Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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H. Curry and Sons

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H. Curry, a Cycle manufacturer was born in Leicester in 1850. One of six children, Henry from an early age displayed a keen interest in all things mechanical and naturally when older decided he wanted to be an engineer.

Working for Cooper Corah ( later the N. Corah’s Hosiery Company ) in 1870 he married Constance Mitchell who over the following years bore him ten children - only four sons and four daughters though reached adulthood.

With such a large family to provide for Henry took to doing extra jobs one of which was the manufacture of the Ordinary Bicycle, in vogue at that time. With ‘Bicycles’ now in his blood and eventually moving from Hazel Street in Leicester to Painter Street he became the manager of The Leicester Tricycle Co, the first cycle company to offer what we today would accept as the ‘norm’ for steering that of handlebars. Even working during the day and half the night for this company he and Constance were aware that the family need more income to just feed the large family. Jointly they decided in 1884 to manufacture their own ‘Curry’ bicycle, which was just prior to John Kemp Starley of Coventry inventing the ‘New’ Safety bicycle. Quick to realise this was the answer to attracting more customers, Henry set to work in cramped conditions in a shed at the bottom of the Painter Street garden.

Starting with no capital whatsoever he was reliant on orders and upon completion prompt payment to enable him to purchase more materials for the next order, at this time also he turned his hand to any repair to make money.

His decision to build Safety bicycles, which appealed to all budding cyclists as against the dangerous Ordinary, orders started to be placed on a larger scale so new premises were required.

In 1887 he acquired a small factory located at No.28 painter Street where they soon were producing twenty five bicycles a week. He was being assisted by his eldest sons, James and Edwin, then with the addition in 1888 of fitting the ‘New’ pneumatic tyre the demand for safety bicycles increased ten fold. Another major decision was taken shortly after moving to No.28 when production was found to be suffering due to a regular stream of ‘callers’ or customer arriving at the factory premises, so a shop was acquired at 271 Belgrave Road and within two years they moved to a larger shop at No.293.

In 1897, Henry offered his sons the opportunity to join him on equal share status in a new company -H. Curry & Sons.

James was 25 yrs, Edwin 22 yrs, Henry Junior known as Harry was 17 yrs and Albert at the time was only 10 yrs but was keen to be involved.

Financial record of 1896 shown a net profit of £119: 16s: 2d which by 1899 had grown to £567: 8s: 1d . . this does not seem a large figure but by today’s standard it would be equivalent to over one hundred thousand pounds maybe more.

By 1900 the business had outgrown No.293 Belgrave Gate and two adjoining houses Nos.285 & 287 were purchased and added to the growing premises. This was followed shortly by expanding the business even more so and setting up wholesale premises in Halford Street and Rutland Street, Leicester selling cycles and accessories.

An interesting fact at this point was that also in Halford Street was a business run by the Rushbrooke family and there were regular dealings between the two companies. Rushbrookes later changed their name to Halfords.

Henry senior retired in 1909 leaving his four now very successful sons to continue to expand the business with shops now at Swadlincote, Louth, Kings Lynn and Boston in Lincolnshire and Mansfield. Henry senior died in 1916 age 66 years.

In 1907 premises at Belvoir Street, Leicester became the Head Office and Wholesale Warehouse.

From the offset, Henry senior was shrewd to purchase from companies which now are/were known as successful companies in their own rights, companies such as Lucas & Miller for lamps, Brooks for saddles, Bluemel for cycle pumps, Dunlop for tyres, Renolds for chains and Phillips for cycles and components.

Curry’s ceased manufacture of cycles in 1932 but continued until the 1960’s selling cycles made by Hercules but branded as Curry bicycles.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • 'First 100 Years of Curry’s, by H. Lerner' (1984) Published by Woodhead-Faulkner (Nov. 1984) ISBN 0859413071