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Cycling then .....
ImageClose your eyes and imagine it is the year 1870. Victoria is Queen,  cars and aeroplanes have not been invented.  But pedal-power is about to hit Hackney......

Suddenly, something totally amazing has happened. The bicycle has just been invented! It is made of metal, with rubber tyres - and it is brilliant fun to ride. In the last few years there has been something called a "velocipede" that you could go for a ride on. But that was made of wood and it was so uncomfortable that people who tried them called them "boneshakers".

Well, one Wednesday evening in June 1870 six Hackney men, who totally loved going out for a spin on their new bicycles, sat down for a drink and a chat in The Downs Hotel, which was  just  by Hackney Downs, across the road from  where Mossbourne Academy is now. As the men talked and swapped stories about their fantastic new hobby and their shiny bicycles, they came up with a brilliant idea:  they would start up a bicycle club.  Everyone thout it was a great idea, but they were stuck on one thing.  What should they call their new club?

Suddenly someone came up with the best idea.  Charles Dickens, the author of lots of popular books like Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and The Pickwick Papers had only just died, and people were feeling very sad about that.  Only last week he had been buried in a quiet service at Westminster Abbey.  So all all six of those men sitting in The Downs Hotel agreed on the new name: The Pickwick Bicycle Club. They made some special rules:  all the members of the club would be known by a nickname chosen from The Pickwick Papers story, and there would be a club uniform  - "simply a white straw hat with a black and amber ribbon".

The club was a huge success - they went on rides out to the countryside every weekend, with people enjoying their cycling long after the new inventions came in one by one (the car, the aeroplane, the motorbike .....).

Now, 140 years later, the Pickwick Bicycle Club is still going strong (men only - with a very long waiting list). The club , started in Hackney all those years ago, is proud to be the oldest bicycle club in the whole world. They still keep to the same rules - wearing the hats and the nicknames from the book.

To read more about cycling in Hackney have a look at Issue 7
And if you can help solve the mystery of the missing Hackney plaque, look at the letters page in Issue 14

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