Until its closure in 2013 Howes of Cambridge was the world’s oldest bicycle shop – it is now to become a pub called The Old Bicycle Shop.
Cambridge News has a PDF of the designs for the proposed pub. The plan includes an antique-style header board and the hanging of a vintage bicycle on an exterior wall.
John Howes & Sons was founded on Regent Street, Cambridge, in 1840, originally as a coach-builder and wheel-wrights.
Store and family historian Richard Howes said:
“Family legend has it that one of the [Howes family] went to Paris to an exposition in 1868, saw this strange two wheeled thing and thought ‘I could make that with the equipment we already have in Cambridge.’ So he did."
That would have been a boneshaker. From the boneshaker Coventry bike builders developed the ‘penny farthing’ and John Howes & Sons made and sold these.
“[Our family] still has one of the high wheelers we made back then,” said Howes.
John’s great-great-great-grandson Michael Howes was the last to run the shop, alongside his wife Pat.
According to family legend, John Howes & Sons sold a bicycle to Charles Darwin. Darwin died in 1882, before the introduction of the Safety bicycle. Might have he bought a high-wheeler? Unlikely. A tricycle then? Possible.
Since the closure of Howes, Pearson Cycles of London has become the world’s oldest still-trading bicycle shop.