A plaque for Fred – Ilkeston’s double cycling champion

Published on: Thursday, 25th July 2019
A portrait of Fred Fletcher
Beeston Humber Safety (credit: Science Museum)
Ilkeston Bicyle Club circa 1885 (credit Andrew Knighton & Roy Plumb)

Ilkeston and District Local History Society has celebrated the 150th anniversary of Fred’s birth and the 130th of his double championship by erecting a plaque in his honour.

The plaque has been placed at the entrance to the Sir John Warren public house in Ilkeston Market Square and was unveiled by Giles Fletcher, Fred’s grandson.  The pub was the first headquarters of the Ilkeston Bicycle Club.

The modern bicycle was born in the 1880s and they called it the “safety” – this was to distinguish it from the much more dangerous “ordinary” bicycle, or penny farthing.

The safety bicycle had all of the basic features that we know today – the two equal size wheels, the diamond shaped frame, a chain driven rear wheel and pneumatic tyres.

The first official safeties-only championships were held by the National Cyclists’ Union in 1889 on the cinder track at Paddington.  Twenty year old Fred Taylor Fletcher of Bath Street, Ilkeston, a member of the Ilkeston Bicycle Club entered two of the three races – the One Mile and the Twenty Five Miles – and won them both. 

Fred Fletcher was born over his father’s chemist shop at 69 Bath Street on 8th August, 1869.  By 1889 the new “safety” bicycle was fast replacing the penny farthing, or “ordinary” bicycle.  That summer the National Cyclists’ Union held its first safeties-only championships at Paddington.

There were three distances: One Mile; Five Miles and Twenty Five Miles.  Riding a ‘Beeston Humber’, twenty year old Fred Fletcher of Ilkeston Bicycle Club entered and won the Twenty Five Miles on 20th July (in 1h. 16m. 13.25s.), and the One Mile on 24th August (in 3m. 16.5s.).

Fred won IBC’s first race, from Trowell to Strelley, in 1897 and went on to win races all over the country for the next five years.  Shortly after breaking the Half Mile record on a Raleigh in 1891 (1m. 7.25s) he retired from competition to concentrate on his career as a pharmacist.  Fred Fletcher died on 24th June, 1947 at Horsley Woodhouse, and is buried in Park Cemetery, Ilkeston.  2019 is the 150th anniversary of Fred Fletcher’s birth and the 130th of his championship double.

Ilkeston Bicycle Club, the first in the town, was formed in 1884, and the Sir John Warren was its headquarters until its move in 1889 to the Rutland Hotel, which stood on a site now occupied by the Aldi store.  The IBC Annual Sports were held at the Rutland Recreation Ground from 1888 to 1893, and on a purpose built cinder track at the Manor Ground (where the Dunelm store is now) from 1894 to 1898.  The club folded soon after.

Fred’s grandson, Giles Fletcher unveiled the plaque on on Saturday, 27 July, 2019, along with special guests Janet Joy (nee Gregory), the National 50 Miles Champion 1949 (2h.17m.9s) and member of the Best British All Rounder Women’s time trial team of 1950 Members of the Veteran-Cycle Club on period bikes Members of Ilkeston Cycle Club

A local monumental sculptor - M. S. Bailey of East Street, Ilkeston was commissioned to create the plaque (pictured), meanwhile as well as thanks to them, the IDLHS have offered thanks to the Fletcher family; Janet Joy; members of the Veteran-Cycle Club and the Ilkeston Cycle Club; Greene King and Laura & Matt at the Sir John Warren.

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