around Wales on a bicycle.
“Wheeling along we saw some grand and wild scenery, for the road goes near the coast of Wales.
Sometimes we rose hundreds of feet, and then travelled down corresponding declines.
At some of the steep hills numbers of urchins ran after us wanting to push our machines up for a copper, and we began to imagine that their services were often called into requisition by cyclists.”
~ Round About The World on Bicycles – G.W. Burston & H.R. Stokes (1890).
My Life and Times
by Jerome K. Jerome
1873 – published in 1876
The Modern Bicycle.
This updated version of Charles Spencer’s pioneering book from 1869, “containing instructions for beginners; choice of a machine; hints on training; road book for England, Wales, &c, &c,” was part of “Warne’s Useful Books” series and, together with a comprehensive list of routes and mileage, includes an 18 page chapter providing “the detailed account of the trip from London to John o’ Groats, the longest on record which has ever been undertaken,” in June 1873, by four members of the Middlesex Bicycle Club over fourteen days, and an estimated 800 miles (“a very moderate estimate when the winding of the roads is taken into consideration, to say nothing of the continual ascents”).
- by Charles Spencer.
- with practical illustrations.
- published by Frederick Warne and Co., London.
Bicycling; Its Rise and Development.
“A text book for riders” aimed to cater for the rapidly developing bicycle movement by filling the void, after early books about the wooden wheeled machine had become valueless. With numerous illustrations to assist the beginner, the book is packed with informative chapters on routes in England, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, The Battlefields of 1870, Upper Rhine, Belgium, Germany, Holland, and France – each highlighting the points of interest, hotels, museums, mileage, gradients and road conditions along the way,
- Published by Tinsley Bros., London.
1877 – with later editions in 1878 & 1879
The Bicycle Annual for 1877.
With British maps and routes – complete with mileages and a description of the state of the road – and an important review of the previous year, the weekly Bicycling Times magazine’s annual release arrogantly boasted by its third edition, in 1879, that “its success last year was simply unprecedented in bicycling literature. It would be in the worst taste to refer to the fact that the only rival to this publication [Alfred Howard’s “The Bicycle for…” guide] will not this year appear, having fairly been run off the field.”
- Edited by C.W. Nairn & C.J. Fox Junior.
- Published by Bicycling Times Office, London.
August 1879 – Published in June 1881.
A Bicycle Tour in England and Wales.
“Made in 1879, by the President, Alfred D. Chandler, and Captain, John C. Sharp Jr., of the Suffolk Bicycle Club, of Boston, Massachusetts.” this account of an American’s adventures with his friend on a trip to Britain originally appeared in four editions of the “Bicycling World” magazine (January and February, 1881), before being released as a book. Travelling from London to Portsmouth and the Isle of White, then northwards to Burton-on-Trent, Manchester, Leeds and North Wales, it offers a valuable insight to their life on the road, with many black and white photographs of the places visited – although sadly none of the two cyclists or their bikes – and even includes a chapter tackling the question of the time: “Is Bicycle Riding Healthy?”
- by Alfred Dupont Chandler.
- published by A. Williams & Co., Boston.
1880 – revised and renamed in 1881 and 1891.
The Bicycle Road Book.
Famous gymnast and author of the pioneering 1869 book “The Bicycle – Its Use and Action”, Charles Spencer, returned in 1880 with yet another influential guide, “compiled for the use of bicyclists and pedestrians. Being a complete guide to the roads of England, Scotland, and Wales, giving the best hotels, population of the towns &c.” It was an improvement on his 1876 guide “The Modern Bicycle” with more than 130 routes in England and Wales, and a further five in Scotland, plus the Isle of Man and Isle of Wight, indexing over 5,000 towns, listing principal hotels, distances and directions for cyclists to follow.
Following the introduction of the tricycle, a new and revised edition appeared in April 1881, and again ten years later, as “The Cyclists’ Road Book: compiled for the use of bicyclists, tricyclists and pedestrians.“
- by Charles Spencer.
- Published by Griffith and Farran, London.
June 1882 – revised in 1883, 1884 and 1889.
The Roads of England and Wales.
One of the most important books ever published in the history of bicycle touring, and far more in depth than Charles Spencer’s road books, “an itinerary for cyclists, tourists, and travellers; containing an original description of the contour and surface with mileage of the main (district and principal cross) roads in England and Wales, and part of Scotland; particularly adapted to the use of bicyclists and tricyclists; together with topographical notes of the chief cities and towns; also a list of hotels and inns in each town, suitable for cyclists“ was the work of Charles Howard, a member of both the Wanderers’ Bicycle Club (of Clapham Common) and the Bicycle Touring Club (renamed the Cyclists’ Touring Club in 1883 to take into account the popularity of the tricycle, particularly with women, who were unable to ride the “Ordinary” high bicycle).
Based on the “Paterson’s Roads” coaching guide of 1826 – which had become obsolete due to the introduction of the steam train – , it was a large book originally published in June 1882 and, by May 1884, four editions had already been released. A fifth and final corrected edition of the original book would be published in March 1889. The book would also spawn the cheaper and smaller pocket-sized “The Handy Route Book of England and Wales”, in 1885, with “An Itinerary and Road Book of Scotland” following in 1887.
- by Charles Howard (of the Cyclists’ Touring Club).
- originally published by Letts, Son & Company, London.
- 1889 edition published by Mason & Payne, London.
The Handy Route Book of England and Wales. Part 1: – Southern England.
Also known as “Letts’s Route Book”, the cheaper and smaller pocket-sized version of Charles Howard’s more elaborate road book “being a complete key to the main (direct and cross) roads in England and Wales; useful for all road travellers, cyclists, tourists, and pedestrians; with a list of the hotels and inns in each town“ was originally set to be released in three parts, as cyclists “‘doing’ Southern England, would not necessarily require to be also burdened with the guides to the roads of Northern England, or even of Middle England, and vice versa.” Released in June 1885, the publishing house would fall into liquidation a few months after releasing the first instalment, “Southern England, South of and inclusive of the line of the Bath and Bristol road.” A second edition was published in the same year(?) by cycling map specialists, Mason & Payne.
- by Charles Howard.
- published by Letts, Son & Company, London.
- second edition by Mason & Payne, London.
The Handy Route Book of England and Wales. Part 2: – Middle England.
Almost immediately following the release of “Part 1 – Southern England“, Letts, Son & Co. publishing house went into liquidation, and it wasn’t until three years later that the second instalment of Charles Howard’s pocket-sized version of his route book appeared with a new home for “Middle England (with Wales), North of and inclusive of the Bath and Bristol road. up to and inclusive of an irregular line, drawn from the mouth of the River Mersey to the Wash, and running through Liverpool, Warrington, Manchester, Sheffield, Mansfield, Newark, Sleaford and Boston.”
- by Charles Howard.
- published by Mason & Payne, London.
- (image, left, from Part 1, second edition)
June 1889 – Published 1890.
Round About The World on Bicycles.
“The pleasure tour of G.W. Burston and H.R. Stokes, Melbourne Bicycle Club, Australia,” follows George Burston and Harry Stokes on their 56-inch high-wheel bicycle journey around the world, setting off from Melbourne, on 1st November 1888, arriving back in Australia on the 14th December 1889.
The Welsh section of their journey was chronicled in The Australasian, on 15th February, 12th, 19th April and 3rd May 1890.
Although they briefly entered Wales in June 1889 to visit Tintern Abbey on their ride through the Wye Valley from Bristol to Goodrich Castle, they would return in August, traversing the border at Chester on route to Hawarden and Conwy, before crossing “the celebrated Menai Straits Bridge from Wales to Anglesey,” and “a splendid 25 miles ride across the island to Holyhead,” where they caught the ferry to Dublin.
On their return to Holyhead at the end of August, having completed a full circle of Ireland, they “worked down south over fresh roads and new scenes, among the celebrated mountain scenery of Snowdon” (Yr Wyddfa), the enchanting valleys that surround” Betws-y-Coed “and Corwen, thence passing Llangollen, Oswestry, Welshpool,” Llanidloes, “and over the Kerry Hills, 2,000 ft. high, following small roads, through numerous gateways, reaching Knighton.”
Continuing their way “through most mountainous country, passing the towns of” Presteigne, New Radnor, and Builth Wells, they then followed the River Wye “and its exquisite landscape scenery” down to “the severe hills of South Wales.” – “Presumably New South Wales is named after these, for they greatly resemble a distant view of the Blue Mountains.”
At Brecon, they caught the National Eisteddfod of Wales (a poetry and music festival) on the 29th August, – “the famous artists of Wales are all there, and even Madame Patti sang the day before we arrived.” Described by Giuseppe Verdi as being perhaps the finest singer who had ever lived, celebrated Italian opera diva Adelina Patti was said to be the second most famous female in the world at the time, behind only Queen Victoria. Incredibly wealthy, she lived at Craig-y-Nos Castle, near Swansea.
Their cycle took them over the Brecon Beacons mountain range, through “a small mining town with a terrible Welsh name” (Cefn-coed-y-cymmer?) into Merthyr Tydfil. then onward through the Vale of Neath, and Neath before riding “a vile road lined on either side by great furnaces polluting the air and surrounding country by their dense volumes of smoke and fumes from melting minerals” to “the most remarkably dirty and smoky” town of Swansea, and the “white sands” of Mumbles, which was “wholly given to holiday-making.”
“By a somewhat less hilly road to Cardiff, getting on one side fine glimpses of the Bristol Channel, and on the other the grand mountains of South Wales,” they then “slipped into the train, passing through the Severn Tunnel and reaching Bristol.”
- “by G.W. Burston and H.R. Stokes.
- Published by George Robertson and Company, Melbourne, Australia “for private circulation only”
RIDING THROUGH WALES.
“The Welsh language is really the worst we have yet experienced ; no country people understand our inquiries, nor can we make out anything that is said to us.
It is raining most of the days of the year at Conway, and as we journeyed along we were alternately seeking shelter from heavy showers under hedges, shops, or private houses.”
~ G.W. Burston & H.R. Stokes ~ “Round About The World on Bicycles“, 1890.