Velocipede Cirque at the Agricultural Hall (1869)

Velocipede Cirque at the Agricultural Hall

We must confess we have hitherto looked with great suspicion on a vehicle, one of the peculiar characteristics of which is that, unlike most conveyances, bringing it to a standstill appears to involve breaking one’s head or legs, unless a friendly lamp-post is handy to clutch at; but Thursday’s entertainment at the above Hall has almost induced us to venture on one. Opening at two, crowds of people continued to flock in until eight o’clock, when there must have been nearly 3,000 people present and when that number can be gathered together to witness a velocipede performance, there must be something to it. Space will not permit us to give the programme in detail, but Mr C A Booth was decidedly the star, although his clever performance, “The Dundreary scene on wheel skates for the first time since ’65,” was somewhat marred owing to the uneven nature of the boards. The “hit” was in his legerdemain entertainment on a velocipede, which was deservedly greeted with loud applause. Considerable interest was manifested to witness the first appearance of young ladies in riding habits. Two sat sideways, working with one wheel and steering against it; the third was in a sort of tricycle rantoone, very comfortable to sit, very complicated and very slow – in fact, if the fair sex intend going in for this kind of locomotion, they must get across their bicycle if they want to be, or rather go, fast. There was a young gentleman, aged eight, who worked his machine in capital style: and there was one, aged two and a-half years, who appeared to be driving his own perambulator, much to the amusement of mothers in general. The prettiest sight is the concluding Steeple Chase Galop, led by Sweetser. About sixteen of the first velocipedians of the day, followed in his wake, in one even line, attempting to carry out the different feats their leader set them; Mr George Rowe, an amateur who combines great speed with equal elegance of style; Hook, who carried off the twenty guinea cup a short time since; Hill, Adams jun., and Harling, gaining the most applause.  A Two-Mile Professional Race, in

two heats, came off as follows: – Heat 1: W Adams jun., beat Sweetser. Time, 5 mins 20 secs. Heat 2: J Hill beating Harling. Time 5 mins 15 secs. Final heat: Hill and Adams jun. This was a capital race and after one foul, the referee deciding the race to be run again, both men alternately led, but Hill appeared to have always the best of it and ultimately won by a machine’s length. Prize – first, a punch bowl, value ten guineas; second, a claret jug, given by Messrs Newton and Wilson. The winner’s time was 4 mins 15 secs, which, considering it was eighteen times round the circle, speaks for itself. The band played music adapted to the pace of the bicycles at various intervals and altogether the performance, whick by-the-way, was for the benefit of Mssrs Booth and Barber, concluded at ten o’clock, everybody appearing satisfied with the eight hours’ movements.

The Era, July 4, 1869


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