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The cycling dynasty which proved two wheels are better than four

PUBLISHED: 15:07 11 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:36 11 August 2020

Percy

Percy "Dodger" Kerrison steers as James Ruddy holds on. Date: Sept 1983. Photo: EDP Library

Archant

There was one family, well a dynasty really, who would have been smiling, as more people take to the roads on bikes in these difficult times.

Mr Mr "Dodger" Kerrison with a World War One bicycle which was brought to his shop in Cambridge Street for repairs in September 1975 .The picture shows the rifle strappings on the bike, which is believed to be a B.S.J. model, and while it may look elderly, no doubt once it was restored the study model had many more miles in it. Picture: Archant Library

Their name was Kerrison but many of you will remember them as Dodger’s. They sold us cycles for a century.

Often, when we cast our minds back in time, the memory of the characters we meet along the way, stand out. We never forget them and wonder what they would make of sad days of lockdowns, face-masks and furlough.

With fewer cars and lorries about more cyclists have emerged. Cycling is good for our health, good for the environment…and also handy for those involved in the business.

Growing up in Norfolk of the 1950s it seemed most of us had bikes and would think nothing of heading out for the day on what were far quieter roads.

Norwich City Police pictured in Chapelfield Gardens in 1914 for the force annual inspection. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary ArchivesNorwich City Police pictured in Chapelfield Gardens in 1914 for the force annual inspection. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary Archives

Our market towns days all had cycle dealers and the people who ran them were all well-known faces and in many cases were our friends. Remember Cobbs at Diss?

I once got a real ticking off by PC Edwards of Diss for cycling with no back light. I never did it again.

Norwich led the way across the country when it came cycling. Mr Thorn of St Giles Gate first introduced the “Paris Velocipede” to the public in 1869 and there were demonstrations at Chapelfield Gardens.

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The Norwich Amateur Cycling Club was formed in 1879 and then the East Anglian Cycle Club appeared in the 1920.

A track complete with a stand for spectators was laid out at Recreation Ground off Earlham Road in Norwich and the racing was fast and furious. In the 1930s a national champion was a well-known policeman Len Woods.

And then was there was the race up Gas Hill in the city which attracted big crowds…you had to be fit to have a go at that.

Cycling has always attracted great characters and some of the biggest were those Dodger’s. They were brilliant at getting maximum publicity and the Dodger collection of vintage bikes was incredible and world famous.

Dodger Kerrison with a penny farthing bicycle in June 1967  Picture: Archant LibraryDodger Kerrison with a penny farthing bicycle in June 1967 Picture: Archant Library

They were rarely out of the news for one reason or another. They were also sharp and astute business people who owned a lot of property and certainly stood up for themselves.

As the original Dodger George Kerrison (1874-1935) announced: “A Norwich Celebrity. Why am I Known? Because I am an interesting person, once seen & heard, I’m never forgotten.”

How true.

Other members of the clan, the likes of Percy and Freddie, took over the business, and were rarely out of the news and they had a few run-ins with the local council!

Following the closure of the business and Percy’s death, Ronnie Green (arguably the last holder of the title Dodger) and his wife Dawn Castle-Green got together with cycle instructor and author Matthew Williams to tell the remarkable story in a book which came out a couple of years ago.

Look out for The Story of Dodgers of Norwich. It is still on sale in Jarrold and is a great read.


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