Author Topic: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890  (Read 3607 times)

We have found the diaries of Edwin Butler, my great great grandfather and a real pioneer of cycling (he co-invented an omnicycle with his brother Tom).
My mum has been doing amazing work transcribing the diaries and I will publish them online in due course. For the previous decade he's been riding penny farthings, tandem trikes, omnicycles and the like, but in 1890 he's bought himself a Whippet saftey cycle, and now he's starting to chuck in century rides.



Here's a sample:

Wednesday July 23, 1890:

Woke up a little before 3, and then at 3 got up and dressed and went across to the shop and got breakfast ready and called Mr Chappell.
It was a splendid morning and we both felt in first rate condition and ready for a run to Brighton. We had a good breakfast and at 9 past 4, we were in the saddle and off on our journey. When I came across at 3 o’clock, it was hardly light but while we were having breakfast, it got a good deal lighter. It was very pleasing seeing the day approach, and how beautiful it was too when we made a start and saw the country almost before it was awake.
We went by the two colleges grounds and Frimley. We pushed up the hill by the windmill and then had a glorious ride along the ridges. We had a very pretty sight before we got to the Well College of the rising sun shining on the heather bank and making it look like a band of gold. It pleased me very much that pretty band of golden heather.

The morning was fine, with no indication of any rain, and yet there were plenty of clouds about which gave some exceedingly beautiful effects, and as we were passing over Frimley ridges, we were in a good position to see them. The hill leading down off the ridges was very rough and stony, the road being completely washed to pieces by the heavy rain of Thursday last, and as we rode down it, I was in great fear lest we come to grief with our machines. However, we descended all right, and then a most happy run to Guildford which place we passed through without a dismount.
At the little stream between here and Shalford, we had a drink. We rattled along at a good pace all through Shalford and Bramley and away to Alfold. About a mile beyond Alfold, I took the wrong turning and made a detour which hindered a little. However, we soon turned on to our road again and away to Horsham which place Mr Chappell was glad to reach because he was feeling somewhat tired. We had a good breakfast and stayed a little longer than we had meant.

From Horsham all the way to Brighton was glorious. The view was something to be remembered. It was just the kind of morning for this scenery, bright with plenty of cloud effect , and to see the cloud effect on the South Downs is to see a grand sight. I cannot describe it, but I had a good look at it, and kept calling Mr Chappell’s attention to it. I continually advised him not to look at the roads that he could see at home and better, but to look out ahead and have a long and full view of the grand hills forming the South Downs. I felt well and fresh and strong and very much enjoyed this part of the journey and got into Brighton at 10.45.
Put up the bicycles at The Clarence Hotel, telegraphed home, had our boots cleaned and then went to the sea and at once had a bathe. Had a very nice swim round and soon out again on the beach watching the boating until dinner time. Had dinner at the hotel where the skating rink used to be, and then while Chappell went about the town, I went on the beach again.

We left Brighton a little after 3 o’clock, having had a very pleasant 4 or 5 hours there. From Brighton, we made our way by the seashore to Shoreham against a strong NW wind which made the level 5 miles the hardest piece of road work I have ever had, and quite spoilt my run home. From Shoreham, we turned to the right at the bridge and had a splendid road before us. We had a few minutes rest in a field just to relieve the legs after the severe strain we gave them against the wind. We did not wait long but were soon on, and the road being good, we soon reached Bramber where we had tea, and a very pleasant and good tea too served in a pretty garden.

It was a lovely spot here and well I could have spent the evening here. From Bramber through Steyning which is a good sized town about the size of Wokingham, but very much behind in the matter of growing through Partridge Green and West Grinstead and so to Horsham. The road nearly all the way from Brighton is good and, I may say, level, with the exception of a long ascent and a sharp descent into Horsham. Of course there are some hills but none of any magnitude. This rather astonished me, for I was under the impression we must cross over the Sandown hills to get this side again, but the Downs are not as I thought, a range of hills facing the sea, but stand at an angle so that one passes between them. Besides the quality of the roads being good, and somewhat level, the scenery is even better than the old way by Henfield. Although it is four miles further this way to Brighton, I certainly should come this course again, for it is vastly better and prettier travelling.

The last 6 miles by Patcham to Brighton is very uninteresting, whereas this is very pretty. We had coffee and bread and butter at Horsham, and then after a deal of discussion as to whether we should train it to Guildford or not, we proceeded on our way a little after 7 o’clock, and had a very good ride to Guildford. At Guildford we did a little more refreshment and then made for home. Just after leaving Guildford I picked up a good whip and brought it home. We came home by Ash and Frimley, and when we got to Blackwater, being very tired and near upon 12 o’clock, we availed ourselves of the last train home. Had it not been for that terribly hard piece of 5 miles against the wind from Brighton to Shoreham, which completely did us, we should have had a splendid run home, and quick, but after that piece of severe work, we had no spare strength and so the journey home was spoilt. I felt nothing of the journey down and enjoyed it all the way. We had splendid weather and a nice time at Brighton. I foretold the time to a minute when we should be at the Well Coll, Frimley, Guildford and Horsham.

With the exception of the strong wind against us from Brighton to Shoreham, we could not have had much better weather, and the surface of the roads was as good as we can ever expect to see them. I had wonderfully good health and did not have the headache. There are many pleasant little incidents I can look back upon connected with this day’s outing. The Whippet behaved admirably and gave me no trouble at all. How it stood that sandy and rocky hill leading down from Frimley ridges astonished me.
[120 miles]

Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #1 on: 05 July, 2022, 02:53:59 pm »
A fascinating  bit of history you have there.  I look forward to reading more. 

Cudzoziemiec

  • Ride adventurously and stop for a brew.
Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #2 on: 05 July, 2022, 02:55:44 pm »
I enjoyed reading that. 3am to midnight – clearly audaxers before their time!
Riding a concrete path through the nebulous and chaotic future.

Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #3 on: 05 July, 2022, 03:20:16 pm »
Also enjoyed that.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #4 on: 05 July, 2022, 04:34:20 pm »
What a great read. I live next to Shoreham and ride through the places mentioned all the time. It'd be fascinating to see what the roads travelled were back then.

Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #5 on: 05 July, 2022, 05:22:24 pm »
Had to look up Omnicycle. Nice read.


Tim Hall

  • Victoria is my queen
Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #6 on: 05 July, 2022, 05:27:34 pm »
Yes, great stuff. The roads they went down are familiar to me. Time to look at an old maps website to see exactly where they went.
What were the “two colleges “ mentioned early on? Presumably “Well Coll” is Wellington College.
There are two ways you can get exercise out of a bicycle: you can
"overhaul" it, or you can ride it.  (Jerome K Jerome)

GdS

  • I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass
Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #7 on: 02 August, 2022, 10:34:35 am »
Yes, great stuff. The roads they went down are familiar to me. Time to look at an old maps website to see exactly where they went.

indeed, thinking back even to the 1960s the now cycle / pedestrian bridge over the Adur at Shoreham (which I presume he mentions) was the only road crossing. And possibly the West bank road to Steyning via Botolphs was not built at the time. Guessing the long climb and steep descent into Horsham was via Sedgwick?


Wowbagger

  • Stout dipper
    • Stuff mostly about weather
Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #8 on: 02 August, 2022, 11:31:53 am »
Sounds like one of the first FNRttCs.

Could Mr. Chappell be an ancestor of Emily, I wonder?

I'm looking forward to reading these - great stuff!
Quote from: Dez
It doesn’t matter where you start. Just start.

CrazyEnglishTriathlete

  • Miles eaten don't satisfy hunger
  • Chartered accountant in 5 different decades
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Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #9 on: 17 August, 2022, 10:23:51 pm »
Thank you for sharing.  I particularly loved the bit that Steyning was a town the same size as Wokingham!
Eddington Numbers 131 (imperial), 185 (metric) 574 (furlongs)  116 (nautical miles)

Re: Wokingham to Brighton and (most of the way back)... in 1890
« Reply #10 on: 31 July, 2023, 03:36:46 pm »
1891 census population:
Steyning: 1705
Wokingham: 3254
"A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Type-Writer Girl, 1897