By 1892, the bicycle was well-entrenched as the new medium of transport for the gentlefolk of the Great Britain. First established during the 1880s in the industrial heartland around Birmingham, new factories and shops were soon opening everywhere around the country to cater for local requirements. The main companies who operated from Birmingham and London realised that the north of England offered very good sales potential, particularly if new factories were opened there. Joseph Devey & Co was bought by Humber, who needed new factories for their own expansion, and Devey duly relocated to Northumberland to exploit regional sales.
1892 Northern X ‘Safety No 2’
(Manufacturer: J. Devey & Co / Humber & Co Ltd)
28″ Wheels with 1 1/8″ Solid Tyres
JOSEPH DEVEY & Co
Castlegate, Berwick-on-Tweed, Northumberland & 7 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne
It is my opinion that the Northern X Safety may actually be a Humber.
Joseph Devey & Co was stablished in 1869. According to Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia:
Manufacturer of the ‘Express’, ‘I.O.G.T.’, ‘Tower’, ‘Wolverhampton Express’ and ‘Working Man’s Friend’ high-wheelers, ‘Flyer’, ‘Extra Special Express’ and ‘Sir Wilfrid Roadster’ tricycles and ‘Royal Express’ convertible tandem tricycle. The ‘Express’ high-wheeler was priced from £6 to £7 in 1878. In 1880 a No.3 ‘Express’ was advertised as the working man’s friend and priced at £4 10s up to 50 in. and £5 above. Offered for the 1894 season the ‘Forth Bridge’ which had an extra tube running from the head to the bracket, the ‘Duke of Fife’ racer at £18, and the ‘Duchess of Fife’.
Originally located at 33 Piper’s Row, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, and later at Tower (aka The Ashes) Works, Brick Kiln Street. By 1909 at 47 Melbourne Street, Wolverhampton.
Joseph Devey & Co. was sold in January 1887 to Joseph Horton, but became owned by Humber & Co. Ltd. Devey moved to Berwick-on-Tweed where he produced ‘Northern X’ and ‘Northern Express’ cycles but the old firm was still advertised in trade directories as late as 1898.
Below, you can read what the Encyclopaedia says regarding the history of Humber and its acquisition of Devey & Co , via the interest of Joseph Horton:
Thomas Humber started at age 13 with a smith in Nottingham. After a number of different employers he started his own blacksmithy in Nottingham. He started making boneshakers from his home, 65 Northumberland Street, for his own use and a few acquaintances in 1868. With demand mounting he took premises at 29a Stretton Street, Nottingham and issued his first price list in 1873. Then he took Thomas Rushforth Marriott into partnership, from 1875, to form Humber & Marriott, and new premises were found at Queens Road, Nottingham.
From 1877 Fred Cooper joined, and the partnership name changed to Humber, Marriott & Cooper and, with increasing demand, new, larger, premises were built in 1878 on the outskirts of Nottingham at Beeston. At that time there were 80 employees. An Improved Tricycle patent was submitted with M. Doubleday.
In 1885 the partnership was dissolved to become Humber & Co. and a rival ‘Humber’ operation was set up by Marriott & Cooper which had an equal right to use the Humber name. Humber started calling his machines ‘Genuine Humber’. A new partner joined, Thomas H. Lambert, and M. D. Rucker was taken on as London Manager, later becoming General Manager.
With financial assistance from Mr Horton of Birmingham, the purchase of Joseph Devey & Co., and the Coventry Cycle Co. Ltd, were made and the three concerns brought together as Humber & Co. Ltd which was formed on 14 June 1887 (becoming just Humber Ltd from 8 March 1900).
The Devey acquisition added a further factory at ‘The Ashes’, Brickkiln Street, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.
If you compare the 1892 Humber Safety, illustrated below, with the Northern X Safety featured here, you can see they are very similar machines. The Northern X was advertised at £14, while the Humber is £15. As the Northern X was sold in the north of England, providing a local market for the company, it’s quite likely that it was actually a Humber with a different name. Such practices were common. It was much easier for a small local company to buy in either the components or a complete machine than to manufacture their own. Once the market was proven, they then had the option of making some or all of the parts themselves.