Penny farthings dominated cycling throughout the 1870s, but they were not suitable for lady riders. As a result, tricycles were developed that a lady could mount from the front, thereby keeping both her dress dry and her modesty intact. These big wheel tricycles were very expensive and only really suitable for city use, as a tricycle’s middle wheel did not fare well on the rutted roads of the countryside.
It was not considered acceptable for women to ride until Queen Victoria purchased two tricycles in 1881. This had a major impact on the sale of tricycles, and within a few years society ladies were riding their tricycles through Hyde Park to meet for tea on Sundays.
‘Big wheel’ tricycles were designed with the third, smaller wheel either in front or behind. The steering was controlled by a handle and an eccentric axle turned the wheels. In the case of the tricycle featured here, the axle is connected to a sprocket and chain to turn the wheel. It’s interesting to consider how this arrangement would have influenced the idea of sprocket and chain for ‘safety’ bicycles in the early 1880s.
Not many juvenile versions of these ‘open’ tricycles were advertised at the time, the problem being that they cost nearly as much to make as adult tricycles. The example featured here is suitable for a teenager so the company might have charged the same price as a full size version. There are maybe a few dozen adult open tricycles in the hands of museums and serious collectors, but not many juvenile size ‘hay-fork’ tricycles survive today.
1881 Juvenile Open (Hay-fork) Tricycle
Similar to ‘The Favourite’
30″ Front wheels
15″ Rear wheel
This wonderful relic might be considered the equivalent of a ‘dinosaur’ in the evolution of bicycles. It’s worth noting that, while modern motorcycles could consider early bicycles to be their ancestors, the automobile was descended from tricycles such as this. Even more interesting is that fact that it was so well made that it is still possible to ride it today, 140 years later.
This ‘hay-fork’ tricycle has a very similar frame to the ‘The Favourite’ made by Timms & Co of Coventry. Only an adult tricycle from this company is illustrated, with heavy duty chain sprockets. I believe the sprockets on this example are different to the adult ‘Favourite’ as the lighter weight of a younger rider enabled a simpler (cheaper) design and lightweight chain and sprocket arrangement.
It appears original apart from the seat which has been replaced at some time during its life. It was repainted many decades ago. It’s suitable for a teenage rider, and it is strange at first to use treadles for motivation rather than the type of pedals we are used to ride with nowadays.
TIMMS & CO
East St, Coventry
Timms worked for Haynes & Jefferis in 1876. The firm was a manufacturer of ‘Coventry Favourite’, ‘Coventry Imperial’ and ‘Coventry Perfection’ high-wheelers from Raglan Street, Coventry, Warwickshire, from c.1878 and then from East Street Works, Coventry, from c.1881-82 as Timms & Co. It was renamed Bayliss Timms in 1879.
A steering wheel was first used in Europe in 1894 and became standard on French Panhard cars in 1898. But the first automobiles were steered with a tiller controlling the rear wheels. Automobile tillers were copied from the steering arrangement on this type of tricycle. A steering handle next to the rider’s seat operates a long steering rod that connects to the rear fork. The fork turns the single rear wheel to steer the tricycle.
Rather than an open tricycle like their adult machines (above), Caroche made their juvenile tricycles (below) with the tiller operating a front wheel, which was a much simpler design and cheaper to build. That style of juvenile tiller & treadle tricycle was made until World War Two, and promoted for young girls (with the velocipede tricycle suggested for young boys).
UNDERSIDE OF THE HAY-FORK TRICYCLE