The Dursley Pedersen was not popular in its day: the design flew in the face of convention, the bicycle market was extremely competitive, and they were expensive. As is often the case, some years after the demise of the company, Mr. Pedersen was recognized as a genius, and the Dursley Pedersen bicycle has had a cult following ever since. One century down the road, Dursley Pedersen has become the most sought-after marque and good original examples have shot up in value.
This one is particularly rare, being a Size 3 with 24″ wheels. Every Dursley Pedersen was handbuilt, so customers could order a machine to suit their particular size. I measured this one at 35″ from the centre of the saddle to the ground, and 26″ from the centre of the saddle to the centre of the chainwheel. It would suit someone with an inside leg measurement around 28″.
Frame # 1149
This Dursley Pedersen is a unique example, being a smaller machine with 24″ wheels. The brake levers and cables were added later in its lifetime – it is extremely difficult to fix inverted lever brakes with integral cables, so the assumption is that a previous owner used the more practical solution of brake levers and cables. The paint is dull, and it was probably repainted many years ago. The frame is sound, the saddle is worn but usable, and it rides very well.
1905 DURSLEY PEDERSEN CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
KIPLING GARDENS, ROTTINGDEAN
This Dursley Pedersen was photographed in Kipling Gardens, Rottingdean (and also opposite, at the house that pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne Jones’ once owned). I’m a child of the 1950s so I grew up with Kipling’s Just So Stories. By the sixties, however, his writing was considered too old-fashioned for the school curriculum, and he subsequently went out of vogue. I wonder how many youngsters today realize that The Jungle Book was written by Kipling, not by Walt Disney? Despite many of his stories and poems not being ‘politically correct’ for 21st century sensibilities, he nevertheless remains popular around the world, and Kipling Gardens has become a pilgrimage spot for international visitors interested in British literature.
Apparently, despite a fondness for cars, Kipling did not drive, but rode a bicycle. He wrote ‘Captains Courageous’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ while living in Brattleboro, Vermont, in the USA. As a result of a feud with his neighbour and brother-in-law Beatty Balestier, who forced Kipling’s bicycle off the road with his carriage, Kipling returned to England in 1896 to avoid the embarrassment of a high-profile trial. He moved to Rottingdean the following year.
Because vehicles and machinery featured strongly in his early writings, at a time when they were still considered novelties, Kipling became an unofficial ‘poet laureate of engineers.’ His story entitled ‘.007’ was about railway trains that had personalities and spoke. Not everyone liked this new idea: according to a contemporary reviewer in MacMillan magazine:
Here all Mr. Kipling’s mania break loose all at once—there is the madness of American slang, the madness of technical jargon, and the madness of believing that silly talk, mostly consisting of moral truisms, is amusing because you put it into the mouths of machines…. It is no doubt true that machines have their idiosyncrasies, their personalities even; a bicycle can be nearly as annoying as a horse. For once in a way it may be good fun to push the fancy a little farther and attribute to them sentient life, but Mr. Kipling has overdone the thing.
With his keen interest in both cycling and engineering, the introduction of the Dursley Pedersen at the turn of the century would undoubtedly have interested Rudyard Kipling, and he may well have examined one personally. As he lived in Rottingdean from 1897, he could easily have visited the local Humber agent – the Brighton Cycle & Motor Co, 9 Marine Parade, Brighton.
The frame number was badly stamped at the factory. The number 3 on the right of the above photo denotes its frame size. The frame number appears to be 1149, which would mean it was manufactured around 1902-1904. It is possible that it was assembled and sold by Humber rather than Dursley Pedersen themselves.