Charles G. (Charles George) Harper.

The Brighton road : the classic highway to the south online

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coach time - had been long since attained, there was no need to maintain
the Piccadilly end, or the Cuckfield route. The course selected,
therefore, became from Hyde Park Corner to the Aquarium at Brighton, by
way of Hickstead and Bolney. On September 12th of this year Edge tried for
and again recaptured this keenly-contested prize, this time by the
respectable margin of 35 mins. 13 secs., only to have it snatched away on
September 17th by A. E. Knight, who knocked off 3 mins. 19 secs. Again, in
another couple of days, the figures were revised, C. A. Smith, on one of
the few occasions on which he deserted the tricycle for the two-wheeler,
accomplishing the double journey in 6 hrs. 6 mins. 46 secs. On the 22nd of
the same busy month Edge for the fourth and last time took the record, on
this occasion by the margin of 14 mins. 16 secs. The road then knew him no
more as a record-breaking cyclist, and his achievement lasted - not days,
but hours, for on the _same day_ Dance lowered it by the infinitesimal
fraction of 12 seconds. On October 4th W. W. Robertson set up a tricycle
record of 7 hrs. 24 mins. 2 secs. for the double journey, and then a
crowded year ended.

The much-worried records of the Brighton Road came in for another turn in
1894, W. R. Toft, on June 11th, reducing the tricycle time, and C. G.
Wridgway on September 12th lowering that for the bicycle. This year was
also remarkable for the appearance of women speed cyclists, setting up
records of their own, Mrs. Noble cycling to Brighton and back in 8 hrs. 9
mins., followed on September 20th by Miss Reynolds in 7 hrs. 48 mins. 46
secs., and on September 22nd by Miss White in 42 mins. shorter time.

The season of 1895 was not very eventful, with the ride by A. A. Chase in
5 hrs. 34 mins. 58 secs.; 34 secs. better than the previous best, and the
lowering by J. Parsley of the tricycle record by over an hour; but it was
notable for an almost incredible eccentricity, that of cycling backwards
to Brighton. This feat was accomplished by J. H. Herbert in November, as
an advertising sensation on behalf of the inventor of a new machine
exhibited at the Stanley Show. He rode facing the hind wheel and standing
on the pedals. Punctures, mud, rain, and wind delayed him, but he reached
Brighton in 7 hrs. 45 mins.

On June 26th, 1896, E. D. Smith and C. A. Greenwood established a
tandem-cycle record of 5 hrs. 37 mins. 34 secs., demolished September
15th; while on July 15th C. G. Wridgway regained his lost single record,
beating Chase's figures by 12 mins. 25 secs. In this year W. Franks, a
professional pedestrian in his forty-fifth year, beat all earlier walks to
Brighton, eclipsing McIntosh's walk of 1886 by 18 mins. 18 secs. But, far
above all other considerations, 1896 was notable for the legalising of
motor-cars. On Motor-Day, November 14th, a great number of automobiles
were to go in procession - not a race - from Westminster to Brighton. Most
of them broke down, but a 6 h.-p. Bollée car (a three-wheeled variety now
obsolete) made a record journey in 2 hrs. 55 mins.

The year 1897 opened on April 10th with the open London to Brighton walk
of the Polytechnic Harriers. The start was made from Regent Street, but
time was taken separately, from that point and from Westminster Clock
Tower. There were thirty-seven starters. E. Knott, of the Hairdressers'
A.C. - a quaint touch - finished in 8 hrs. 56 mins. 44 secs. Thirty-one of
the competitors finished well within twelve hours.

On May 4th W. J. Neason, cycling to Brighton and back, made the distance
in 5 hrs. 19 mins. 39 secs., and on July 12th Miss M. Foster beat Miss
White's 1894 record by 20 mins. 37 secs., while on the following day
Richard Palmer made a better run than Neason's by 9 mins. 45 secs. Neason,
however, got his own again in the following September, by 3 mins. 3 secs.,
and on October 27th P. Wheelock and G. J. Fulford improved the tandem
record of 1896 by 25 mins. 41 secs.

By this time the thoroughly artificial character of most of these later
cycling records had become glaringly apparent. It was not only seen in the
fact that their heavy cost was largely borne by cycle and tyre-makers, who
found advertisement in them, but it was obvious also in the arbitrary
selection of the starting-points, by which a record run to Brighton and
back might be begun at Purley, run to Brighton, then back to Purley, and
thence to London and back again, with any variation that might suit the
day and the rider. It was evident, too, that the growing elaboration of
pace-making, first by relays of riders and latterly by motors, had
reduced the thing to an absurdity in which there was no credit and - worse
still - no advertisement. Then, therefore, a new order of things was set
agoing, and the era of unpaced records was begun.

On September 27th, 1898, E. J. Steel established a London to Brighton and
back unpaced cycling record of 6 hrs. 23 mins. 55 secs.; and on the same
day the new unpaced tricycle record of 8 hrs. 11 mins. 10 secs. for the
double journey was set up by P. F. A. Gomme.

The South London Harriers' open "go-as-you-please" walking or running
match of May 6th, 1899, attracted the attention of the athletic world in a
very marked degree. Cyclists, in especial, were in evidence, to make the
pace, to judge, to sponge down the competitors or to refresh them by the
wayside. The start was made from Big Ben soon after seven o'clock in the
morning, when fourteen aspirants, all clad in the regulation running
costumes and sweaters, went forth to win the modern equivalent of the
victor's laurelled crown in the ancient Olympian games. F. D. Randall, who
won, got away from his most dangerous opponent on the approach to Redhill,
and, increasing that advantage to a hundred yards' lead when in the midst
of the town, was not afterwards seriously challenged. He finished in the
splendid time of 6 hrs. 58 mins. 18 secs. Saward, the second, completed it
in 7 hrs. 17 mins. 50 secs., and the veteran E. Ion Pool in another 4

As if to show the superiority of the cycle over mere pedestrian efforts,
H. Green on June 30th cycled from London to Brighton and back, unpaced, in
5 hrs. 50 mins. 23 secs., and on August 12th, 1902, reduced his own record
by 20 mins. 1 sec. Meanwhile, Harry Vowles, a blind musician of Brighton,
who had for some years made an annual walk from Brighton to London, on
October 15th, 1900, accomplished his ambition to walk the distance in one
day. He left Brighton at 5 a.m. and reached the Alhambra, in Leicester
Square, at ten o'clock that night.

On October 31st, 1902, the Surrey Walking Club's 104 miles contest to
Brighton and back resulted in J. Butler winning: time, 21 hrs. 36 mins. 27
secs., Butler performing the single journey on March 14th the following
year in 8 hrs. 43 mins. 16 secs. For fair heel-and-toe walking, that was
considered at the time the ultimate achievement; but it was beaten on
April 9th, 1904, in the inter-club walk of the Blackheath and Ranelagh
Harriers, when T. E. Hammond established the existing record of 8 hrs. 26
mins. 57-2/5 secs. - the astonishing speed of six miles an hour.


This event was preceded by the famous Stock Exchange Walk of May Day,
1903. Every one knows the Stock Exchange to be almost as great on sport as
it is in finance, but no one was prepared for the magnitude finally
assumed by the match idly suggested on March 16th, during a dull hour on
the Kaffir Market. Business had long been in a bad way, not in that market
alone, but in the House in general. The trail of the great Boer War and
its heritage of debt, taxation, and want of confidence lay over all
departments, and brokers, jobbers, principals, and clerks alike were so
heartily tired of going to "business" day after day when there was no
business - and when there calculating how much longer they could afford
annual subscriptions and office rent - that any relief was eagerly
accepted. In three days twenty-five competitors had entered for the
proposed walk to Brighton, and the House found itself not so
poverty-stricken but that prize-money to the extent of £35, for three
silver cups, was subscribed. And then the Press - that Press which is
growing daily more hysterical and irresponsible - got hold of it and boomed
it, and there was no escaping the Stock Exchange Walk. By the morning of
March 25th, when the list was closed, there were 107 competitors entered
and the prize-list had grown to the imposing total of three gold medals,
valued, one at £10 10_s._ and two at £5 5_s._, with two silver cups valued
at £10 10_s._, two at £5 5_s._, and silver commemoration medals for all
arriving at Brighton in thirteen hours.

Long before May Day the Press had worked the thing up to the semblance of
a matter of Imperial importance, and London talked of little else. April
13th had been at first spoken of for the event, but many of the
competitors wanted to get into training, and in the end May Day, being an
annual Stock Exchange holiday, was selected.

There were ninety-nine starters from the Clock Tower at 6.30 on that chill
May morning: not middle-aged stockbrokers, but chiefly young stockbrokers'
clerks. All the papers had published particulars of the race, together
with final weather prognostications; hawkers sold official programmes; an
immense crowd assembled; a host of amateur photographers descended upon
the scene, and the police kept Westminster Bridge clear. Although by no
means to be compared with Motor-car Day, the occasion was well honoured.

Advertisers had, as usual, seized the opportunity, and almost overwhelmed
the start; and among the motor-cars and the cyclists who followed the
competitors down the road the merits of Somebody's Whisky, and the pills,
boots, bicycles, beef-tea, and flannels of some other bodies impudently

"What went ye out for to see?" The public undoubtedly expected to see a
number of pursy, plethoric City men, attired in frock-coats and silk-hats,
walking to Brighton. What they _did_ see was a crowd of apparently
professional pedestrians, lightly clad in the flannels and "shorts" of
athletics, trailing down the road, with here and there an "unattached"
walker, such as Mr. Pringle, who, fulfilling the conditions of a wager,
walked down in immaculate silk hat, black coat, and spats - "immaculate,"
that is to say, at the start: as a chronicler adds, "things were rather
different later." They were: for thirteen hours' (more or less) rain and
mud can work vast changes. The day was, in fact, as unpleasant as well
could be imagined, and it is said much for the sporting enthusiasm of the
countryside that the whole length of the road to Brighton was so crowded
with spectators that it resembled a thronged City thoroughfare.

It said still more for the pluck and endurance of those who undertook the
walk that of the ninety-nine starters no fewer than seventy-eight finished
within the thirteen hours' limit qualifying them for the commemorative
medal. G. D. Nicholas, the favourite, heavily backed by sportsmen, led
from the beginning, making the pace at the rate of six miles an hour. He
reached Streatham, six miles, in 59 mins.

And then a craze for walking to Brighton set in. On June 6th the butchers
of Smithfield Market walked, and doubtless, among the many other
class-races, the bakers, and the candlestick-makers as well, and the
proprietors of baked-potato cans and the roadmen, and indeed the Lord
alone knows who not. Of the sixty butchers, who had a much more favourable
day than the stockbrokers, the winner, H. F. Otway, covered the distance
in 9 hrs. 21 mins. 1-4/5 secs., thus beating Broad by some 9 minutes.

Whether the dairymen of London ever executed their proposed daring feat of
walking to Brighton, each trundling an empty churn, does not appear; but
it seems likely that many a fantastic person walked down carrying an empty
head. A German, one Anton Hauslian, even set out on the journey pushing a
perambulator containing his wife and six-year-old daughter; and on June
16th an American, a Miss Florence, an eighteen-year-old music-hall
equilibrist, started to "walk" the distance on a globe. She used for the
purpose two globes, each made of wood covered with sheepskin, and having a
diameter of 26 in.; one weighing 20 lb., for uphill work; the other
weighing 75 lb., for levels and descents. Starting at an early hour on
June 16th, and "walking" ten hours a day, she reached the Aquarium at the
unearthly hour of 2.40 on the morning of the 21st.


Those who could not rehearse the epic flights of these fifty-two miles
walked shorter distances; and, while the craze lasted, not only did the
"midinettes" of Paris take the walking mania severely, but the waitresses
of various London teashops performed ten-mile wonders.


On June 20th the gigantic "go-as-you-please" walking or running match to
Brighton organised by the _Evening News_ took place, in that dismal
weather so generally associated, whatever the season of the year, with
sport on the Brighton Road. Two hundred and thirty-eight competitors had
entered, but only ninety actually faced the starter at 5 o'clock a.m. They
were a very miscellaneous concourse of professional and amateur "peds";
some with training and others with no discoverable athletic qualifications
at all; some mere boys, many middle-aged, one in his fifty-second year,
and even one octogenarian of eighty-five. Among them was a negro, F. W.
Craig, known to the music-halls by the poetic name of the "Coffee Cooler";
and labouring men, ostlers, and mechanics of every type were of the
number. It was as complete a contrast from the Stock Exchange band as
could be well imagined.

The wide difference in age, and the fitness and unfitness of the many
competitors, resulted in the race being won by the foremost while the
rearmost were struggling fifteen miles behind. The intrepid octogenarian
was still wearily plodding on, twenty miles from Brighton, six hours after
the winner, Len Hurst, had reached the Aquarium in the record time - 26
mins. 18 secs. better than Randall's best of May 6th, 1899 - of 6 hrs. 32
mins. Some amazing figures were set up by the more youthful and
incautious, who reached Croydon, 9-1/2 miles, in 54 mins., but were
eventually worn down by those who were wise enough to save themselves for
the later stages.

In the following August Miss M. Foster repeated her ride of July 12th,
1897, and cycled to Brighton and back, on this occasion, with
motor-pacing, reducing her former record to 5 hrs. 33 mins. 8 secs.



On November 7th the Surrey Walking Club's Brighton and back match was won
by H. W. Horton, in 20 hrs. 31 mins. 53 secs., disposing of Butler's best
of October 31st, 1902, by a margin of 1 hr. 4 mins. 34 secs.

With 1904 a decline in Brighton Road sport set in, for it was memorable
only for the Blackheath and Ranelagh Harriers' inter-club walk to
Brighton of April 9th. But that was indeed a memorable event, for T. E.
Hammond then abolished Butler's remaining record, of 8 hrs. 43 mins. 16
secs. for the single trip, and replaced it by his own of 8 hrs. 26 mins.
57-2/5 secs.

Even the efforts of cyclists seem to for a time have spent themselves, for
1905 witnessed only the new unpaced record made July 19th by R. Shirley,
who cycled there and back in 5 hrs. 22 mins. 5 secs., thus shearing off a
mere 8 mins. 5 secs. from Green's performance of so long as three years
before. What the future may have in store none may be so hardy as to
prophesy. Finality has a way of ever receding into the infinite, and when
the unpaced cyclist shall have beaten the paced record of 5 hrs. 6 mins.
42 secs. made by Neason in 1897, other new fields will arise to be
conquered. And let no one say that speed and sport on the Brighton Road
have finally declined, for, as we have seen, it is abundantly easy in
these days for a popular Press to "call spirits from the vasty deep," and
arouse sporting enthusiasm almost to frenzy, whenever and wherever it is
"worth the while."

Thus, in pedestrianism, other new times have since been set up. On
September 22nd, 1906, J. Butler, in the Polytechnic Harriers' Open Walk,
finished to Brighton in 8 hrs. 23 mins. 27 secs. On June 22nd, 1907,
Hammond performed the double journey, London to Brighton and back, in 18
hrs. 13 mins. 37 secs. And on May 1st, 1909, he regained the single
journey record by his performance of 8 hrs. 18 mins. 18 secs. On September
4th of the same year H. L. Ross further reduced the figures to 8 hrs. 11
mins. 14 secs.



+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - +
| Date. | | Time. |
| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |
| | |h. m. s.|
|1784, July 25. |Prince of Wales rode horseback from the | |
| | "Pavilion," Brighton, to Carlton House, | |
| | London, and returned |10 0 0|
| | Going | 4 30 0|
| | Returning | 5 30 0|
| | | |
| " Aug. 21. |Prince of Wales drove phæton, three horses | |
| | tandem, from Carlton House to "Pavilion" | 4 30 0|
| | | |
|1809, May. |Cornet Webster of the 10th Light Dragoons, | |
| | rode horseback from Brighton to | |
| | Westminster Bridge | 3 20 0|
| | | |
|1831, June 19. |The "Red Rover" coach, leaving the "Elephant | |
| | and Castle" at 4 p.m., reached Brighton | |
| | 8.21 | 4 21 0|
| | | |
|1833, Oct. |Walter Hancock's steam-carriage "Autopsy" | |
| | performed the distance between Stratford | |
| | and Brighton | 8 30 0|
| | (Halted 3 hours on road. Actual | |
| | running time, 5 hrs. 30 mins.) | |
| | | |
|1834, Feb. 4. |"Criterion" coach, London to Brighton | 3 40 0|
| | | |
|1868, Mar. 20. |Benjamin B. Trench walked Kennington Church | |
| | to Brighton and back (100 miles) |23 0 0|
| | | |
|1869, Feb. 17. |John Mayall, jun., rode a velocipede from | |
| | Trafalgar Square to Brighton in "about" |12 0 0|
| | | |
| " Mar. 6. |W. M. and H. J. Chinnery walked from | |
| | Westminster Bridge to Brighton |11 25 0|
| | | |
| " April 14. |C. A. Booth rode a velocipede London to | |
| | Brighton | 9 30 0|
| | | |
|1872, Sept. 19.|Amateur Bicycle Club's race, London to | |
| | Brighton; won by A. Temple, riding a 44-in.| |
| | wheel | 5 25 0|
| | | |
|1873, Aug. 16. |Six members of the Surrey B.C. and six of the| |
| | Middlesex B.C. rode to Brighton and back, | |
| | starting from Kennington Oval at 6.1 a.m. | |
| | Causton, captain of the Surrey, reached the| |
| | "Albion," Brighton, in 4 hrs. 51 mins., | |
| | riding a 50-in. Keen bicycle. W. Wood | |
| | (Middlesex) did the 100 miles |11 8 0|
| | | |
|1874, April 27.|A. Howard cycled Brighton to London | 4 25 0|
| | | |
|1878, - . |P. J. Burt walked from Westminster Clock | |
| | Tower to Aquarium, Brighton |10 52 0|
| | | |
|1884, - . |C. L. O'Malley walked from Westminster Clock | |
| | Tower to Aquarium, Brighton | 9 48 0|
| | | |
|1886, April 10.|J. A. McIntosh walked from Westminster Clock | |
| | Tower to Aquarium, Brighton | 9 25 8|
| | | |
|1888, Jan. 1. |Horse "Ginger" trotted to Brighton | 4 16 30|
| | | |
|1888, July 13. |James Selby drove "Old Times" coach from | |
| | "Hatchett's," Piccadilly, to "Old Ship," | |
| | Brighton, and back | 7 50 0|
| | Going | 3 56 0|
| | Returning | 3 54 0|
| | | |
|1889, Aug. 10. |Team of four cyclists - E. J. Willis, G. L. | |
| | Morris, C. W. Schafer, and S. Walker - | |
| | dividing the distance between them, cycled | |
| | from "Hatchett's," Piccadilly, to "Old | |
| | Ship," Brighton, and back | 7 36 19|
| | | -2/5|
|1890, Mar. 30. |Another team - J. F. Shute, T. W. Girling, R. | |
| | Wilson, and A. E. Griffin - reduced first | |
| | team's time by 4 mins. 19-2/5 secs. | 7 32 0|
| | | |
| " April 13. |Another team - E. R. and W. Scantlebury, W. W.| |
| | Arnott, and J. Blair | 7 25 15|
| | | |
| " June. |F. W. Shorland cycled from "Hatchett's" to | |
| | "Old Ship" and back ("Geared Facile" | |
| | bicycle, pneumatic tyres) | 7 19 0|
| | | |
| " July 23. |S. F. Edge cycled from "Hatchett's" to "Old | |
| | Ship" and back (safety bicycle, cushion | |
| | tyres) | 7 2 50|
| | | |
| " Sept. 3. |C. A. Smith cycled from "Hatchett's" to "Old | |
| | Ship" (safety bicycle, pneumatic tyres) and| |
| | back | 6 52 10|
| | | |
| " " 30. |E. P. Moorhouse cycled (tricycle) from | |
| | "Hatchett's" to "Old Ship" | 8 9 24|
| | | |
|1891, Mar. 20. |E. H. Cuthbertson walked from "Hatchett's" to| |
| | "Old Ship" |10 6 18|
| | From Westminster Clock Tower | 9 55 34|
| | | |
|1892, June 1. |S. F. Edge cycled from "Hatchett's" to "Old | |

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Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperThe Brighton road : the classic highway to the south → online text (page 6 of 18)