Victorian cyclist who was Ilkeston’s first national sporting champ is set to be recognised by the town

Fred Taylor Fletcher
Fred Taylor Fletcher

Ilkeston will celebrate a period in its past when 4,000 people would turn out to watch the town’s  first ever national sporting champion perform.

Victorian cyclist Fred Fletcher - is to be commemorated with a memorial plaque in the Market Square.
Fred became the first ever national champion riding the then revolutionary Safety bicycle which all modern bike designs are based.
The first official safeties-only championships were held by the National Cyclists’ Union in 1889 on the cinder track at Paddington.
Twenty year old Fred Taylor Fletcher of Bath Street, Ilkeston, a member of the Ilkeston Bicycle Club entered two of the three races – the One Mile and the Twenty Five Miles – and won them both.
Ilkeston and District Local History Society is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Fred’s birth and the 130th of his double championship by erecting a brass plaque in his honour on Saturday, July 27 at the Sir John Warren public house in Ilkeston Market Square.
The pub was the first headquarters of the Ilkeston Bicycle Club.
Jeff Wynch of Ilkeston and District Local History Society said: “Fred was very well known nationally at the time for a couple of years.
“He was an amateur and as far as we can tell he was Ilkeston’s first national champion in any sport.
“Cycling was a very popular spectator sport in those days.
“They would race at a cinder track at the old Manor Ground and would regularly attract three to four thousand spectators.
“It seems it was the most popular thing to watch for sports fans in the area in those days.
“Cycling has of course become very popular again these days but it did go through a decline.”
The modern bicycle was born in the 1880s and they called it the “safety” – this was to distinguish it from the much more dangerous “ordinary” bicycle, or penny farthing.
The safety bicycle had all of the basic features that we know today – the two equal size wheels, the diamond shaped frame, a chain driven rear wheel and pneumatic tyres.
Jeff added: “In principle the bikes were the same as the modern design but now they are obviously much lighter.
“The cycling over 25 miles would have been a much harder task for riders of Fred Fletcher’s generation.”
Fred won IBC’s first race, from Trowell to Strelley, in 1897 and went on to win races all over the country for the next five years.
Shortlyafter breaking the Half Mile record on a Raleigh in 1891 (1m. 7.25s), he retired from competition to concentrate on his career as a pharmacist.
Fred Fletcher died on 24th June, 1947 at Horsley Woodhouse, and is buried in Park Cemetery, Ilkeston.
2019 is the 150th anniversary of Fred Fletcher’s birth and the 130th of his championship double.
Ilkeston Bicycle Club, the first in the town, was formed in 1884, and the Sir John Warren was its headquarters until its move in 1889 to the Rutland Hotel,
The Rutland Hotel stood on a site now occupied by the Aldi store.
The IBC Annual Sports were held at the Rutland ecreation Ground from 1888 to 1893, and on a purpose built cindertrack at the Manor Ground (where the Dunelm store is now) from 1894 to 1898.
The club folded soon after.
The plaque will be placed at the entrance to the Sir John Warren public house in Ilkeston Market Square and unveiled by Giles Fletcher, Fred’s grandson.
Special guests include Janet Joy (nee Gregory), who was National 50 Miles Champion in 1949 with a time of 2h.17m.9s and a member of the Best British All Rounderwomen’s time trial team of 1950.
Members of the Veteran-Cycle Club will be in attendance on period bikes.

Ilkeston Cycling Club

Ilkeston Cycling Club