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Norwich Heart, Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust

George "Dodger" Kerrison

George "Dodger" Kerrison 1901 -1995 

Dodger, as many Norwich residents would have known him, was a respected and well-loved character in this City.

Before, and for years after, the Second World War that old saying, "make do and mend", was just what folk did routinely.  You didn't throw away an otherwise serviceable pram because it had a damaged wheel or a bicycle because it had a broken chain; in Norwich you took your machine to Dodger's shop where he would mend it for you.

George Kerrison, the first "Dodger" (so named because of his habit of dodging about), started the business in 1890 in Chapel Street, hiring his penny-farthings and other (desperately uncomfortable, by modern standards) bicycles at tuppence an hour.  Percy joined the business in 1911 as a 10-year-old.  He was set to work oiling bikes and repairing the old, solid tyres.  Percy had embarked on a long career in the business he inherited from his father, selling, repairing and hiring out bicycles.

From Chapel Street the business moved between streets a couple of times before settling into Trinity Street.  Percy gained a reputation among young and old alike.  People who visited the shop remember that elderly folk would come to the shop for a few pieces of coal for their evening fire.  Others recall how, in times of war shortages, customers would approach Dodger if they wanted the odd piece of metal or wood, and he could be relied upon to produce the very thing from somewhere inside his shop.  Surely, Dodger's thrifty re-cycling habit should win him a "green" approval award if he were still working in that business today.

Percy's expertise as a mechanical engineer was but one strand of his range of abilities.  He was skilled with his pen, composing such advertisements for his shop as, "Where Your Grandfather Learnt to Ride a Cycle" followed by a little light-hearted poem on the theme of had you got your bicycle chain repaired at Dodgers, you would not have missed another encounter with that girl which could have led to marriage and a happy family life.   

A photograph taken during the last War shows a group of American GI's, with Percy's brother Fred, each astride one of Percy's bicycles which the Americans were pleased to hire for the convenience of travelling around their large, airfield bases.  More accustomed to driving automobiles, the servicemen were amused by Percy's three-gear bicycles, painting them in various colours and patterns for easier recognition on their bases.  It is also said that his reputation reached the attention of the Royal Family at Sandringham House where his bicycles were ridden.

During the 1950's Percy established an Olde Tyme Cycling Club that led to his being filmed by Pathé News, spreading his fame countrywide.  Many curiosities formed his bicycle collection, such as a flying bedstead (an old iron bed-head fashioned into a bicycle), the bone-shaker and the penny-farthing.  On his death the collection went to the National Cycle Museum which is now based in Wales at Llandrindod Wells.

He died in November 1995, just a day before his 94th birthday, and he was commemorated in the "Eastern Evening News" by an article on his long career in the bicycle trade.  He was pictured with his sister, Elsie who worked alongside him in the business.

Sources:

  • Norwich Millennium Library store N942.615 by Joyce Gurney Road - "Norwich Businesses", Box D-E.
  • Eastern Evening News: 10th & 17th November 1995, articles by Derek James.

Kirsty Way

July 2008