The oldest cyclist in the UK
At the age of 80, Mordaunt Martin Monro was advised by his doctor to take up tricycle riding. He was assured that this would add ten years to his life. Mr Monro was to be seen pedaling around near his home in Enfield, Middlesex, until shortly before his death at the age of 92 on 21 March 1899. The cycling press named him ‘the oldest wheelman in the United Kingdom’.
1880s tricycle from Nauticus in Scotland - A tricycle tour of 2,462 miles. Including Skye & the West coast (London, 1888) Digital Store 10370.d.28 BL flickr
Monro’s dedication to tricycling was shared by his friend Daniel Gilsenan. In his 80s, Mr Gilsenan was a familiar sight in Enfield riding a tricycle which pulled a trailer carrying his widowed sister Justina Clark as a passenger. Most appropriately, Daniel lived in Raleigh Road.
Mordaunt Martin Monro was the child of Captain James Monro of the East India Company’s maritime service by his second wife Caroline née Martin. He was born at Hadley in Middlesex on 3 November 1806, just a fortnight before his father died. His mother had him educated at home by tutors, and he then received practical instruction in agriculture at nearby Rectory Farm. At the age of 22, Monro took over Bury Farm in Southbury Road and his mother lived there with him until her death in 1848. Daniel Gilsenan worked as his farm bailiff for 26 years, and his sister Jane was servant and housekeeper for Monro for over 30 years. When Monro retired from the farm, he lived with Daniel and his wife Lucy.
Monro was associated with Richard Cobden and John Bright in anti-corn laws agitation, and in 1849 was a founder member of the National Freehold Land Society, also known as the National Permanent Mutual Benefit Society. The Society aimed to enable working men to acquire 40 shilling freeholds and thereby the right to vote. Monro served as director, trustee and chairman, and remained connected to the Society until his death.
Both Caroline and Mordaunt Monro joined the Society of Friends and attended the meeting house at Winchmore Hill. Mordaunt supported the anti-slavery movement and the 1850s Peace Movement. He was a regular and generous donor to the Enfield and Tottenham Hospitals, and paid £5 a year to fund the winding of the clock at Enfield Church. Although said to be of a retiring disposition, Monro held public office, as Poor Law overseer and then as one of the first members of the local board of health.
Mordaunt Monro was also involved in the temperance movement. He began to abstain from drinking alcohol in 1840 and founded the first Temperance Society in Enfield, using a converted barn as a meeting place. This barn was also used as premises for an evening school. In August 1843 he hosted at his farm a meeting of the Total Abstinence Society which was addressed by the Irish celebrity temperance campaigner Father Mathew. Hundreds of people attended on a very hot day and were supplied with temperance refreshments from tents erected in a large field. The temperance pledge was taken by about 400 people on that day.
Father Mathew at Enfield - Hertford Mercury and Reformer 19 August 1843 British Newspaper Archive
Daniel Gilsenan survived his friend for five years. He died on 1 August 1904 at his house in Raleigh Road. Enfield had now lost both of its most elderly cyclists.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
British Newspaper Archive – Hertford Mercury and Reformer 19 August 1843, Westminster Gazette 24 March 1899, The Middlesex Gazette 25 March 1899, Soulby’s Ulverston Advertiser and General Intelligencer 17 September 1903.
Previous posts about Captain James Monro -
The sale of East India Company maritime commands
Private trade and pressed men – the voyage of the Houghton to China