Irthlingborough’s cycling champ Len Parsons was the Bradley Wiggins of his time

Some of the prizes for the Muriattis Cup held in Manchester in 1902. Irthlingborough's Len Parsons was a successful competitor. Picture from British Film Institute/Mitchell and Kenyon Collection
Some of the prizes for the Muriattis Cup held in Manchester in 1902. Irthlingborough's Len Parsons was a successful competitor. Picture from British Film Institute/Mitchell and Kenyon Collection
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Cycling has surged in popularity in Britain over the past few years.

This interest is more of a rediscovery than a revolution.

Our great-grandparents in the late Victorian and Edwardian years took enthusiastically to the new recreation of travelling on two wheels.

Cycling offered independence, speed and exhilaration to ordinary people as never before.

Cycling groups were popular in most towns, meeting regularly for surprisingly long outings, given the weight of bikes and clothing, and appealed to both women and men.

The Irchester Wheelers had their first outing in April 1933 and thought nothing of a day’s jaunt to Huntingdon, a round trip of about 60 miles. Night rides from Irthlingborough to Lowestoft were also recorded.

Irthlingborough even had its own Edwardian cycling hero – Leonard Parsons. A bricklayer, Leonard travelled the country competing in amateur races, frequently placed in the top three. On August 30, 1901, the Northampton Mercury reported that he was competing at Cambridge, finishing first in the Half Mile Race.

Two days later, competing at Bath, he won the City Challenge Vase, which was valued at 100 guineas, and a silver breakfast dish worth 10 guineas, for finishing first in the Five Mile Scratch Race. The value of his prizes in 1901 amounted to £400.

In July 1902 the Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser considered the prospects for the famous Muratti Cup. R Janson of London Polytechnic Cycling Club was warned to “look-out for Len Parsons”. In the event Parsons finished unplaced.

Event to bring Edwardian cycling to life

Trading Places is staging an event that will bring to life the Edwardian cycling heritage of the Nene valley.

People are invited to go to Stanwick Lakes with their bike between 11am, midday and 4pm on Saturday to take part in a stately bicycle ride around the lakes, led by members of Northampton’s Ministry of Bicycles.

Participants are encouraged to dress appropriately for the Edwardian themed event by wearing bloomers, cycle clips or trousers tucked in to Argyll-patterned socks and lots of tweed, but not forgetting to wear a cycle helmet. People are requested not to wear Lycra.

Bill Pollard will be at the event with his Bomberdrome, the cycling Wall of Death, and members of the Ministry of Bicycles will perform daring feats of balance and speed.

There will be information about Irthlingborough’d Edwardian cycling hero, Len Parsons, and his amazing bicycling skills in races across Edwardian Britain, as well as film and stills in a display that brings Edwardian cycling to life.

All who complete the ride will receive a certificate, and there will be free tea and biscuits.

The event is suitable for all ages except the very young -cyclists must be able to move forward under their own steam and without stabilisers – just bring a bike, or hire one from AJs at Stanwick Lakes on the day, oil your cranks and away you go.

Peopleeir place on the ride by calling 01933 625522.

Trading Places is a Heritage Lottery funded project run by the Rockingham Forest Trust.