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High Bikes (Penny-farthings): Beamish Cycle Collection.

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Development of the the High Bicycles.

By the end of the 1870s the High Bicycle or Penny Farthing had. evolved from the velocipede into its basic form, leaving it to improve only in materials and engineeering until it was superseded. by the safety bicycle in 1885.

Many adherents would remain faithful to it after this but the pneumatic tyres arrival in 1888 was the final blow and consigned it to history.

There are five high bikes in the collection and all were made between 1881 and 1884. All are restored and rideable. Like the velocipedes they were priced by front wheel size as well as quality and also going up in 2" increments. Riders leg length dictates size of wheel chosen.

1881 Premier D.H.F. (Double Hollow Fork) 52" wheel.

This machine was made by Hillman, Herbert and Cooper of Coventry, and the front wheel run on patent Hillman bearings. The Hillman name that would be seen on car radiators in the future.

The 52" model cost fifteen pounds and ten shillings and the fully nickle plated frame it has would cost an extra four pounds. Ours has the standard buffalo horn hand grips but ivory ones were available at an extra One pound and ten shillings.

This make and model has a local connection as it is the one used by Newcastle man George Waller to win the 1879 World Championionship. George covered 1404 miles in six days to do this which meant lapping a small track over 10,500 times.

1882 Coventry Machinists Special Club 54" wheel and the 1882 Coventry Machinists Club 56" wheel.

These two machines were made by a firm that was probably the biggest manufacturer of bikes at the time. Originally a sewing machine maker they, like many light engineering companies, turned to cycle manufacture, and by the turn of the century there were over two hundred cycle makers in Coventry. This paved the way for the British motorcar industry in that city.

1882 Northern No. 2 Model 54" wheel.

The Northern company had their shop in High Bridge, Newcastle. This machine has identical handlebars,brake and patent adjustable step as the Premier above so parts were probably bought in and assembled.

1884 Rudge 54" wheel.

This Cycle firm started by Dan Rudge would go on into the Twentieth Century and be a famous motorcycle manufacturer.


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