Charles and Fred Norman started their frame making, enamelling and metal plating business (Kent Plating & Enamelling Co) in a garden shed just off Jemmett Road, Ashford, Kent on their return from France at the end of the First World War. In the 1920’s they started producing cycles and went on to produce many thousands, they acquired a larger premises in Victoria Road. In 1935 they had a new factory built in Beaver Road, the company was renamed Norman Cycles Limited. Many cycles and mopeds were exported under the Rambler trademark to Central America, Malaya, Canada and other Commonwealth countries.
Fred had been a fighter pilot in the First World War, he was also a member of the RAF Association, Fred presented Guy Gibson the legendary leader of 617 Squadron on the Dambuster Raids with the lightweight motorcycle for riding around his home airfield (RAF Scampton).
The Nobby Norman range of childrens cycles and Norman Invader sporting cycles were very popular in the 1950’s. The factory sponsored a number of professional cyclists including Les Pantry who were used in Norman publicity and promotions. Less well known were the tradesmen’s cycles, tricycles and special circus bicycles built to order.
A range of lightweight motorcycles, autocycles and mopeds were produced from 1938 to 1961. The first motorised Norman’s were the Motobyk autocycle and 125cc engined lightweight motorcycle. During the Second World War small paratrooper’s motorcycles and the Rudge autocycle were produced alongside the cycles. In 1943 the rights to the Rudge autocycle were acquired and were manufactured and sold under the Norman brand. Ron Butler formerly of Rudge Whitworth joined Norman Cycles as Sales Director.
The first model available after the war was the lightweight model. The post war range consisted mainly of autocycles and 122, 149 & 197cc single cylinder Villiers engined motorcycles. In 1955 a 250cc British Anzani engined twin cylinder machine was launched.
In 1954, Norman started to plan moped production of 40-60 machines per day, they went on to produce thousands of Norman Nippy and Lido mopeds. The first Nippy was built under licence from the German Achilles company and was in fact a Dutch made Germaan Capri. In 1957 the Achilles Company was acquired, the presses and some of the former employees moved to Ashford, this resulted in the Lido moped.
Fred and Charles Norman retired and the Ashford factory closed on 30 August 1961.
– Norman History thanks to the Norman Cycles Club – http://www.normancycles.co.uk/
After World War 2, new British cars and motorcycles were sold abroad to bring in much-needed foreign exchange. With a shortage of vehicles in Britain, low powered cycle-attachment engines were introduced. The Cyclemaster was the most popular of these, and could be purchased already fitted to a bicycle or as an engine-within-a-wheel to install into your own bicycle. But, by 1954, French and German ‘mo-peds’ started to creep into the British market: their stronger frames allowed greater speeds. By 1954, with the threat of the two-speed NSU Quickly dominating the market, British manufacturers decided to compete with their own home-built mopeds. The first two were Hercules with its Herc-u-motor, and Norman’s Cyclemate, which used the 32cc Cyclemaster engine. It made its debut on the Cyclemaster stand at the 1954 Earls Court Motor Cycle Show, where its top speed was advertised at 20-25mph.
The Cyclemate was Britain’s cheapest moped, and the smallest capacity machine. Despite its engine being under-powered, 7,000 were sold over its six years of production. (180,000 Cyclemaster engines were sold 0ver ten years).
1955 Norman Cyclemate
LFK 452 (Unregistered)
32cc Cyclemaster Engine
This Norman Cyclamate had been stripped down by its previous owner when he had been a student in the mid-1970s. It moved house with him a few times and, when I first saw it, had just been removed from his attic. It was re-assembled in my workshop, and fired up again for the first time in 40 years.
Since taking these photos, the previous owner also found the chaincase in his attic, which he has now posted to me.
FIRING UP THE CYCLEMATE
Did you know that the Cyclemaster was actually a German design?
After the War, some German engineers went to work for HNG in the Hague, Holland. The company imported cars and motorcycles and were thinking about developing a DKW 2-stroke car.
After the prototype was assembled it was realized that the production costs would be too high for what was, after all, supposed to be a low-cost car.
Bernhard Neumann, Rinus Bruynzeel and Nico Groenerdijke, three of the design team, discussed alternative projects. They had some blueprints for a 2-stroke engine that DKW had also developed – but had been abandoned because of the war. This engine had its engine, carburettor and petrol tank built into a wheel. After making a prototype they realized that its costs was also too high; however, with some modification they managed to
design an alternative, with the engine mounted over the front wheel. They demonstrated this to HNG once they’d developed a good working prototype. Their name for it incorporated the first two letters of each of their names, Bernard, Rinus and Nico – hence Berini. This 26cc engine was called an M13, and went into production in November 1949 at the HNG ‘Pluvier Motorenfabriek‘ factory (with many of the parts made in England).
Germans were considered prisoners-of-war, so the blueprints for the original DKW ‘power wheel’ were confiscated by the Interpro Buro, a British, French and American organization that assisted Dutch postwar industry. You can see the words “Interpro Pats. Pend.” stamped on every Cyclemaster cover.
The blueprints were copied and the machine was manufactured at the EMI Factories in Hayes, Middlesex. The German name ‘Radmeister’ translated as ‘Cyclemaster’ and this was the name given to this radical new power wheel. It was marketed by a new company, Cyclemaster Ltd of 26 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, London.
It made its first public appearance at the Utrecht Industries Fair in April 1950. The earliest engines were 25.7cc, being extended to 32cc in 1951. (The 26cc models are distinguished by their black colour, the 32cc models being silver).
The Town Crier of Tiverton in Devon is pictured below. The ‘Motor Cycle’ magazine of March 1951 features him with the new Cyclemaster wheel fitted to his bicycle.
CYCLEMASTER HISTORY, continued
The public here and abroad lost no time in snapping up new cyclemotors, and putting them into service commuting to work and for summer touring.
EMI’s Cyclemaster Contract
EMI gave many of their factories over to war work when War broke out, and their Hayes factory was bombed in 1944, killing and injuring many employees. They’d already had experience of motorized bicycles with their introduction of the Rudge Autocycle in 1939, though the Rudge was killed off because the factory was needed to produce radar equipment. Is this why EMI were awarded the rights after the War to manufacture the Cyclemaster wheel from the German designs?
Doodlebugs in Hayes 1944
This is from the diary of Alan B Chesterton, who lived near the EMI factory as a youngster during the war; his Dad worked at the plant when it was bombed.
From 1940 air raids became part of everyday life in Hayes, Middlesex.
Despite having important manufacturing plants like Fairy Aviation, ICI filling shells, EMI developing radar, we did not have many conventional air raids, we believed this was due to our near neighbors, the Polish airmen at Northolt Airfield. Official child evacuation stopped, much to our relief, three miles away at Southall, Middlesex.
As an eleven year old attending lessons at Grange Park Junior School, Hayes, on the afternoon of 7th July 1944 whilst in the classroom we heard a loud explosion which from experience we knew was a couple of miles away. After which, the air raid warning sounded and we all went into the surface shelter which was a converted cloaktoom with breeze blocks blocking the windows and scaffolding giving additional support to the ceiling. As children we sat on wooden benches below the pegs which carried out gasmasks and below wire frames which in peacetime held our plimsols.
With pilotless flying bombs known as V1s it was common for the warning to sound after the event and the all clear not to be given until the last batch of V1s had cleared the area. We weren’t allowed home until this occured, although after 16:00 parents could collect theirs and neighbor’s children. This happened in my case, and my agitated mother said the doodlebug had hit the EMI formally known as the ‘HMV’ or ‘Gram’, as before the war it manufactured radios. Now, it was war work on radar sets etc. As we left the school we met a neighbor who said “it’s alright, it’s missed the main factory and landed at the back on some huts”, not knowing this was the sales and service department, exactly where my father worked.
My father had heard the Red Alert given from the factory roof but thought he’d finish his cigarette before going to shelter A to take cover. During this period, the doodlebug landed between shelters A and B and the explosion caused the concrete roof to collapse onto its occupants. When at about 18:00, my dust-covered father cycled home unhurt, except for loss of hearing I was sent out to play, but still remember hearing my father telling my mother about the top portion of a girl in a pink jumper; face and legs covered in rubble, and that he estimated that twenty-three people had been killed, and many injured. Their memorila in Cherry Tree Lane Cemetery, Harlington indicates thirty-four killed, and eighteen injured.
A few months later, on a saturday lunchtime our terrier dog started howling in the back garden. I went out to see, and saw a doodlebug with it’s engine still running approaching. I called out to my parents and brothers and we had all dived into the Anderson shelter by the time the engine had cut. It fell on houses two hundred yards away in Hurstfield Cresent and Wrays Way. Many in my class lived in this area; three died immediately, three later, twenty-two were seriously injured, and there were fourty-five minor injuries. Once again, we lost roof tiles, windows, and plaster board ceilings (the original plaster and lathe went much earlier and were replaced with plaster board which could be refastened)
On the 21st October 1944 the first of our two V2s fell about 500yds away at Gledwoof Drive. Luckily, the ground was very soft so the rocket went deep, and less surface damage was experienced. Although as kids collecting shrapnel, it looked terrible, with mud everywhere, we were lucky and the other rocket that fell in the evening of the 7th December in a park at Hayes End, so once again, we escaped a major incident.