I’ve been working on Bikes and Bloomers for a grand total of 3 days now, but it’s probably safe to say I’ve been thoroughly swept up by the momentum of the project and the enthusiasm of the people working on it. It’s contagious.
Thinking about Victorians has suddenly become something I do a lot of.
My brief is to develop a Bloomer Ride that’ll take place month, so I was expecting to be thinking a little about Victorians, but also a fair bit about maps and roads and landmarks and architecture, however a little light contextual research into the background of one of our patentees – Alice Bygrave – has triggered something of a cascade.
It all started with a chance discovery of some online discussions on genealogy fora between distant relatives of Alice’s. Kat has already blogged about the impact of some of the images we discovered as a result of that, but there was more to come!
I was able to trace some contact details for the two branches of the family tree that were documenting their family history and, excitingly, both have got back to me this week with some more gems.
First a quick primer:
Our patentee Alice had a brother named Arthur (Duerre), and Arthur married Amelia Rosina Lane.
We’d recently found out that Amelia was a professional cyclist (under the name Rosina Lane), but on Sunday a descendant of the Lane family furnished us with a significant amount of genealogical data, including information that Arthur himself was also a sprint cyclist. Alongside this they had a copy of a news report of a court case that came about after a serious accident that looks like it may have put a stop to her cycling career:
The seriousness of the collision – the blow to the head, being trapped against the side of the bridge and the fall into the ravine – was very sobering in itself, but I think we were also struck by how it could so easily have been a contemporary incident.
Curious to find out more, but being neither familiar with Richmond Park nor likely to have an opportunity to visit it, I made a request to a cycling forum for people to suggest likely locations for the accident. This triggered a lovely discussion that included insight into what it feels like to ride along certain sections of the park; how much the landscaping of the grounds may or may not have changed over the last century; sharing of more archive newspaper articles and, the big question, “exactly how small can a ravine be”?
We’ve yet to identify the location, but the unexpected range of the contributions so far has more than made up for that!
This morning I received an email from a descendant of Arthur’s with some more information about the family and also an exciting collection of photos:
As well as another couple of images of Rosina in her cycling togs, we now also have two images of the watch and clockmaker’s shop that Arthur ran (with Rosina’s assistance).
Result: one smiley primary investigator!
I’ve been struck by how much this small corner of the research has been enriched by generous contributions from external networks: the families of some of our dramatis personae and the cycling forum. Tapping into existing pools of interests, research, geographical overlap, experience or whatever has bought a lot more to our understanding than we could have hoped to achieve had we relied solely on our own resources.
I’m loving the results, but I’m also very happy that the ownership in what we’re doing now spreads that little bit further beyond us.