Happy Birthday Charles! (and some amazing bikes)

Old Commercial St in Portsmouth is truly a hidden gem, nestled in some of the worst town planning known to the sarf coast. As put by Gareth ‘it’s mental round there – a really lovely street sandwiched between Landport and the M275’. In all my years in Portsmouth (well a few years and a lot of added up months) I never knew it existed and it is definitely one of the wonders of the area if you are interested in local history.

Today it is only one half of a road that was severely bombed in the Second World War and is now a conservation area, home to the birthplace of Pompey’s most prodigal son: Charles Dickens.  I popped down there today with Pops just in time to catch Simon Callow bellow a speech in honour of the birthday boy’s 200th anniversary.

What a feast for the eyes though. It’s been a while since I have seen such a lovely collection of old bikes. On one side the very dapper boys from the Pickwick Bicycle Club in their yellow straw boaters and Penny Farthings. On the other, members of the lesser known Solent Veteran Bicycle & Tricycle Club, which has been going since 1986. Membership is a grand £2.50 and anyone with an interest in old bikes can join. Its part of the National Association of Veteran Cycle Clubs. One chap had an orginal bike from 1860, another had a good replica of one of the first ever bikes which looked a bit like the Draisine of 1817. An interesting point made was that the humble bicycle didn’t even exist in 1812 when Dickens was born. Either way it was a lovely sight, and one you don’t get to see often in Bucklands!


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