From Saturday, 28th January, 1888, for one week, the Stanley Cycle Exhibition was held at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster, and the West London Cycle Stores was one of the major exhibitors. Among other top cycle companies with stands were Rudge Cycle Co; Marriott & Cooper; Bayliss, Thomas & Co (made the Excelsior); St. George’s Engineering Co (made the New Rapid); Singer; Humber; Coventry Machinists; Lamplugh & Brown (the top saddle manufacturers); Salisbury & Co (cycle lamps); Ivel Cycle Co; Linley & Biggs; William Bown; Woodhead, Angois & Ellis (made the Raleigh); Hillman, Herbert & Cooper (made the Premier).
What is particularly interesting about the show is the variety of innovations on display, some that we might justifiably assume were much later inventions. For example, there are several spring frames, Raleigh introduced their detachable chainwheel, Brooks showed off a concealed plunger brake, Morris & Wilson’s Referee Racer was surprisingly lightweight at 19lbs. The Hall & Phillips Lightning tandem illustrated above has linked steering of a style that was not generally adopted until 1895. (This may have been an Ivel patent, as it also featured on the patented 1888 convertible Ivel tandem).
1888 West London Cycle Stores ‘Ormonde’ Safety, No 2
30″ Equal Wheels
WEST LONDON CYCLE STORES
79 Wells St, Oxford St, London
According to Ray Miller’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Cycle Manufacturers’ the company started in 1885 as an agency and repairer of bicycles. As well as their London locations, they had a factory at The Tower, Princip St, Birmingham (in 1896). The directors were Ernest J Willis, Robert Willis and Elena Canepa.
One of the top London cycle shops, the West London Cycle Stores also had branches at 25 Castle St East and 22 Holborn Viaduct. (The Viaduct, completed in 1869, took six years to build, and this area became a centre for bicycle shops: Gamages based their business there, which obviously brought in a lot of business).
According to the notice (below) in the London Gazette of February, 1891, the West London Cycle Stores was wound up in December, 1889. The business subsequently became the Ormonde Cycle Co.
Robert Willis was the general manager of the London company. In 1891 the company exported machines to the USA, with Ernest J Willis as their US agent. His company was described as the Ernest J Willis Co of 23 Park Row, New York; also Park Row Cycle Co of 23 Park Row, New York; and Herald Cycle Co of 114 Nassau St, New York.
The New York Times reported a fire in the Willis establishments in 1898, and the suicide of Ernest’s brother William in 1901.
ORMONDE BICYCLE DEPOT
Freeman St, Adelaide, Australia
Ormonde also features in Australian history. The Ormonde Bicycle Depot, at 31 Freeman St, Adelaide, Australia was where Vivian Lewis started his business, initially as a cycle importer and reseller and then making his own cycles, motorcycles, and a few cars: he was one of the founders of the Australian cycle and motor industry. Events in May 1898 were to change the course of the Lewis Cycle Works. Visiting with her Gladiator motor tricycle, French racing cyclist Mlle Serpolette made her Adelaide base at the Lewis Cycle Works. This was the first motorised vehicle to be brought to Australia.
When the motor tricycle wouldn’t run, it was Works Manager Tom O’Grady who spent time first repairing then test riding it. Within ten months, O’Grady had obtained plans and built a small internal combustion engine, which was fitted to one of the pacing triplets and tested in Freeman St in March 1899. Although bicycles remained the focus through 1899, O’Grady’s motor was developed further and fitted to a tandem, then removed from the tandem to be the power unit of the first Lewis car, which took to the streets of Adelaide in November 1900. From that date on the name of the business changed to reflect its new-found interests: Lewis Cycle Works became Lewis Cycle & Motor Works.
Around 1895, Ormonde Cycle Co amalgamated with the St. Andrews Cycle Co of Romford, the latter company’s large factory being used by the new concern. Subsequent companies were the New Ormonde Cycle Co and, after 1900, the Ormonde Motor & Cycle Co (described as the Ormonde Motor Co in their motorcycle adverts, below). Their first motorcycle was introduced in 1900, being a bicycle with engine centrally located (a 1901 example of which can be viewed at the Haynes Motor Museum in London).
Ormonde history with thanks to Ray Miller’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Cycle Manufacturers’
V Lewis, Australia, history and photos with thanks to Leon Mitchell – http://earlymotor.com/lewis/history/html/ormonde.htm
Velocette history with thanks to the Velocette Owners Club – http://www.velocetteowners.com/