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H5157 Bicycle, penny farthing, 54 inch, Star British Challenge, metal / rubber / leather, made by Singer & Co, Coventry, England, c. 1885, used by Thomas Wearne, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1885-1890. Click to enlarge.

Star British Challenge penny farthing bicycle made by Singer & Co., Coventry, England, c.1885

Made in Coventry, West Midlands, England, United Kingdom, Europe, c 1885.

From 1870 to 1885, the penny farthing had a brief, but visually lasting, effect on the development of the bicycle with its very large and distinctive front driven wheel and small rear wheel. It was called a penny farthing after two British coins of the period, the large penny and the much smaller farthing, worth a quarter of a penny.

Penny farthings were difficult to mount and dismount, unstable because of their high centre of gravity, and could pitch the rider at speed over the handle bars fr...

Summary

Object No.

H5157

Object Statement

Bicycle, penny farthing, 54 inch, Star British Challenge, metal / rubber / leather, made by Singer & Co, Coventry, England, c. 1885, used by Thomas Wearne, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1885-1890

Physical Description

Bicycle, penny farthing, 54 inch, Star British Challenge, metal / rubber / leather, made by Singer & Co, Coventry, England, c. 1885, used by Thomas Wearne, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1885-1890

This type of bicycle was variously described as an ordinary, a high wheeler, and a penny farthing; the last of these names is best known today. This bicycle, number 19018 by Singer, has a tubular frame with a backbone of weldless steel, a rear step, slotted cranks, fluted front and rear forks, solid rubber tyres and radial spoked wheels. The leather seat is not sprung. The dropped handle bars have wooden grips. The paintwork is black and some of this original colour and white detail line work remain. There are traces of black paint with white detail on the rim but they are now largely rusted. At one time the handle bars, vertical section of the front forks, the entire pedal assembly and the spokes and axles of both wheels would have been nickel plated. The back wheel was originally red solid rubber. The pedals are thought to be of the era but are possibly not original Singer ones.

The bicycle is missing the brake lever, front brake mechanism and saddle cover.

Marks

On rear wheel hub: "Patent / 3531 / 1877"
On front wheel hub: 19018 / 54.
The cover plates on the rear wheels are marked: "VXXI" and "VXX".

Dimensions

Height

1580 mm

Depth

700 mm

History

Notes

The bicycle is said to have been used by Mr Thomas Wearne of Bonnyrigg, NSW, in the 1880s.

Thomas Wearne (1834-1914) was born in Ponsanooth, Cornwall, England, and emigrated with his parents at the age of 13. He arrived in Sydney in 1849 on board the ship 'Harbinger'. Thomas was apprenticed to a tinplate manufacturer for 7 years. He went on to become an ironworker and established his own foundry in Sussex Street, Sydney, and from 1878 ran an engineering works, the Glebe Foundry, at 46-80 Cowper Street, Glebe. His firm made tram and railway rolling stock as well as bridge parts. In 1878 Thomas won a contract to supply 25 steam goods locomotives but after finishing two he suffered from bank foreclosures and lost the contract. During the 1880s Thomas lived at 'Elizabeth Cottage', 123 Derwent Street, Forest Lodge. By the time of his death in 1914 he was living at 'The Cedar', Wearne Road, Bonnyrigg, now a south western suburb of Sydney.

The penny farthing was donated to the Museum in 1951 by Mr P. H. Bullock of Cabramatta.


Collingwood, Lyn, 'The Wearne Family in Glebe' in "Glebe Society Bulletin", March/April, 2008

Lyons, Mark, 'Wearne, Thomas (1835 - 1914)', "Australian Dictionary of Biography", Volume 6, Melbourne University Press, 1976, pp 369-370.

Information on Wearne family history provided by Barbara Tuck

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Mr P H Bullock, 1951

Acquisition Date

29 November 1951

Cite this Object

Harvard

Star British Challenge penny farthing bicycle made by Singer & Co., Coventry, England, c.1885 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 June 2019, <https://ma.as/242328>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/242328 |title=Star British Challenge penny farthing bicycle made by Singer & Co., Coventry, England, c.1885 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 June 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Store 3 at the Museums Discovery Centre.

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