Charles Pugh & the Whitworth Cycle Co



Dan Rudge was one of the founders of the British cycle industry.

This website is dedicated not only to him but also to Charles Pugh, who created the Whitworth Cycle Co.

Overshadowed by Dan Rudge, the story of Charles Pugh and his family, and the Whitworth Cycle Co is not so well known…
rudge whitworth online museum 3

1889 rudge triplet

Rudge-Whitworth was formed in 1894 after the Whitworth Cycle Co Ltd rescued the ailing D. Rudge & Co. The trade mark was derived from the Whitworth, and the machines were mostly Whitworth designs.

Charles H. Pugh Ltd was the company behind Atco, the leading manufacturer of lawnmowers. The name Atco came from the Atlas Chain Co. Pugh’s companies also manufactured ironmonger’s supplies, and developed from that into making bicycle components. By 1891, the Whitworth Cycle Co was formed to manufacture the company’s own bicycles. The famous Rudge-Whitworth insignia – an open hand with a cycle wheel behind – was actually Whitworth’s logo.

A company that made their own components was at a considerable advantage, as quality control was easier to guarantee. In 1893, with increasing demand for their bicycles, Whitworth became a limited company and had to look for larger premises. The takeover of Rudge the following year was a logical progression.

Though the headquarters of the new company were registered back at Crow Lane in Coventry, the reins of the business were very firmly held in the grasp of the Pugh family, while the original Charles H Pugh Ltd business continued from Whitworth Works as a supplier of parts and sub-assemblies to Rudge-Whitworth and as manufacturer of other trade components.

With the Pugh family providing the necessary management structure to see the combined company of Rudge-Whitworth develop into one of Great Britain’s leading manufacturers of bicycles and motorcycles.

rudge whitworth online museum 3



Based at Whitworth Works, Rea Street South, Birmingham, Charles H Pugh Ltd had developed from manufacturers of screws and ironmongers’ sundries, into suppliers of bicycle fittings and stampings to other trade manufacturers.

In 1891, to utilise spare capacity at the Whitworth factory, Pugh decided to start manufacturing complete bicycles, forming The Whitworth Cycle Company with Charles Vernon Pugh as Managing Director and John Vernon Pugh as Works Manager. Requiring a trademark, the new Whitworth bicycles adopted the device of an open red hand superimposed upon a bicycle wheel, registered to Charles Henry Pugh of Birmingham – screw and velocipede manufacturer.

The company was incorporated in 1893 with capital of £50,000 in £1 shares. The first directors were C. H. Pugh, A. F. Bird, J. S. Taylor, F. Parkes, J. Whitfield, and C. V. Pugh (son of Charles Pugh and general manager). It was based Rea Street, and also at 7 Stephenson Place, Birmingham, Warwickshire.

In 1891 the company took on J. H. Adams as sales manager from Buckingham & Adams (which had ceased trading). It also took on F. J. Osmond, the crack racing cyclist, as works manager and designer. Osmond designed models that were in advance of the times. Alfred F. Bird, 24 hours record holder on tandem tricycle, became chairman. The first appearance of a ‘Whitworth’ bicycle was at the Stanley Show in November 1891 when 16 safeties and two high-wheelers were on display.

The company found it necessary to expand, became limited, and moved to larger works at South Sea Street, Birmingham. In 1891, John Vernon Pugh became works manager, relegating Osmond to assistant works manager. P. C. Wilson took over as manager of the London Branch at the end of 1893.

A tandem was added to the range of machines for 1894. The 1894 No.8 ‘Whitworth’ racer was advertised as weighing 18-23 lb., according to size and cost £27. In October 1894 the Whitworth Cycle Co rescued the ailing D. Rudge & Co to form Rudge Whitworth Ltd.

Meanwhile, in 1894 Osmond and Adams left the company and formed the Osmond Cycle Co. Ltd.

By 1896 there was a combined catalogue showing Rudge-Whitworth, Rudge and Whitworth machines.

According to Bryan Reynolds, production of cycles increased from 9,000 in 1895 to 18,000 in 1896 and to 25,000 in 1897.

rudge whitworth online museum 3

Below, you can see the 1895 Rudge Racer with Mr and Mrs Henderson. Mrs Henderson is the great grand-daughter of Charles H Pugh.

rudge copy

rudge whitworth online museum 3

whitworth cycles copy

rudge whitworth online museum 3


Whitworth Works, Birmingham 9

charles h pugh ltd atco

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