TRIUMPH CYCLE Co Ltd, EARL’S COURT SQUARE, COVENTRY: These machines were introduced a few years ago by a large firm of sewing machine exporters, and were, in fact, better known on the Continent than at home, but the demand became so great that a company was formed, and the manufacture undertaken on a large scale. In Coventry the works are those once occupied by the Caroche Tricycle Company, but fitted up with the most modern plant, and with a skilled staff the new form is going ahead, and the Triumphs have a high name on road or path.
– 1892 magazine report on Triumph Cycle Co
1897 Royal Triumph for Gents
Model No 1AA
30″ Front Wheel, 28″ Rear Wheel
Frame No 12943
This fabulous early Triumph is the original partner to the 1897 Victoria Triumph No 15 for Ladies, on the next page. They were purchased together when new, but separated when I bought the Ladies Triumph a few years ago. I finally saved up enough and sold some other treasures so I could buy the Gents too.
The original transfers (decals) have survived, though they are somewhat faded. It also displays the company name on the plunger brake rubber and in the cartouche on the stem. Although there are a few bicycles that the owners think may be Triumphs, this pair of 1897 Triumphs are the earliest authenticated surviving examples of the marque. Triumph bicycle expert Andrew Heaps wasn’t sure whether this pair are from 1896 or 1897; but I’ve now researched the leather ‘Grose Patent Gear Case’ fitted to these two Triumphs, and have discovered that it went into production in 1897, so that might confirm the Triumphs’ age. A Gents model is not shown with a gearcase in the 1899 catalogue (we don’t have an earlier catalogue for reference), so I assume that Triumph fitted it in 1897 because of its debut that year.
To collect the Triumph, I met my French friend Alain at Tonbridge when he was on his way from the Tunnel to Kempton Park autojumble, and photographed it at nearby Penshurst. I took a few further pictures this week in the courtyard of the gatehouse at Brighton Royal Pavilion.
A few details:
The pedals are an interim style between slotted and threaded, presumably in production around 1895; rather than a thread, the pedals are retained by nuts on the inside of the fluted cranks.
The headlamp bracket has the number 27 on it. Not sure why: it’s not the frame size (which is 25″) and model numbers that high relate to tricycles. Likewise, the Ladies’ has the number 31 on its lamp bracket.
The brake lever has the word ‘Protected’ stamped into it, presumably a precursor to a patent.
The Veeder cyclometer reading is 7,549 miles.
The Gent’s number is 12943 and the Ladies’ is 12873.
Andrew Heaps informs me that these are the two oldest authenticated Triumph Safety Bicycles, while there is an 1892 Triumph Ordinary (Penny Farthing) in America. There’s also an 1898 Ladies Triumph in Qatar, once part of the ‘Raleigh Collection.’
1899 TRIUMPH CATALOGUE
1892 TRIUMPH ADVERT
1897 GROSE PATENT GEARCASE
Mr. Joseph G. Grose, who began work as a leather currier in Ambush Street, St. James’ End, Northampton became interested in bicycle racing, breaking national records on his Ordinary. As his interest in bicycling grew, he decided to start his own business to build and repair cycles in a small lock-up shop in St. James’ End. During the 1880s, he became friendly with J.K. Starley, designer of Rover cycles, for which Joseph Grose became the Northampton agent.
With the national craze for bicycling, Joseph Grose moved his business to 63 Gold Street, selling several well-known makes of bicycle and his own models from the West Bridge Cycle Depot.
In 1897 Mr. Grose invented the Grose patent gear case. This case, made of patent leather, covered the cycle’s driving mechanism to protect ladies skirts from catching inthe chain. The case was shown at the Stanley Cycle Show at Crystal Palace, London and sold in large numbers to the Coventry Cycle Manufacturers. It was so successful that the Grose Gear Case Company Ltd was formed in July, 1897, to manufacture the case. The case was later used to cover the greasy chain drives of early motor cars, so enabling long-term production of the gearcase.
Through business connections with the French Motor and Cycle Industry, Mr. Grose built one of the first motor cars in England in the period 1897-1899, using an imported Benz engine.
In February, 1900 the Company’s name was changed to Grose Ltd. The gearcase business was sold and the factory in Pike Lane, Northampton was adapted to manufacture Grose Steel Studded Non-Skid Tyres, which Mr. Grose had invented for his newly built motor cars. These cars were built using a ready-made chassis, one particular speciality being to build detachable bodies enabling tradesmen to use a vehicle as a delivery box-van during the week, changing it for a four-seater tonneau body for Sundays.
The business continued to expand into the areas of motorcycle sales and repairs, coachbuilding, commercial vehicles, omnibus building and operating. A fleet of taxi-cabs was purchased in 1908 and operated from Pike Lane, the first motor taxi-cabs in Northampton. In 1912, Grose Ltd registered its subsidiary company, Northampton Motor Omnibus Co Ltd, whose buses operated on local routes until 1928. Many of these buses had Grose-built bodies.
In 1924, Grose Ltd purchased the Crofts Carriage Works in Kingsthorpe Hollow, producing customers special orders for high class bodies on Rolls Royce, Daimler and other well known chassis. Double and single deck coach bodies and ambulance bodies were also built. Many of the car bodies made during the 1920s and 1930s were named after Northamptonshire villages, e.g. the Harlestone, a 1932 sports four-seater coupe and the Sywell, a four-seater sports saloon based on the Alvis Firefly. Many prizes were obtained for cars shown at the Motor Shows at Olympia and Earls Court and from entries in car races.
By the late 1920’s, Joseph Grose’s children had entered the business, Will Grose as Managing Director, Frank Grose as Sales Director and Kate as Company Secretary. In 1938 the Marefair and Pike Lane workshops were enlarged to become one of the most modern motor trade premises in Britain. Mr. J. Grose died in 1939 and his children continued to run the Company.
The name of Northampton Motor Omnibus Co. Ltd. was changed to Northampton Motor Services Ltd. in 1943 to operate the Daimler, Lanchester, Aston Martin and Lagonda dealerships. In 1950 the Headlands Garage Ltd, Kettering was purchased and the name changed to Grose (Kettering) Ltd. During the period 1958-59 all three members of the Grose family operating the business died and the third generation, Mr. W.L. Grose and Mr. J.S. Grose then took charge.
In 1963 the Company changed itsname to Grose Holdings Ltd and moved to new premises at Queens Park Parade, Kingsthorpe in 1965. The coachwork premises in Kingsthorpe were sold in 1969. Also during that year Westonia Garage in Weston Favell was purchased and the British Leyland Specialist Car Division and the Roll Royce and Bentley dealerships were transferred from Queens Park Parade to Grose Westonia Ltd, along with the Triumph main dealership.
1897 VICTORIA LADIES TRIUMPH
(FRAME No 12873)
JOSEPH GROSE information thanks to – http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/download/GB0154%201978-143