Anne Wingrave: veteran cyclist

I loved my bike and it kept me fit and healthy for years.

I started cycling when I was about 15; I'm 90 now, nearly 91. I lived in Great Dover Street just off the Elephant with my Mum and brothers and sisters. Dad was in the army of occupation and he was abroad, so Mum had to look after us by herself. She only got something like thirty shillings a week, and that had to cover rent and food. When I got an apprenticeship as a bookbinder up in London, it caused a bit of a problem; I needed 4d a week for fares and she couldn’t afford that.

I had to get to Berwick Street in the West End and it was a bit of a walk, so a bike seemed like a good idea. I didn’t have one of course, and had no money. As I was earning, I got one on tick. It cost £3/19/6d and I paid it off at the rate of 6d a week. It took ages, but I did it and I had a bike at the end of it.

In those days, you just looked after what you had. There was no question of buying a new one or anything, or updating what you had. You just rode it and looked after it, and I had mine for years. 

Then I made friends with one of the girls where I worked and she had family down in Kent. We used to go down there at weekends; it was lovely. There were no cars in those days and people used to cycle out for miles.

One weekend, we were there and some of the boys from the Elephant Cycling Club came by, but one of them fell off and caused a crash. We went to help them, and that’s how I got involved in cycling – because of an accident. When my friend married one of the Elephant Cyclists, I went to the wedding. I sat next to one of the groom's friends in church, that was Eddie and I later married him. We're still married, over sixty years later. He's nearly ninety four now.

When our children were little, we had a tandem and a trailer, and that’s how we used to travel as a family.  Both of the boys grew up to be keen cyclists as did their children. Eddie and I still go to watch cycling when we can, although getting around is a bit harder now.

We live at Crystal Palace and we watch the racing there in the park in the summer, and also the racing at the velodrome at Herne Hill just down the road. After the war, it was packed every time there was a race there; it was marvellous and all the big names came.

I only gave up riding my bike a few years ago, when the hills round here got too much for me. Whichever way I go from my house, there's a big hill, and I can't do it anymore. It's a shame because I loved my bike, and it did keep me fit and healthy for years. Mind you, I did keep going until I was about eighty five.