RUDGE WEDGE & CO LTD
Harry Rudge was the eldest son of Daniel Rudge, who founded Rudge cycles. In 1891, he joined Mr. C. Wedge to form Rudge Wedge & Co. They set up a cycle works at Pelham Street, and in 1902 moved to new works in Mander Street. They also built a few motorcycles, but decided to concentrate solely on building pedal bicycles. Many of their products were supplied to the trade with their own or customer’s transfers and large numbers of their machines were exported to the colonies.
The following article is from an edition of the South Staffordshire Illustrated, and includes an excellent description of the company.
RUDGE, WEDGE & CO., LIMITED,
Manufacturers of “RUDGE-WEDGE CYCLES,”
Registered Office: Pelham Street, WOLVERHAMPTON.
LONDON DEPOT : 52 Fore Street, E.C.
Telegrams-” RUDGE-WEDGE, WOLVERHAMPTON.” Telephone-7,266, Wolverhampton.
“OBLIQUELY, LONDON” London, 5,541 (Bank).
There are few names that have achieved a higher standing in the cycle trade than that of the Rudge family, whose members have for years past been prominently identified with most of the improvements in construction of the celebrated cycles, which have attained such world wide popularity. One of the founders of the business to which our notice applies, Mr. H. Rudge, is the eldest son of the late Dan Rudge – inventor and patentee of the now universal ball bearings, and maker of the original ” Rudge ” bicycles – and in conjunction with some well-known local gentlemen of influence established the firm of Rudge, Wedge & Co., Limited, in 1891.
1897 Rudge Wedge Roadster
I found this rare machine as I stepped into a vintage clothes shop. It was near the door, being used as a clothes horse. Once I’d removed some jeans and jackets from it, I immediately recognised the Rudge chainwheel and, after some negotiation, I purchased it from the shop. I was informed that I was the first person to have enquired about it in the five years it had been there.
The immediate difference between a Rudge-Whitworth and a Rudge Wedge is the headbadge – the Wedge did not have one (it was fitted with a transfer). As there were no holes for a headbadge on the steering head, I could see that this was a Wedge.
As mentioned elsewhere, Rudge Wedge machines used leftover Rudge-Whitworth parts. Rudge-Whitworth was one of the world’s top cycle makers, but maintaining that position meant updating their components regularly. Despite being top quality parts, they often became redundant as the next year’s specifications were introduced. Selling such items to an affiliated firm was a sound strategy for a top company to maintain control over how they were marketed. As you can see, the 1896 Rudge-Whitworth catalogue offered both a Rudge Roadster and a Whitworth Roadster as well as the more up-to-date Rudge-Whitworth Roadster. By 1897, Wedge took over as the second tier company.
This machine is typical of those exported to the British Colonies. The only international branches listed for Rudge-Whitworth in 1899 were in South Africa. They had more branches there than any other cycle manufacturer: in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Durban. This model, ‘built on more solid lines, with a view to its being ridden by heavy riders, or on unusually rough roads,’ is typical of the bicycles available in South Africa at the outbreak of the 2nd Boer War.
I don’t have a photo of the exact same model. As Wedge used whatever was leftover by the main company, components may have come from different ages of Rudge-Whitworth. Here’s a Rudge Wedge advert showing a later model. The example here is more like those illustrated in the 1896 Rudge-Whitworth catalogue.
1896 RUDGE-WHITWORTH CATALOGUE
1899 RUDGE-WHITWORTH CATALOGUE
RUDGE, WEDGE & CO., LTD
The success of the undertaking has been rapid and progressive, the Company from the first evincing a determination to spare neither effort nor expenditure in the constant improvement of their models in each succeeding season, with the inevitable result that the Rudge Wedge machines now rank in popular appreciation with the best high grade makes in the market. The present board of directors comprises Messrs. William F. Legg (Chairman), Fred. F. Price, Thomas Hunt, Harry G. Rudge, and Charles A. Wedge, Managing Director, with Mr. Charles Hamilton, Secretary. The works, situated in Pelham Street, have a handsome and effective front elevation of two storeys extending a distance of 120 feet along that thoroughfare, and having a rearward extension of some 80 feet.
On the ground floor are the general and private offices, and beyond these are the workmen’s entrance and gateway for vehicles conveying goods and materials. Passing into the large machine shop our attention is invited to a splendid plant of machine tools and labour saving appliances, many of which are of special design, and are perfectly up-to-date for facilitating the various manufacturing operations. Adjoining is an engine house furnished with a capital Otto gas engine from which motive force is obtained for driving the machinery. Next to this is the enamelling shop with all the requisite dipping tanks, arid three large stoves in which the hardening process is completed at a very high temperature. On this level also are the bobbing and mopping shops, where the parts are polished and prepared for the plating process, which is performed in an adjoining shop, fitted with vats, dynamo, and every requisite for nickelling, and other metal deposits.
Wolverhampton Works (Pelham Street).
Ascending to the upper floor we next make acquaintance with the brazing shop, with open fires, this apartment being of fire-proof construction, with concrete floors, a precautionary measure by the way generally adopted throughout the establishment. Adjoining this are stock rooms for rims, frames, and other parts all readily accessible when required to be given out for making-up.
Fine lofty- apartments are apportioned to the finishing and building departments, which are fully equipped with complete outfits of machine tools for their purposes, and below in the large yard are joiner’s shop and wood stores for materials used in the manufacture of packing cases which are all made on the premises, and spacious accommodation for the storage of saddles, pedals, and other parts, and cycling accessories of every description.
The whole of the works’ departments are in charge of Mr. Rudge, who gives the closest personal supervision to every detail of construction of the machines, which are built of the best materials available.
The Building & Assembling Department.
Special attention being given to the bearings, which are made from the best bar steel, hardened and tempered to stand the severest strain, and as none but the most experienced workmen are employed, the firm can with confidence guarantee every cycle sent out to be of general and excellent finish.
The popular models of the firm for the approaching season are the ‘Rudge Wedge’ tandem for two gentlemen or lady and gentleman riders, racers, road racers, roadsters, ladies’ safeties. made in Nos. 5, 6 and 7 patterns, and unsurpassed in workmanship, finish and through reliability.Numerous testimonials received from clients in all parts of the country give convincing evidence of the satisfaction invariably expressed as to the high class qualities of the Company’s machines, which now experience a constantly increasing demand in the home and export markets. Full particulars of the various models are embodied in a handsome catalogue issued by the Rudge Wedge Company, which we have pleasure in commending to the attention of those of our readers about to make a selection of a suitable and desirable mount.
1902 RUDGE-WEDGE MOTOR-BICYCLE
The Rudge Wedge motorcycle was introduced at the 1902 Stanley Cycle Show. The Minerva engine, in either 1 3/4hp or 2 1/2hp sizes, was mounted on the down tube of what was actually their heavy duty carrier bicycle (without the basket attachments).
Rudge-Whitworth did not start manufacturing motorcycles until 1909, so the Rudge Wedge motorcycle is the first powered machine associated with the company.
In 1903 Rudge-Whitworth became embroiled in a dispute with the Werner company over the Rudge Wedge motorcycle. The Rudge-Whitworth Johannesburg depot manager was approached directly by Werner to sell their machines in South Africa. As Rudge-Whitworth did not sell motorcycles, there appeared to be no conflict of interest, so Werner signed a contract with the Coventry company to send 36 machines to South Africa, with Rudge-Whitworth acting as sole agents for Werner.
However, it soon transpired that other Werner motorcycles were being sold in South Africa at a cheaper price. John Pugh refused to pay Werner the balance of £378 due on the shipment, and the matter ended up in court in the King’s Bench Division on 17th November, 1903. Werner claimed not to have supplied the 12 cheaper motorcycles to South Africa, and the matter was settled out of court.
Rudge Wedge & Co ran into difficulties during the cycle trade slump of 1906, and were taken over by Rudge-Whitworth. Rudge Wedge bicycle models continued to be sold, as part of Rudge-Whitworth’s budget range.
There are no known surviving Rudge Wedge motorcycles. Below is my friend’s restored 1901 Werner. As you can see, the engine of this first model – one of the very first motorcycles – is similar to that of the Rudge Wedge, but is mounted over the front forks.
RUDGE-WHITWORTH PARIS DEPOT
Rudge Wedge info thanks to – http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/Museum/Transport/bicycles/RudgeWedge.htm
and also from the book Rudge-Whitworth: The Complete Story, by Bryan Reynolds