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Page 276. c1914 Chater-Lea Lady-back Cross-Frame Tandem SOLD

c1914 Chater-Lea Lady-back Cross-Frame Tandem

Frame size: 24″ front; 21″ rear

Overall length: 7′ 9″





The Chater-Lea company manufactured frames and components for bicycle-builders to assemble to customers’ specifications. According to the company history, cycle assembly was outsourced and badged Chater-Lea tandems were actually built by F.H. Scott. As you can see, this machine is similar to the cross frame lady back tandem in the 1912  and 1909 Chater Lea catalogues reproduced here. It’s a rare and interesting machine, and has been well-restored.



Fittings obviously varied according to requirements. This one has nickel handlebars in excellent condition; with right-hand inverted lever for cable-operated rear stirrup brake; and centre-pull lever for front stirrup brake; heavy-duty front forks; matching pedal sets; heavy-duty front wheel with new 26 x 2 x 1 3/4 carrier tyre; rear wheel has good 26 x 1 1/2 tyre. The rear hub is marked ‘British Hub Co.’ The rear mudguard has inserts to attach a dress-guard: although this period accessory would look attractive if you display the tandem at shows, they are not very practical for everyday riding.

Though there are scratches to the blue enamel paintwork, overall it’s in very good condition, and the nickel fittings are in first class condition too. The tandem has recently been serviced so it’s also in good mechanical condition. It’s ready to ride…











William Brighton Chater Lea (born 18/08/1859) acquired his engineering skills as an apprentice at Linley and Biggs, producer of the Whippet. He had ridden that machine with some success, winning the renowned Catford hill climb in 1888, 1889 and 1891. He invented an easily adjustable ball head for the ordinary  in 1889. In 1890 he patented an ingenious chain-protecting cover: this consisted of an endless rubber band, U-shaped, and reinforced by a canvas insertion. It enclosed the outer surface of the chain, and rotated with it, and necessitated the use of a dry lubricant which did not perish the rubber.

About a year later he brought out a light mudguard that could be rolled up like a blind. Chater Lea manufactured fittings and component parts from 1891 at a small workshop in Richmond Street, Clerkenwell, London. It produced a double top tube frame from 1895 in sizes up to 28 in. Orders for tandems were passed to F. H. Scott while the orders for bicycles were passed to the Raleigh Cycle Co. As the business expanded new premises were acquired in 1895 at Great Sutton Street and in 1896 the business moved again to 114-120 Golden Lane, London EC1. In 1895 he patented a domed spring cap to fill up the open end of front fork blades which sold in great numbers until the adoption of the box crown (1895/17192). He was a great believer in large diameter ball bearings using 5/16 in. balls in the bottom bracket.

In 1912 a new factory was built at 74-84 Banner Street, London and two years later additional premises were obtained at nearby Garrett Street. The company supplied, under licence from F Bowden of Raleigh Cycle Co, a cross-frame actually made by the Raglan Cycle Co. Ltd.

It appears that the hyphenated name was adopted in the early 1920s but only by the company, not the individual. W. Chater Lea died on 15 September 1927 and control passed to his two sons. In 1928 the company relocated to New Icknield Way East, Letchworth. The company stopped making complete machines from 1929.













Trained at Chater Lea Manufacturing Co. Ltd, Fred Scott (born 27/09/1888) set up in business on his own account around 1907. This was around the time when Chater Lea Manufacturing Co stopped making complete machines to focus on component manufacture. Orders for tandem machines were at this time passed to Fred Scott to complete. Fred Scott resumed business after the Great War.