Forest Gate: hub of Victorian bike manufacturers

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

 What is now the almost exclusively residential suburb of Forest Gate was, a little over a century ago, a significant cycle manufacturing district, as a survey of local trade directories and newspapers at the turn of the last century demonstrates.

Map showing locations of 17 Forest Gate cycle
manufacturers at turn of 20th century

In this, the first of three articles on the subject, we examine the locations of seventeen local bike manufacturers, show adverts promoting their wares and provide upto date news and photos on what has subsequently happened to the premises.

In next week's edition we will reproduce, verbatim, a lengthy and fascinating account of the operations of one of the workshops, from The Forest Gate Weekly News of 1897. Finally, we'll offer a little illustration of the bikes in action, 100 plus years ago.

There was a plethora of bike manufacturers, builders and repairers in Forest Gate at the turn of the 20th century, according to the Kelly's Directories of the time (1900 and 1902), whose descriptions we adopt, below.

One explanation for this may be that they were relatively cheap businesses to establish and that workers having learnt the ropes in one of the manufacturers left and set up in competition. We do not know who the first local maker was.

Interestingly, most were clustered within a couple of hundred yards radius of Wanstead Park railway station.

We would be delighted to hear from anyone who can shed further light on this fascinating piece of Forest Gate's industrial heritage.

The map, above, indicates the locations of each of the seventeen sets of premises we have been able to track down. The numbers on the map are in the sequence of the  alphabetical order of the streets in which they were located. The numbers relate to the emboldened numbers in the list below

Avenue Road

(1) 33 - Percival Tyler, a repairer.  The house still stands (see photo) and is next to some railway arches, which probably acted as the workshop.


Site of former cycle repairer,
Percival Tailor, Avenue Road
Brownlow Road

(2) 17 - Lewis Brothers, cycle makers - the building no longer exists, the site is now effectively part of Anna Neagle Close.
(3) 27 - George Smart, cycle maker- the building no longer exists, the site is now effectively part of Anna Neagle Close.

Dames Road

(4) 24 and 26 - Clark Brothers Cycle Company Limited. The buildings no longer exist and were probably at what is now the entrance to Vera Lynn Close.  See advert and photograph - the subject of the main report from Forest Gate Weekly News.

Advert in Forest Gate Weekly News, about
the time of their article on the firm - see next week

Site of former Clark Brothers, cycle
manufacturers, Dames Road. See next
blog for full account of activities

Forest Lane

(5) 7b - Charles Absell and Co, cycle manufacturer - the building no longer exists it is now effectively at the end of the Forest Gate Community school playground.
(6) 107 - Neale and Co Cycle makers - the building no longer exists.
(7) 144 - Parfett Bros, cycle makers- building no longer exists.

Odessa Road

(8) 101 - Kingston and Co, cycle manufacturers - the building no longer exists and the site is now part of a post World War 2 housing development.

Ridley Road

(9)51 - Harry Owen Wise, cycle manufacturer - the building is now a house (see photo).

51 Ridley Road, location of Harry Owen,
cycle manufacturer, at the turn of 20th century

Sebert Road

(10) 1 -Red Rose Cycles - J Elston and Sons, cycle makers The house still stands and the factory was probably in a workshop at the side of the house (see photo and advert).

1899 advert for J Elston cycles

Location of Red Rose Cycles -
J Elson and Sons, Sebert Road
Upton Lane

(11) 2/4/6/8/10 - Kerry and Morgan (see advert), now post World War 2 building and site of Swan housing company (see photo).


Forest Gate News' advert for
Kerry and Morgan, Upton Lane

Current buildings on site of Kerry and Morgan
cycle manufacturers, Upton Lane
Woodford Road

(12) 2 - Frank Creighton, cycle manufacturer  - the site is now fronted by an advertising hoarding (see photo).


Current site of Frank Creighton, 2 Woodford Road

(13) 10 - Matthew Brothers, cycle makers - now site of Kekeli hairdressers (see photo).

Location of Matthew Brothers,
cycle manufacturers, Woodford Road
(14) 24 - 28 Charlie Cripps, cycle maker - now site of Newman's MOT garage (see photo).

Buildings on site of former Charlie Cripps,
cycle manufacturer, Woodford Road
(15) 35 - AV Ransley, cycle maker, now part of the site of a modern housing development, opposite the Cripps, above (see photo).

Site of former cycle maker,
AV Ransley, Woodford Road

Woodgrange Road

(16) 7 - Hussey Cycle repairs and accessories, now the site of Sharon's clothes shop (see photo and advert).

Site of Hussey, cycle repairs and
accessories, 7 Woodgrange Road


Forest Gate Weekly News'
advert for Hussey's cycle repairs
(17) 149 - Frederick Clark and Co, cycle manufacturers.  This factory no longer exists, but was located underneath the railway arches on Woodgrange/Woodford Roads, just south of where the Forest Gate Youth Centre currently stands, and was an annexe of the Clark Brothers factory in Dames Road, above (see next week's article, for a fascinating detailed description of activities at the firm).

Formerly 149 Woodgrange Road,
location of Frederick Clark and Co


 

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