Prentice's cycle shop (Republished August 2016 with family photograph).

Austin Prentice on penny farthing
Prentice's circa 1981
Prentice's High Street shop
Prentice's 1950's
The Prentice family c.1916. In front is Dorothy, and behind her, from the left - Gladys, John Dix, Emily Frances and Austin.
Christie Prentice-Harrison

John Dix Prentice started with a shop in Manor Park in 1888. He moved to Wickford in 1902 and started on the present site at London Road.

In these early days times were very difficult and one day John Dix had to cycle to Rayleigh to collect some money owing him so his young family could have their Christmas dinner.

Many times the river Crouch flooded and in 1937 the family cat made local headlines as “The Swimming Cat” as it had swam through the flooded river, much to the delight of local reporters.

The river also flooded in the fifties, and we have all seen the picture of the submerged bus in the flooded High Street in front of the shop. My own memories of that night are of being trapped overnight with my mother and sister until we were eventually rescued the next day.

We have had a few famous customers over the years including Stirling Moss, Julian Dicks and many Essex cricketers and the most notorious; Ronnie Kray, who pulled up outside the shop in a big Limo and asked if he could purchase a second hand moped.

Many years later I saw a documentary on the Kray twins and I saw the same moped being ridden around a campsite at Steeple by a young man.

My grandfather, John Dix Prentice, served in World War I with great distinction. He had many close calls during his time, including one occasion whilst working on an army vehicle some shrapnel came across from the German lines and killed the two men standing either side of him leaving him completely unscathed.

He had another great love, apart from bicycles, and that was railway-engines. When drinking in the Castle pub they could hear the trains arriving at the station and John would tell his companions that he could tell them what type of train and the number,  just from the sound of the train. They would then have a wager, which John Dix would invariably win.

He died in 1948 and is buried in the cemetery on Runwell Road.

The shop has many distinctions including being known as the oldest cycle retailer in the U.K.

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  • My mother, Brenda Holman, worked part-time for Prentice doing book-keeping in a small building behind the shop. That was around 1959-61 I’m guessing. I often went there from Junior school to meet her and then walk home to Elizabeth Drive. We couldn’t afford to buy a new bike though, so I don’t remember ever going into the shop itself!

    By Peter Holman (09/10/2022)
  • I started a section of the Cyclists’ Touring Club in SE Essex in 1975 and we met outside Prentice Cycles. The group is still in operation and, I think, still meet in the same place. In 2015 they celebrated their 40th anniversary.
    I lived in Swan Lane so Prentice was my local cycle shop. I remember Vaughan Prentice and his father as well as a mechanic who lived at Rettendon I think. Was his name Brian?
    I moved to Oxfordshire in 1977 and am still cycling.

    By David Hibberd (17/01/2021)
  • In reply to Gary’s question about lady called Hetti. She was our housekeeper after the death of my beloved mum, and after all these years I remember the way she looked after us!!

    By Vaughan prentice (05/01/2021)
  • My mother used to work across the road in Dons Greengrocer in the late 60s early 70s. I am sure that she was good friends with a lady I believe called “Hetti”? I thought that she was from Prentice’s, but I’m not sure?
    I used to go to the shop in the morning with my mother before going to Wickford County Infant/Junior school

    By Gary Osborne (01/01/2021)
  • I have fond memories of the penny farthing in the window for many years. I remember taking various bikes round the back to the work shop for Vaughan to mend.

    By GARY TOWNSEND (20/11/2020)
  • Was great to meet Vaughan today at Stow Maries Aerodrome. He showed us around. Really enjoyed his tour and stories. He told us about his Grandfather.

    By TONY BOURKE (20/04/2019)
  • I remember Vaughan going to the Windmill pub with ‘the gang’ in 1975! I moved to Jersey.

    By Marie singleton (05/05/2018)
  • My wife apparently, is a distant relative to the Prentices. Her grandmother was a cousin to John Dix, and there is reference to a family of Sings who married into the Prentice family some time ago.

    By BOBCROOT (19/06/2013)
  • Hi, You may not remember me but St Pierre might trigger the memory. It was nice to read the article on the family cycle shop, pity it had to be taken over.

    By Ian Mott (01/11/2012)

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