Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Saying farewell to the Post Office bike .......... a little bit of Chorlton's vanished history

One ex Royal Mail post bike, 2015
Now a little bit of postal history slipped past me last year.

For many it will seem a tad trivial but after 120 years the Royal Mail finished off the Post Office bike.

Since 1895 it has been one of those small bits of our daily life which is so commonplace it has gone unnoticed and now it has gone.

This I know because my old friend David Harrop recently bought one from a chap here in Chorlton and was so pleased with the deal that he rode it back to Heaton Moor.

Nor will he have been alone in picking up a surplus bike.

According to the Guardian the Royal Mail had got rid of 14,000 between 2010 and 2014  which left just 4,000 to be disposed of last year.*

Lots of Post Office bikes, circa 1914-18
And of course behind the decision lurks a whole lot of history.

There had been some bizarre and fanciful attempts at inventing and marketing push bikes stretching back into the 19th century but by the 1890s what we would recognise was zipping along our streets and country lanes.

They offered a cheap alternative to public transport, could go almost anywhere and quickly became a craze with the establishment of hundreds of cycle clubs.

And when you added all of that with politics you got the Clarion Clubs, the first of which was started in Birmingham in 1890 by a group of young socialists who combined the bike, friendship and the desire to advance the message.

Barnet Post women circa 1914-18
But more than all of these the bike was the way you got to work.  Look at any picture or news film from the mid 20th century showing people leaving Trafford Park and what strikes you is the sheer number of men and women on bikes.

So it was just sensible for the Post Office to equip its workforce with a means to make delivering our mail a little easier and lot quicker particularly as rounds were very long and as a consequence the load postman carried was very heavy

The standard bike I don’t think changed much over that century and a bit but the details I will leave to David who has a fine collection of Post Office memorabilia some of which can be seen in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern Cemetery along with exhibitions telling the story of those who lived through the two world wars.

Picture; David’s post office bike and Barnet Post women circa 1914-18, courtesy of David Harrop

*Royal Mail to phase out post bikes completely in 2014, Laura Laker, The Guardian, December 9 2013,

**The Clarion Cyclist Club, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20Clarion%20Cyclist%20Club

No comments:

Post a Comment