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Former Tory MP dies after “getting out of the way of motor-cars on his bicycle”


East Grinstead in 1907 doesn’t look terribly swamped with motorcars and would have probably been even less so three years earlier. This was when Sir William Thomas Charley shuffled off this mortal coil. The 71-year old died on a hot July morning shortly after he said he had been “getting out of the way of motor-cars on his bicycle.”

SirWilliamCharleySir William had been a Conservative MP in the 1860s and 1870s, and later became a judge. Originally from Ireland, Sir William had been living in the Sussex town for five years before his death. Cycling, according to an obituary in The Times, was “one of his favourite recreations.”

He had been president of the Pickwick Bicycle Club – the world’s oldest extant cycling club – for the five years between 1885 and 1889. (He’s still the longest serving president). Sir William was a socially-aware Victorian gent, one of the founders of the United Kingdom Beneficent Association, a charity providing financial help to older people in poverty. This was created in 1863 and now known as Independent Age.

In 1904, there were 8,465 motorcars in use in the whole of Great Britain. Today that’s about the number of private cars in just East Grinstead.


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8 thoughts on “Former Tory MP dies after “getting out of the way of motor-cars on his bicycle”

    • carltonreid / Reply March 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      I also had a postcard of the High Street. That has been less disfigured my motor vehicles but, still, we’ve allowed our living spaces to become colonised by cars. It’s very ugly.

    • Hilary Kitching / Reply January 11, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      I know which one I prefer -thanks for posting these. Please send me back to 1907.

  1. Ian Brett Cooper / Reply March 27, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Getting out of the way of motor cars is a very sure way to get side-swiped by motorists who are trying to overtake without changing lanes. Far better to ride well into the lane – ‘in the way’ – so motorists have to move over to overtake, and if they still don’t give us enough room, at least we have room to manoeuvre to the kerbside.

  2. John Airey / Reply April 26, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    For interest – Peterborough Cycling Club is the UK’s (and possibly the world’s) longest continuously running cycling club – founded 1873.

    • carltonreid / Reply April 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      Hi John

      I’m afraid I can trump that with an earlier club. The Pickwick Bicycle Club, formed 1870.

      I’m a member.

      Granted, it’s more of a lunching/social club than a hardcore cycling club now but it still holds annual cycle rides for members. It’s the oldest bicycle club in the world and the oldest extant Dickensian club, too.
      But it’s certainly interesting that Peterborough, not a noted centre of cycling, then or now, has such an old cycling club, thanks for sending the link.

      • John Airey / Reply May 10, 2013 at 7:49 am

        I believe that there was a time that Pickwick Bicycle Club wasn’t carrying out the activities of a cycling club, hence Peterborough’s record.

        It’s not really that surprising – the area around Peterborough is perfect for cycling unless it’s windy.

        • carltonreid / Reply May 10, 2013 at 7:56 am

          Yes, was dormant for a couple of periods but there have always been social meetings. The modern club has many active cycling members. At yesterday’s luncheon a member brought his 1872 penny farthing from Southampton: he rode to and from the rail stations each end.

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