I am fortunate that since writing the book - 'Marguerite Wilson- The First Star of Woman's Cycling' several unexpected opportunities have come my way. These include an extensive photo archive and meeting Jim Ayley age 101, who was friends with Marguerite. I have helped a couple of authors who included Marguerite in their publications and a third book about the Lands End to John O'Groats is due for publication soon. Last summer, out of the blue, one of my patients gave me a message from a friend who had up until 1990 had interviewed those who know Marguerite and who owned her 1940 Claud Butler!
I lost no time in contacting Ben Sharp by e-mail, then telephone. Ben is a friendly and easy- going vintage bicycle collector. I visited his home which is effectively a Bicycle Museum, three floors crammed with rare and exotic machines. The walls covered with cycling posters and pictures, each room warm and cosy from two wood burning stoves.
Ben has been 'Marguerista' for many years since acquiring her 1940 Claud Butler - Miss Modern. As was the norm in the post war years, ownership a high quality frame passed between knowledgable cyclists with its connection to Marguerite celebrated. Ben was able to tell me about its provenance and chain of owners. I must admit that at first glance it was not obvious that this was MW's bike. It is a machine that has been in working order and used throughout its life, and thus has evolved from its original configuration. The wheels, mudguards and brakes are post-war. But on closer inspection all the rest is correct. The frame in the right size, in excellent condition, the stem and handlebars are correct as is the Williams Crank. The feature which 'seals the deal' for me is the pre-war Four Speed Sturmey Archer Hub and the extremely rare pre-war Sturmey Archer 4-speed gear trigger. This configuration was rare and specific to MW's Bicycle and it was no coincidence that Charley Davey her Racing Manager was also a Representative for Sturmey Archer.
After a tour of his museum we spent the afternoon making photos of Ben's original CB next to my faithful re-creation. Then we had had a cup of tea and looked through his archive material and chatted about Marguerite with Ben's partner Lisa. I had a great day. Thanks Ben & Lisa for having me.