1897 rudge factory 0

This company 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.

The main advantage derived from the merger appears to have been the acquisition of the name and goodwill of a long established and well-known company, together with a well established network of dealers at home and abroad.

On amalgamation H. O. Duncan resigned as manager of the Paris depot of Rudge as he refused to work for the new company. He then started up with Suberbie in the manufacture of French ‘After the Rudge’ cycles which were renamed Déesse.

The Rudge-Whitworth offices and staff were moved to Coventry in December 1895 although it is believed that manufacture of the main components continued at the former Whitworth works in Birmingham, Warwickshire, and machines continued to be offered under separate names until 1896.1533 To meet the invasion of cheap machines from the US, C. Vernon Pugh, the Managing Director, put the first £10 10s. complete bicycle on the market for 1897. This caused a sensation and led to a downfall of high prices. Frame fittings were now made from flat steel and bent into tubular form.1534 In 1897 the company had a branch at 16 Rue Halévy, Paris. In 1898 the Rudge Works were in Coventry and the Whitworth Works in Birmingham with Head Office at 34 Spon Street, Coventry. There were 12 branches in England and Wales and Scotland, 3 in Ireland and 4 in South Africa. In 1898 Charles Hughes was the Liverpool branch manager at 101 Bold Street. There were London showrooms at 23 Holborn Viaduct and 158 Regent Street, other premises at 77 Oxford Street, a riding school at High Road Knightsbridge, with another showroom added at 230 Tottenham Court Road by 1908. William James Harvey was the manager for London and South East. There was a depot at 9 New Station Street, Leeds, in 1908.1535

Eighteen ‘Rudge Whitworth’ models were offered in 1898. The No.20 ‘Special’ Light Roadster was priced at £30 or £28 without gear case, for example. Eccentric rear fork adjusters, patent 1899/16,001, were introduced from 1899 but discontinued from 1910.1536

A patent pedal frame was introduced in 1900, patent 1900/10419 and a back pedalling brake 1537. The distinctive Rudge sloping fork crown, patent 1900/20038, was introduced for the 1901 season and described as the ‘Special’, there also being a ‘Standard’ flat pattern.1538 The ‘Special’ was advertised at fifteen guineas, while the ‘Standard’ was ten guineas in 1901. The similarly shaped V- section mudguards, patent 1900/16718, with spring clip fittings were introduced at the same time.1539

In 1903 the company was awarded a Royal Warrant. Up to 1903 machines were provided with cottered cranks utilising 5/16 in. cotter pins. They introduced their own cotterless, oval-section cranks, patents 1902/15419 and 1903/13125,1540 until 1919 when standard cottered cranks were fitted. From 1898 up to 1919 5⁄8 in. pitch chain was used too and then replaced with 1⁄2 in. pitch chain.1541 Aluminium-jointed rims were also introduced. The joint was opposite the valve and brought together by a steel liner, visible on the outside, and held by twelve rivets.

From 1904 Rudge-Whitworth was hyphenated and both brakes could be operated by either hand if required, patents 1904/20956 and 1904/23801.1542 From 1908 celluloid- covered handlebars, cranks and hubs were available, patent 1908/15,959. A new brass oiler with hand motif was made available.

A rear brake pivot mechanism was patented with A. A. Chalker (1909/19,107). An Aero Special chain of 1909 was tested to 1,300 lb., breaking strain. In 1910 the slope of the fork crown was increased and the ‘hand’ chainwheel introduced on Aero Special models (before this the ‘star’ chainwheel was in use).1544 A combined luggage carrier and mudguard was patented in which the mudguard was hinged so that it could be raised to facilitate removal of the rear wheel (patent 1910/17,975). Located in Crow Lane, Coventry, in 1912, with showrooms in Hertford Street.1545

In 1915 the ‘No.50 Aero Special’ was offered at £10 10s with celluloid guards, inverted brake levers, and 11⁄4 in. road racing tyres on wood rims. For 1915 a hexagonal locknut with anchor plate and screw was introduced to hold the cranks, axle and chainwheel.

A cranked bolt is used where the seat stays attach to the down tube and this practice was continued into the 1920s.


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