Cycling as a social movement

Ripley, the Mecca of all good cyclists, so said Lord Bury in 1887. Cycling became a huge craze in the late 19th century and Ripley was the favourite destination as it was a convenient and scenic ride from London. There were races from Thames Ditton to Ripley and even moonlit rides down the Portsmouth Road, now the A3. As the technology improved, large numbers of people took to the roads, for example an estimate of 20,000 cyclists passing through Kingston on their way to Ripley at Whitsun 1894.

The Anchor at Ripley 1896. Courtesy of Send and Ripley History Society

The Anchor at Ripley 1896. Courtesy of Send and Ripley History Society

Cyclists would make for The Anchor in Ripley to enjoy the hospitality of the Dibble family. Dinners were served in a dining hall at the back of the pub.

From 1887 to 1928, Cyclists Road Improvement Association acted as a pressure group to ensure that roads were well maintained. Some 130 road menders worked on the Ripley Road between Richmond and Guildford. Between 1890 and 1907 annual dinners and other perks were organised for the menders at several Surrey pubs.

The Anchor became so famous that it was featured on a cycling board game of the time.

Cycling Board Game with The Anchor at Ripley marked as the finish point. Courtesy of Send and Ripley History Society. Photograph by Brian Wood.

Cycling Board Game
with The Anchor at Ripley marked as the finish point.
Courtesy of Send and Ripley History Society.
Photograph by Brian Wood.

Anti cyclist campaigns were mounted by the Police, both because of the large crowds and the terrifying speeds of the cyclists. Among those prosecuted were the sporting Marquis of Queensbury who took up cycle racing after he was 50.

Useful Links

Lady Harberton and Women Cyclists Competitive Cycling – from secret races to the Olympics
Cycling for all Early Cycling in Dorking
Send and Ripley History Society Dorking Museum
Ripley Dorking
19th Century Surrey Surrey’s Sporting Life at the Woking Bikeathon

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