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New book tells story of Norwich cycling dynasty

PUBLISHED: 08:34 23 March 2018

George Kerrison and young daughter Elsie outside the Royal Standard Cycle Depot in Chapel Street, Norwich, around 1926. Dressed smartly on the right is young Alfie Warminger.

George Kerrison and young daughter Elsie outside the Royal Standard Cycle Depot in Chapel Street, Norwich, around 1926. Dressed smartly on the right is young Alfie Warminger.

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Many books are written about 'people' while 'characters' tend to be just talked about. All that has changed with a new offering, at long last, on the world-famous Dodgers of Norwich. Derek James reports.

Members of the cycle cavalcade promoting the 1956 film Smiley in Gentleman’s Walk, with Percy and Elsie riding the Olympia trike and Ivan (Freddie’s son) behind on a Bantam bike,Members of the cycle cavalcade promoting the 1956 film Smiley in Gentleman’s Walk, with Percy and Elsie riding the Olympia trike and Ivan (Freddie’s son) behind on a Bantam bike,

This is the story about a Norwich family of working-class heroes who, after many years of graft, became a wealthy landowning dynasty.

And it seemed everyone knew them or had certainly heard of them.

Freddie and Percy outside the Suffolk Street shop in Norwich with the hospital chimney behind and a new block of flats on Union Street in the background.Freddie and Percy outside the Suffolk Street shop in Norwich with the hospital chimney behind and a new block of flats on Union Street in the background.

Many tales are still passed from one generation to the next about George Kerrison, his son Percy and other members of the clan who became known and loved as our very own Dodgers – who sold, repaired and championed cycles.

They were the bike barons. The celebrity cyclists. The kings of the road... and how we loved them.

This fascinating and important book has been put together by Ronnie Green, probably the last Dodger, and his wife Dawn Castle-Green who gathered all the information and family history – a huge amount of it – and who better to edit and produce the book than the cycling author Matthew Williams?

And what a magnificent piece of local history it is. Packed with highly entertaining and at times, moving, photographs and other illustrations telling the amazing story of this unique dynasty who always knew the value of publicity – and how to put a smile on people’s faces.

They were once the stars of a Pathe News reel in the cinema and their fame spread across the world... the GIs in the Second World War loved riding bikes from Dodgers and how he laughed when they fell off!

But it isn’t all joy-rides on bikes. The story of Dodgers takes some telling. The family and the council did not hit it off - and that’s an understatement.

Disputes went on for many years over being forced to move premises and it is important that they are told as part of local history. The stories help us understand the city we have today.

So how did the book come about?

“Last autumn I bumped into Dawn. I’d last spoke to her about seven years previously, when we’d discussed a book about Dodgers she was hoping to write,” explained Matthew.

This time around they were determined to finally get the story written down. “I shelved my other project to make sure it was really was seen through this time – after a number of past attempts by family members had run out of steam,” he said.

“It has been a humbling experience and a privilege for me as an outsider to be given access to a large archive of family papers and photos, and to be able to talk through them with Ronnie, Dawn and other members of the family as the book took shape,” he added.

“This all took several months sifting out the facts behind the legend, but we have got there and everyone seems happy with the result.

“It is not just a family history, it’s a multi-faceted story of the last century of Norwich, and definitely a tale to be shared with everyone who had a stake in our city,” said Matthew.

And his remarks are backed by Ronnie who added: “Ever since Percy Dodger died, my aunt and then my sisters had for a long time been wanting to get the story written down, so a few years back I asked Dawn to collect the stuff together and make something of it.”

Dawn said: “When I met Ronnie and got to know his Auntie Elsie, I quickly began to find out about the special and amazing history of the family who were such hard workers and acquired a lot of property, yet who lived with absolutely no airs and graces.

“Through no fault of their own, the Kerrisons all suffered enormous stress and upheaval as a result of being forced out of their home and workplace in the 1950s, and I particularly wanted that aspect of their story to be told,” she added.

It was an honour for me to be asked to write a foreword to this book on a family and a business/shop which so many of us grew up with. The story starts with Ronnie’s grandfather George Dodger Kerrison who lived in a poor Norwich suburb and set himself up as a dealer in the 1890s.

The business finally came to an end a century later with the retirement of Percy Dodger Kerrison and today there is a name over a corner property on Cambridge Street which simply says DODGER’S.

It was all we had to remind us of these great characters - until now.

Matthew, Ronnie and Dawn can be proud of a great book which also takes a look at the history of cycling in Norwich which once had dozens of bike shops.

The Story of Dodgers of Norwich is on sale priced £10 at Jarrold, City Books, P W Sears, newsagents, Unthank Road, Norwich, Brunswick General Stories, the Dozen Bakery, Newmarket Street, Ray Freeman Cycles, Heigham Street and Bicycle Links, King Street. You can order at www.smartcycletraining.co.uk/pages/books.html

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