London - South Kensington - The Wheel Club

Hereford House : SW7 4TS London - South Kensington - The Wheel Club : Map credit National Library of Scotland London - South Kensington - The Wheel Club : Image credit RBKS Local Studies
The Wheel Club was a fashionable upper class social and sporting club open to ladies and gentlemen, which was formed in April 1896 at Hereford House, South Kensington in a large villa with spacious grounds. At the opening of the Club, there were 1,250 members, with an annual subscription of five guineas (about £500 in 2022 money). Bicycling was very fashionable with the upper classes for a short period in the 1890's and exclusive cycling clubs were formed with high membership fees*.

Hereford House had grounds of four acres, there were 5 tennis lawns, a bicycle track, a 250 feet long riding school (for bicycling) with six instructors in the art of cycling, a machine house, attendants to clean a repair cycles, dressing and bath rooms, dining rooms, smoking room, reading room, card room and a ladies billiard room. The cycling track was constructed of timber, five laps to the mile and banked for a speed of 20 miles an hour. The track was 12 feet wide, increasing to 20 feet on the bends. Cycling World described the track "a miniature Olympian, composed of wood with trellis-work sides. It forms a circle round the grounds, running over two artistic bridges."

The first races at the Club, featured both men's and women's events and was held on June 13th 1896. All three women's races ½, 1 mile and slow race) were won by Miss G Fielding fairly easily. The men's races were over 1 and 5 miles. The St James' Gazette commented on the 5 miles race "None of the men in the long races seemed much troubled about speed; indeed, in the first heat of the five miles contest, the stewards requested the two competitors to put on a pace and stop their conversation."

The activities at the Club mostly involved gymkhana's, garden parties and social rides on the track and the roads around London. The racing that took place on their track was confined to members only and times were very slow.

The first race meeting of 1897 was on April 24th at which there were three scratch races, all for men, over ½, 1 and 3 miles. EONO Leggatt won the ½ and 3 miles races, he was killed a few years later in the Boer War.

As the upper classes moved on from the bicycling craze, the Wheel Club started to struggle financially. The Graphic of October 23rd 1897 reported that the Wheel Club had closed and was in the hands of the Official Receiver. The club was wound up in March 1898 as was the Trafalgar Cycling Club, leaving Sheen House Cycling Club as the only upper class cycling club in London.

Hereford House was demolished around 1900 and the luxurious Colherne Court flats were built on the site. The flats are still there.

* The bicycling craze in the upper classes started in 1895 and several exclusive bicycle clubs opened in London, including Sheen House, Trafalgar Bicycling Club and the Wheel Club.

London - South Kensington - The Wheel Club : Image credit RBKS Local Studies London - South Kensington - The Wheel Club : Image credit RBKS Local Studies London - South Kensington - The Wheel Club : Image credit RBKS Local Studies London - South Kensington - The Wheel Club : Image credit Wiki Commons
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