Fred Wood was born in Rushden on March 1st 1861, and just one month old when the 1861 census was taken.
He first worked at a greengrocer’s but then took an apprenticeship to learn carpentry. He was a keen cyclist and began competing in races, and this prompted him to move to Leicester in about 1878, where there were better training facilities and he had stronger competition to ride against. His favoured cycle was a 57" Humber 'penny farthing', weighing about 19lbs.
Before moving to Leicester, Fred was a member of Northampton's Rovers Cycling Club. Between 1880 and 1889 he won many championship events at every level and in 1883 won all championship races from 1 mile to 50 miles. He won the silver belt for the 20 miles championship of the world three times in succession, the final mile in the last contest being at Leicester in August 1883, in a time of 2 minutes 312/5 seconds.
In December 1884 the "Cyclist" magazine reported that Fred was suffering a bout of rheumatism. By March the following year he was in Eastbourne to recouperate, having lost over two stones in weight. Whilst riding his racing cycle there he hit a rut and he broke his arm in falling.
For the 'fastest time' for a mile of 2 minutes 33 seconds in an open race in 1886, he received a diamond medal from Hartford Cycling Club, USA. He won the public Silver Cup three times in succession against the Australians and the diamond and ruby medal for the last great championship race with England and America at Aston. On the 4th August 1889 at Perry Bar, Aston, he became World Champion and retired soon after, and he received an “illuminated address” as the ‘Champion Bicyclist of the World’ later that year.
He had raced in England, America and Australia and had won the Jubilee Cup against the Australians three times in succession. Punch magazine at sometime carried a poem citing him, "Ye Cyclists of Britain".
In January 1884 he'd married a Leicester girl. They had a son Frederick Thomas.
Fred became a licensed victualler and moved his family to South Shields. He eventually became elected as a councillor for the St Hilda’s Ward in 1914 and he served on several committees including finance and health. His public life also included being the President of the Charity Carnival, supporting the Ingham Infirmary, the Institution for the Blind, and a Fund for Shoeless Children.
In Market Place, as well as landlord of the Mariner’s Arms, he was in partnership with a Mr Johnson and they ran a café business there. Fred held a licence for 47 years and became Chairman of the Licensed Victuallers Association.
June 1933 saw Fred on his Humber cycle again, for an Exhibition Ride in aid of Ingham Infirmary Sports Prize Fund that year.
A surprise party was organised for his 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1934, at the café. His fellow councillors and friends had subscribed to present him a gold cigarette case, and also a gold wristwatch for his wife. Other gifts included a presentation by their son Fred - also a licensed victualler, of gold fountain pen to Fred and a clock to his mother, being gifts from the directors and staff of Messrs Johnson & Wood of Sunderland (the café business), Mr Johnson being unable to attend.
Sadly Fred died on 28th January 1935, having fallen down the new cellar steps two days before. At the inquest the coroner declared "accidental death" following a fracture at the base of the skull.
News clips and a sketch of the "ordinary" cycle
Reprinted from - Bicycling News and Motor Review, November 18, 1914.
There are men living in the cycle trade to-day who will remember the old "ordinary" racing days, though their numbers are growing smaller year by year; and they will call to mind one of the finest professionals who ever whirled the pedals of the graceful old mount which made such a picturesque figure in the sports meetings between the 'seventies and the 'nineties of the last century. This was Fred Wood, the Leicester rider, contemporary with Dick Howell, the Englishes, Ralph Temple and other celebrities who were well known on the Wolverhampton, Alexandra Park, Leicester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Aston tracks. The memory of those day is brought back by the announcement that the erstwhile professional bicycle rider always one of the straightest and best of the whole bunch of them has just been elected as Town Councillor of South Shields, where he has been the proprietor of an hotel for several years. I congratulate him on his election, though I have not the least idea what his politics are but I have known him ever since he was a stripling on the track, and always admired him for his courageous and straightforward riding. There are a lot of other people connected with the trade and pastime who will be glad to hear of the honours he has gained, for Fred Wood was greatly respected, and was certainly one of the very best of "the old school". From his picture quite recently taken one would hardly believe he was born so long ago as 1861: but his was a name to conjure with in the early 'eighties, and I should say the won as many prizes in cash and kind (he has all the latter carefully preserved and there are some most valuable trophies amongst them in the shape of cups, belts, watches etc) as any man who ever sat across the backbone of a highcycle. I remember as well as if it occurred yesterday the last race in which he competed on the path. It was at Aston in 1889, at one of the big Sport and Play meetings, and the distance was ten miles, with pretty well nearly every professional of eminence competing including all those before-mentioned in this paragraph. It had been a ding-dong race for the whole distance for Ralph Temple a very game and speedy little rider from America had made the pace very hot all the way, with others following hard in his wake. The last lap was about as terrific a quarter as anybody has ever seen, for the men were so close together that it was only by superb riding that a bad .smash was missed. When they came into the long straight for home. Dick Howell and Temple were leading with Bob English well up, and Wood looking hopelessly out of it, fourth and in the middle of the track. Suddenly, in the effort of finishing, the three first-named swerved, and left a gap in the centre, and before you could say Jack Robinson Fred Wood darted through like a bolt from a bow, and won a most sensational race by less than a foot, but enough to give him quite a pronounced victory. The great crowd cheered again and again; for, if they wondered where he came from, they were glad to see him arrive, and instantly recognised an effort that was nothing short of superb, and a lightning - like acceptation of a chance that crowned his career with a really wonderful feat. I have been tempted into reminiscence, but perhaps the story is worth telling: and anyhow, it gives me a chance of saying in point that I hope he will have a long and happy experience as a town councillor, and of reintroducing him to friends who knew and admired him long ago. [the writer is not credited]
From CYCLING February 6, 1935
[Repeated 9th Feb 1985]
The death of Mr Fred Wood of South Shields, a highly respected "old-timer", who won over 100 races, has just occurred under rather tragic circumstances. Aged 73, Mr Wood sustained severe head injuries through falling down the cellar steps of his home, "The Mariners' Arms", South Shields, of which he was the licensee.
This former champion cyclist of the world was born at Rushden, Northamptonshire. His career as a cyclist began in 1878, when he joined the Leicester CC. He had raced in many differen parts of the world, including Australia and America, and in the late 80s - before the formation of the Union Cycliste Internationale - "Freddie" retired as the World Professional Path Champion. He was a member of the South Shields Town Council for over 20 years, being first elected in 1914.
The funeral was attended by over 2,000 people.
|Wellingborough News, 24th June 1882, transcribed by Kay Collins
TWENTY-FIVE MILES CHAMPIONSHIP EXCITING RACE ANOTHER DEAD-HEAT
About 2,000 spectators visited the Leicestershire Cricket Ground last Saturday evening to witness the running off of the dead heat between F. Wood, of Leicester, and R. James, of Birmingham, for the above-mentioned championship. The Aylestone Ground Company, who are the promoters of the event, give a magnificent belt (value £25), with £25 added money, and it will be remembered that the first race for the trophy was run off on June 17, when, after a splendid race, Wood and James finished together, with Waller some 20 yards in the rear, the other competitors, Keen and Garrad, cracking up at 20 miles. Never was there more interest evinced in any bicycle race than in the running off of the dead-heat last Saturday evening, and it being well known that both men were in excellent condition it was generally expected that another severe race would be witnessed. A start was made shortly after seven o'clock, James going off with the lead, but ere a lap had been completed the local man had gone to the head of affairs. It soon became apparent, however, that neither cared to make the pace, and during the progress of the first ten miles matters were exceedingly uninteresting and even monotonous. Two or three times the men brought their machines to a standstill, much to the amusement of the spectators; but after completing ten miles38 min. 13 sec.the local man settled down to his work, and made an effort to shake off his formidable opponent. The Birmingham man, however, was quite equal to the emergency, and at fifteen miles 58 min. 18 secs.the two were still in close company, Wood leading. Directly after this the local man eased up for a breather, and James seemed glad of the opportunity to follow suit. A lap later Wood was at work again, and took his antagonist along at a merry pace. ln the forty-ninth circuit the Birmingham representative shot to the front and made an effort to gain some advantage over his rival, but Wood objected to this, and was soon in hot pursuit. The twentieth mile was recorded in 1 hour 13 min. 42 secs. Wood at this time leading, with James close up. As the finish drew near, the excitement among the spectators grew intense, but although Wood was going a good pace, no change occurred in the position of the men until just previous to the bell signalling the last lap, when James put on a grand spurt, and passing his opponent was soon leading by three or four lengths. Matters at this stage looked very dicky for the local pet, and loud shouts were expressed in favour of James. The local man, however, came down the hill with lightning speed, and rounding the straight the two were again in close company. A tremendous struggle home ensued, and amid great excitement the two riders finished on the tape in a direct line, and for the second time the judge was obliged to give in a "dead heat." Time for full distance, 1 hour 29min. 34sec. At a meeting of the men and their supporters, held in the hotel, shortly after the race, it was decided to run off again this Saturday evening, to be on the mark at 6.50.
|Wellingborough News, 26th August 1882, transcribed by Kay Collins
THE TWENTY MILES' BICYCLE CHAMPIONSHIP
On Monday evening the match for the Twenty Miles' Bicycle Championship of the World was held at the Belgrave-road Grounds, Leicester, in the presence of about 1,500 spectators. The following well-known riders entered for the event: P. Kaye, Wolverhampton; Derkinderin, Coventry; F. Wood, Leicester; R. Howell, Wolverhampton; C. R. Garrard, Uxbridge; G. W. Warwick (late Owen), Birmingham; G. Waller, Newcastle; J. Keen, London; R. W. Edlin, Leicester; and H. O. Duncan. There was a strong wind blowing from the west, and this somewhat retarded the progress of the cyclists when going along the track from the Belgrave-road end of the ground, but despite this the time in which the feat was performed was remarkably near the record time for the 20 miles. Of the nine who entered for the event two failed to put in an appearanceDuncan and Keen. The seven mounted shortly after 6.30, and, the pistol fired, Garrard shot off with the lead, which he maintained for the first two miles, being followed by Wood, Waller, Derkinderin, Howell, Warwick, and Edlin in the order named. He was, however, done over by Waller at the 2½ miles, and Wood, putting on a spurt, was at the front when the riders passed the post for the third mile. Several changes occurred during the next eight laps (two miles), but Derkinderin was ahead with Waller second, Garrard third, and Wood fourth, for the five miles the time being 16mins. 17secs. The Coventry man kept his position for another mile, when he gave way to Wood, and he, in turn, to Howell, who led at the tenth mile, with the time at 32min. 31secs., the others in order being Wood, Garrard, Derkinderin, Waller, with Kaye and Edlin some distance behind. Two laps later Derkinderin again went to the front, but at the eleventh mile Waller had taken his place, which he retained for the next two miles. Changes became general up to the fourteenth mile, and two circuits more having been completed Warwick, who had hitherto been some 150 yards behind, put on a spurt, and took up third position. Wood was the leader at the 15th mile, Garrard second, with War wick, Derkinderin, Waller, and Howell following in their wake in the order named, and Kaye and Edlin just one lap behind. Time 49min. 31secs. These were the respective positions of the riders until 16½ miles had been traversed. Warwick then had a spin to obtain the lead, but Wood kept him behind, and the Leicester man maintained the chief post until 17½ miles were up. About 150 yards further Garrard went to the front, but Warwick passed him immediately afterwards, and he, in turn, had to make way for Howell, who was ahead of Garrard when eighteen miles were hoisted, Derkinderin third, Waller fourth, Wood fifth, and Warwick sixth, Kayne and Edlin being altogether out of the race. Wood tried to gain his lost ground in the next lap but his exertions proved useless, for the Wolverhampton man seemed determined to keep his opponents in the rear. The Leicester favourite now gradually dropped back, and gave up in the last round, Kaye, Edlin and Warwick doing likewise. Meanwhile the contest rested with Howell, Grarrard, Derkinderin, and Waller. There was now a magnificent race for the honours of first position. At the nineteenth mile Howell led, with the Uxbridge rider second, the Coventry cyclist third, and Waller fourth. These were their respective positions at 19¾ miles. About 150 yards from home Garrard made a grand effort, and coming alongside Howell within about ten yards of the post be dashed in front of the Wolverhampton man and won a most exciting contest by about a yard, Derkinderin and Waller being some yards behind, third and fourth respectively. Time, 1 hour 5 mins. 41 secs.