that although the main roads of this country were very much better than they now were, in the early days of the present century, their present unsatisfactory condition has been mainly brought to light by the institution in late years of cycling clubs, whose members had explored them in every direction. Before the introduction of electric telegraphs for the purpose, tricycles and bicycles would have been of immense advantage for the conveyance of news from place to place. He thought our ancestors ought, under the circumstances, to have been ashamed to leave the invention of these machines to modern times. (Hear, hear.) Tricycling seemed to him to have a very great future before it and this was the more apparent in that it was by means of what were known as “Sociables” an exercise which might be described as a family exercise. Furthermore, it was an exercise admirably suited to dwellers in towns and a great amount of healthy physical exercise could be compressed in to a very short space of time. It was also well suited to those with more leisure than most townsmen could command, in that it was suitable for touring purposes and could so afford long and substantial exercise to men and women too, who could not afford the cost of keeping a horse. Hunting, Shooting and rowing were each of them exercises of which Englishmen were particularly fond, but they were also exercises which could only be enjoyed in certain seasons of the year and were also for the most part so costly as not to be within the reach of any but the comparatively wealthy. Tricycling, on the other hand, was a comparatively inexpensive amusement and was moreover one which could be enjoyed at a time when hunting, shooting and rowing men must, for want of some other diversion, be shut up in their houses (Hear, hear.) On all grounds he thought that in cycling there probably lay to a very large extent the future diversion, as far as outdoor exercise was concerned of the inhabitants of large towns. Physical exertion, further, was necessary to fit men for mental work and to men engaged in such work was an important and necessary relief. His own view was that England owed to the practice of physical exercise, not only a great deal of its muscle and power, but also a great deal of its success and, under Providence much of its glory in the world, (Hear, hear.)       Other toasts followed.

The Times, Jan 16, 1884; pg. 7

Leave a Reply