Senior Curator, Michael Strong with donor Bradley Barlow of the penny farthing bicycle

Penny-Farthing Bicycle a gift to the Abbey Museum

Penny-Farthing Bicycle on Display

Through the generosity of Mr Bradley Barlow and his wife, Jeni, the Abbey Museum is extremely fortunate to have been donated a penny-farthing bicycle dating to about the late 1870s. The gift also included a rare bicycle bell, a Lucas bicycle lock and a candle lamp.

Penny-farthings are an extreme type of early bicycle.  They were popular, particularly with men, until the advent of the modern safety bicycle in the 1880s. Their production preceded the advent of the cart and allowed the first cheap mechanical locomotion after the French ‘boneshaker’ (basically a frame on wheels propelled by being pushed along with the feet). Although penny-farthings stimulated the sport of cycling, they were dangerous to ride (as Bradley can testify), with numerous accounts of injuries and even death from ‘coming a cropper’ or ‘taking a header’. Riders coasting down hills often took their feet off the pedals and put them over the tops of the handlebars, so they would be pitched off feet-first instead of head-first.

Although commonly referred to as  penny-farthings, because of comparison with a …

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