On this Day 4th June 1885

Bicycle crime in Ludgvan

On 6 June 1885 the West Penwith Special Sessions had before them one James Henry Chellew, a labourer of Ludgvan. Chellew pleaded guilty to throwing a stone and damaging a bicycle belonging to Valentine Corin of Causewayhead, on 4 June.

A minor matter to come before the bench? Certainly and, furthermore, Chellew, who had been drunk at the time, had since apologised and paid for the damage to the bicycle which had suffered several broken spokes. Corin, it should be understood, had been riding the bicycle when Chellew launched his 15 lb missile. Furthermore Mr Corin was a member of the Penzance Cycling Club and he and his fellow members had decided that they needed to make a stand and bring the matter out into the open; they wanted the bench to issue a warning the Chellew, and by implication to anyone else who fancied taking pot-shots at cyclists, that this was unacceptable, they could not throw stones at bicycles at “their own sweet will”. Mr Corin could, said his counsel Mr G. L. Bodilly, have brought a charge of assault but he had preferred a lesser charge as his target was the issue rather than the perpetrator.

The Cornishman records that this was the first such case to come before the bench though Mr Corin's action suggests that it was perhaps not the first such action to be brought against him. At any rate, Chellew having already paid the damages, he was fined 8s 6d and the bench hoped that this would be a warning to others as well as to Chellew himself.

Milton Nichols of St Erth with his father's bicycle, solid tyres, prominent bell and a pretty aggressive looking brake which operates on the front wheel (courtesy of Morrab Library Photo Archive)By the time The Cornishman came into being in 1878 bicycle mania had already taken hold, the paper in fact uses the term bicycle mania in an article, published on 25 July 1878, advocating the donkey as a viable alternative to the horse. In August 1878 the paper reports that bicycle clubs are being formed in Kelso, Penrith and Durham and the same month a bicycle was advertised for sale: 36 inch driving wheel; iron tire (almost new) made by Bridgwater Carriage Company (Limited); brake and every other appliance; £2; cost £7.

It didn't take long before cyclists were also under scrutiny. In November 1878 it was reported that a new bye-law had been passed in Gravesend requiring cyclists to carry a bells during the day and a bell and lamp at night. By December a similar bye-law was proposed to the Adjourned Quarter Sessions for Cornwall who accepted the proposal. The papers were quickly full of cycling injuries, bicycle races and on 22 April 1880 The Penzance Bicycle Club was advertising forthcoming runs to St Ives and the Lizard, both runs to commence from the railway station.

All this, and Mr Dunlop had not yet introduced the world to his pneumatic tyre, which would vastly increase comfort and decrease machine weight.


The Cornishman 22 August 1878 – cycle for sale

The Cornishman 5 December 1878 – bye-laws in Cornwall

The Cornishman 11 June 1885 – Chellew and Corin

For the history of the bicycle see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_bicycle

Photo citation: Richard Bros, 2 Queen Street, Penzance Phone: 3596, “Milton Nicholls with his Fathers Bicycle,” Morrab Library Photographic Archive, accessed May 15, 2017, http://photoarchive.morrablibrary.org.uk/items/show/8573.

On this Day:

Browse all 'On This Day' Features

Penwith Local History Group
On this Day:

Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

Edited by
Sally Corbet

price £10
plus p&p


PayPal – The safer, easier way to pay online.