Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,469 pages of information and 245,911 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Renowned The World Over - The Phillips Cycle Company by Sam Whitehouse

From Graces Guide

Note: This is a sub-section of Phillips

‘RENOWNED THE WORLD OVER’ The Phillips Cycle Company by Sam Whitehouse, B Sc., C eng., MICE[1]


My purchase recently of a very sad and rusty Phillips sports ‘Kingfisher’ bicycle revived memories of such a machine I owned from about 1958, and on which I used to ride five miles to work, and to go out on weekends to secret countryside woods with my childhood sweetheart. This was my first adult bike - it had been given to me by my uncle Ray - and was probably around four or five years old at that time but in good condition, and I well remember lovingly polishing it on the back yard of our terraced house. It was remarkable in that it was fitted as standard with a 3 speed Derailleur Gears of Phillips own ‘Resilion’ brand, together with the (then) expensive optional ‘Dynohub’ lighting (front wheel mounted) and was fully equipped with ‘Maes’ bend dropped handlebars, white celluloid mudguards, cable operated brakes, saddlebag, rear reflector and bell. I am gradually restoring the machine, and in surfing the net for information and spares, I have been struck by the high esteem with which the vintage models of the Phillips make are regarded.

I have a lifelong interest in all forms of transport and am a keen motorcyclist; I hope that the following will be enjoyed by fellow enthusiasts. NB: sources are given in brackets thus [.....]


My initial on-line search found ‘Grace’s Guide’ which offered some brief fragments with regard to J. A. Phillips and Co; “.....of Bath Road, Birmingham (1904)....of Credenda Works, Smethwick, Birmingham (1913). Telephone Smethwick 121266. Telegraphic Address “Tourist, Birmingham”.... Also known as Phillips... Partners were E. H Bohle and H.C Church.......... 1908, the Birmingham firm of J. A Phillips and Co, manufacturers of bicycles and bicycle component bought the Credenda Works [at Smethwick] and gave up its Birmingham premises”.

It is remarkable that J. A. Phillips himself is not mentioned in any capacity whatsoever, ie owner, Director, manager etc. Not even his Christian names are given. However, when I approached Grace’s Guide directly in July 2017, I received some further information, viz; “The J.A. Phillips who gave his name to the company is John Alfred Phillips as given when he left the partnership in July 1910, although retaining a minority shareholding in 1914. The 1901 Census gives us the information that he was in Coventry as a Cycle Fittings Manufacturer. It also appears that he married in the 1st Q of 1911 – soon after leaving the business – and this could explain why he is not found in the 1911 census as possibly travelling abroad following the wedding”

In 1951 the company secretary was appealing for information about its early history as all records had been lost in the Second World War – someone must have come forward, perhaps an aged employee, because in ‘CYCLING’ magazine, 17th April 1963 it is stated that ‘They (the company) had come a long way from the day in 1892 when J. A. Phillips and E. W Bohle started making cycle pedals in Newhall Street in Birmingham’. Unfortunately, the date of 1892 is quite erroneous; I discovered from the Shares Flotation of 1913 that it was 1896 that the Phillips Company started making bicycle pedals and brakes for the cycle trade - also that the Credenda Works was acquired in 1907, not 1908.

By 1914 Phillips was employing 1000 people and by 1949 this had risen to 2000. However, it did not start making complete bicycles until the late 1930’s; in World War Two it made them for the military. In 1953, Coronation year, it launched an impressive range of 40 machines including touring and sports models, children’s bicycles and tricycles, trades-men’s bikes, and heavy duty machines designed to accommodate the motorised rear wheel which was becoming popular, and several mopeds followed. But this was to be a short lived period, because when in 1960 they became subsumed in Raleigh, itself part of Tube Investments, Raleigh then produced bicycles in Nottingham using their own frames but badged them as ‘Phillips’. If your Phillips bicycle is post 1960, it may incorporate some Phillips components made at Smethwick, but it is still not a ‘proper’ Phillips.

I found that from the very beginning in 1896, the success of the company was based upon sound German engineering, and that the company was run on Teutonic lines introduced by Ernst Wilhelm Bohle; John Alfred Phillips, whilst notionally head of the company, was apparently not responsible for any engineering design, or management of production.

Note - I am indebted to Graces Guide, from whom much information has been obtained; in the text below they are referenced as [GG]. Their on-line sites give purely factual information, whilst interpretations are entirely my own.

Newhall Street

I contacted four possible sources of archival material; City of Birmingham Reference Library, Smethwick Local History Centre, Coventry Transport Museum and The National Cycle Collection, but not one possessed any information relating to the early history of Phillips Cycles”. However, I had discovered through my own researches that the original partnership of the firm set up in 1896 consisted of John Alfred Phillips (born 1866, Coventry) and Ernst Wilhelm Bohle (born 1872 in Germany). Henry Charles Church (born 1871 in Birmingham) was probably a partner as his occupation is given as ‘Manager of Cycle Co’ when joining the Freemasons, St. Alphege Lodge, Solihull in October 1896.

Newhall Street strikes off from the city centre in a North-Westerly direction - I actually worked in an office there for some years in the 1990’s. Even then, whilst its city end was all (relatively) modern multi storey office blocks, only a short walk brought you to the Victorian Birmingham of the post industrial revolution, with many old buildings still standing and still in use for manufacturing. Communications were excellent; the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations) Birmingham and Fazeley Canal passes under Newhall Street, with many adjacent basins and wharves.

A little nearer to the city centre, the BCN Newhall Branch snakes in from the West to the rear of some Newhall street premises, its termination being surrounded by wharves. Snow Hill Railway Station is within a very short distance. Despite a careful scrutiny of a contemporary map I could not find reference to any Cycle Works, although close by were the ‘Globe Foundry (bedsteads)’ an ‘Iron and Brass Foundry’, an ‘Iron Foundry’ and a ‘Machine Tool Works’. [Godfrey Old Ordnance Survey Maps, Central Birmingham, 1902].

The Birmingham Science Museum then occupied some old industrial premises in Newhall Street, formerly the works of the Elkington Silver Electroplating Co., (c 1841 to 1951, and which employed 1,000 people in 1880). I used to visit it in my lunch break and after first admiring the massive steam locomotive ‘City of Birmingham’ near the entrance, would wander around its labyrinthine halls and back rooms, absolutely packed with aircraft, cars, motorbikes and bicycles plus a plethora of working machines covering most of Birmingham’s manufacturing industries; regrettably the museum relocated circa 2000 to spanking new premises in the city centre. Most of the exhibits went into storage elsewhere, and the emphasis is now on science, not industry, with an interactive experience apparently aimed at six year olds.

But to explore in more detail why these three men united to set up the company in 1896, it is necessary to take a broader view of the cycle industry, so as to understand their motivation and timing. The last decade of the nineteenth century had seen a boom in cycling, brought about mainly by the transition from the inherently dangerous penny-farthing or ‘Ordinary’ bicycle, to the safety bicycle. Much of this development had taken place in the West Midlands with Coventry, Wolverhampton and Birmingham at the forefront. “BSA (of Birmingham) made a Safety in 1884, but the design that really lead to the modern bicycle was John Kemp Starley’s Rover Safety of 1885 (made in Coventry) in which the wheels were of nearly equal size and steering was direct from the handlebars to the wheel. By 1890 the diamond-frame bicycle with equal sized wheels and pneumatic tyres had arrived, and the boom was on. In America, production rose from under 200,000 in 1889 to over a million ten years later, and in most industrialised countries bicycle factories flourished, giving employment to thousands and establishing a framework from which the motor industry was to grow a few years later” [Early Days on the Road by Lord Montague and G N Georgano. Pub Michael Joseph 1976].

Cycle Manufacturers founded in, or before, 1896 included 160 in Wolverhampton and 95 in Coventry [history website, Jim Boulton et al] – however, the figures may include firms that started up prior to 1896 but also folded before that date, so the totals should be taken with a pinch of salt, but they do give a broad picture of the industry in these early years and is of particular interest in revealing the relative positions of the major cycle manufacturing places. Surprisingly, no figures are available for Birmingham other than a statement on a website that around the turn of the century Birmingham had the largest number of cycle and cycle component manufacturers in the country. If we assume that Birmingham had say 200, then this brings the total to 455 cycle firms for the three places, a strong market to be entering into. Their products would probably (at least initially) have been aimed at the local companies, rather than further afield in Britain, or indeed abroad.

John Alfred Phillips – The Early Years

I first found mention of Henry Phillips (age 22), father of John Alfred Phillips, when he married Sarah Greenway (age 23) on 28th December 1858 at St Peters Church, Coventry, He is a weaver; she is a warper; his father is a weaver; her father is a ribbon manufacturer. All are thus involved in the silk and cotton industries which were the major sources of employment in Coventry at this time. In 1861 he is a ribbon weaver living at 48 Gilbert Street, Coventry, he is married, with a daughter Sarah Miriam aged one month.

On April 29th 1866 there is a baptism at St Peters Church, Coventry; John Alfred, son of Henry & Sarah Phillips of Gilbert Street, Coventry, fathers occupation –‘Weaver’. Although the date of birth is not given on the baptism certificate, subsequent Census returns all confirm 1866 as the year of his birth, so thus he was born between January 1st and April 29th of that year.

We next find mention of J.A.P in the 1871 Census. He is aged 5 and a scholar, living at 48 Gilbert Street, Coventry (on the Eastern edge of the city centre) with his parents Henry and Sarah Phillips – his father is a ‘Clerk in a Cotton and Silk Warehouse’. He has only one sibling, Thomas G., aged 6. The family has one domestic servant, Laura Brakes aged 16, condition unmarried; curiously, the Census also records one Walter E. Brakes aged 2 months, ‘Son of Head of Family’ so presumably the illegitimate son of Henry Phillips.

All in the household were born in Coventry. The housing consisted of continuous terraces running the whole length of the street, with about 40 houses on each side; there were entries at intervals giving onto common backyards; on the North side, houses were two-up, two-down, but on the South side where the Phillips family lived, the houses were more substantial, with outhouses [Godfrey map, 1906]. It is noticeable that most of the houses in the street were occupied by people working in the silk industry – silk weavers/ribbon weavers/silk fillers/winders/carders/fringe winders etc - this was a cottage industry in Coventry with thousands employed in silk weaving and ribbon making. Working at home, the weavers owned their own looms; however, after the Cobden Treaty of 1860, cheap French ribbons flooded into England, and the Coventry weaving industry fell into a rapid decline. The watch industry is well represented with watch- makers/finishers/escapement-makers/dial painters. There are a few unemployed weavers, one person receiving ‘Bablakes Charity’. Following World War II, and major re-developments, Gilbert Street sadly is no more. The Phillips’s were the only family in Gilbert Street employing a domestic servant.

In the 1881 Census, the family is found living at Craven Terrace, Coventry; Henry Phillips is now a ‘Commission Agent, Silk and Cotton’ (he has moved up from being a clerk); John Alfred, age 15, is a scholar, his brother Thomas G., is a ‘Clerk, Silk and Cotton’ and he has another brother, Walter E., aged 10. They have one domestic servant.

No silk weavers in this terrace, but two doors away is a ‘Velocipede Manufacturer, employing 160 work people’. The velocipede was the forerunner of the ‘Ordinary’, or penny-farthing and, the rider propelled the machine using pedals fixed to the axle of the front wheel, which was somewhat larger than the rear wheel. Velocipedes first appeared in France in 1861, to be superseded by the Ordinary (1870) which in turn was to be eclipsed by the Safety (1885). Quite remarkably the gentleman concerned is William Hillman who together with James Starley had formed a company in 1870 to make an improved velocipede; within a few years they were joined by John Kemp Starley, nephew of James Starley and whom we have met above. Hillman of course went on to become a manufacturer of motor cars, in his own right. [‘The Rover’ by Graham Robson, 1977].

Whilst Craven Terrace does not appear on my Godfrey map of 1912, there is a Craven Street shown, which still exists today. Fortunately the on-line ‘Historic Coventry Forum’ has an atmospheric photograph showing Craven Terrace, in Craven Street – a long terrace of substantial buildings stepping down the slope of the street. Craven Street was part of a small cluster of streets forming an area called Chapel Fields, West of Coventry itself, and was then surrounded by open countryside.

In 1891 the family is now at Stoke Green, which is part of Stoke, an ancient parish lying to the East of Coventry City Centre, and a fashionable middle class country suburb since the 17c. Wealthy ribbon manufacturers built grand houses there; it is less than a mile from Gilbert Street. “Stoke green itself is an area of open space dotted with trees and surrounded by buildings of various ages” [Conservation area brochure, 1979]. Henry Phillips, now aged 54 is a ‘Commission Agent’ and an ‘Employer’, Thomas G., aged 26 is a ‘Clerk to Commission Agent’ and an ‘Employee’, John Alfred (now 25) is himself a ‘Commission Agent’ and is Neither Employer nor Employed’. Walter E, aged 20, is an Architect, also ‘Neither Employer nor Employee’ They have one domestic servant. Although not stated explicitly, the ‘Commission’ element must have been to do with the selling of silk and cotton, as reference back to the last census would suggest. It seems to me that father Henry was a director of, or partner in, a silk and cotton warehouse, being remunerated by a commission on sales; Thomas G., is a clerk, presumably working for his father, whilst John Alfred (no doubt) makes sales on behalf of his father’s firm, but is in effect self-employed. Next door, on the one side, the Head of the Family is an ‘Agricultural Labourer’ but one of his sons is employed as a ‘Safety Bicycle Builder’ whilst on the other side is a farmer, one of whose sons is a ‘Bicycle Maker’ and an ‘Employer’. Despite the fact that the family seem to have prospered, with three male members being engaged in the silk and cotton industries, the writing was on the wall for its gradual demise and replacement by new industries such as cycle production. As mentioned earlier, by 1892, Coventry would have 49 such manufacturers, and John Alfred Phillips, (growing up with neighbours who either owned or worked for bicycle manufacturers) may have been influenced by these trends.

John Alfred Phillips, ‘Cycle King’

For chronological exactitude, I reiterate that in 1896 a partnership was set up, including J.A.P with two others, for the purpose of manufacturing bicycle pedals in Newhall Street, Birmingham. One partner, Henry Charles Church was born in Bordesley, Birmingham in 1871. Only 5 years before the partnership was formed, he was living at home with his family, his father the landlord of the Crown and Anchor, Chapel Street, Bordesley, and was employed as a clerk [1871 Census]. ‘Home’ was only half a mile from the city end of Newhall Street.

The other partner, Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, was born in 1871 or 1872 in Bergneustadt, a town some 50 km East of Cologne (Koln) in Germany - in later years he would style himself Ernest William Bohle. He does not appear in the 1891 Census (5th April) so presumably came to England after that date. It would seem that Bohle came to England with the express purpose of entering into bicycle manufacture, and thus had made contact with Phillips and Church, setting up the partnership and finding premises in Newhall Street. Bearing in mind that Phillips was a Commission Agent in the silk business and that Church was a clerk, it seems likely that they were recruited because of their relatively prosperous backgrounds, providing financial backing, and also perhaps they had a desire to get into this burgeoning industry. Although this is largely a matter of interpretation, the fact that the infant company was named after Phillips, rather than one of the other two, or called ‘The Acme Cycle Co’ or some such, suggests to me that he was the principal financial contributor; almost certainly, his father was quite a wealthy man. Between them, the partners raised £900, the equivalent of £82,000 today. What strikes me as remarkable about this partnership, is that at the time, John Alfred Phillips was aged 30, Ernst Wilhelm Bohle was 24 or 25 years old and Henry Charles Church was aged 25- all quite young to launch out on a possibly risky business venture and especially in the case of Phillips and Church, with no previous experience in the cycle trade.

My perspective on these events is based upon the Bohle family history; “1901 – The velocipede displaces the hand trolley. The wooden, two-wheel “run-machine” of Baron von Drais (after 50 years from its invention) is superseded by the pedal-driven bicycle. The Ordinary, or penny-farthing, disappears from the streets. This time in England, Enst-Wilhelm Bohle creates the first Bohle enterprise in the newly developing bicycle industry. In 1911 with business partner, (sic) Ernst-Wilhelm Bohle sets up the bicycle manufacturer Phillips. It is the coronation year of George V. The German Emperors arrive for a fifteen-day state visit in Great Britain. 1922 – Eugen and Willy Bohle create an export business in Bergneustadt for the world selling of bicycle components from German and European manufacturers. They supply, among others, their affiliated firm “Phillips”...” This is an extract from the official Company History of Schwalbe, a current leading international manufacturer of bicycle tyres (internet, July 2017). Following the down-turn of demand for German made bicycles following re-unification, the country was importing bicycles. In the 1970’s, the Bohle family diversified into tyres, initially importing from South Korea – the tyres had a brand name ‘Swallow’ and Schwalbe is German for Swallow. There can be no doubt as to the general veracity of this article, as this is the official history, and the author must have been given access to company archives.

St Alphege Lodge, Solihull welcomes Ernest William Bohle as a Freemason on 5th December 1900. He is living at Ashfield Villa, Knowle and his occupation is given as ‘Manufacturer’ – Henry Charles Church had of course joined the same Lodge in October 1896.

By 1901 the Phillips family is still living at Stoke Green. Henry Phillips is a ‘General Commission Agent’ but John Alfred, aged 35, is now a ‘Cycle Fittings Manufacturer’ and an Employer. Walter Edward is an ‘Artist’, working at home on his own account. Thomas G., has left the family home by this date. However, by 1904 the company is operating from Bath Street, Birmingham, not Bath Road as stated in Graces Guide. Also in 1904, John Alfred Phillips becomes a freemason, joining the St Alphege Lodge, Solihull on 26th November of that year. His address is Stoke Street, Coventry and occupation ‘Manufacturer’. He is the last of the partners to join the Freemasons St Alphege Lodge, following Church (1896) and Bohle (1900). I wonder if this was a sort of a club for people in the cycle trade?

The Bath Street Premises

In my ‘Introduction’ above, I refer to the company as being in Bath Road, Birmingham from 1904 to 1908 – this information from Grace’s Guide caused me no little confusion as I could not find a Bath Road, despite searching street name indexes and contemporary maps. However an Email to Birmingham City Archives resulted in the problem being solved; Archivist Geoff Burns replied “I checked a directory from the period and the company is listed at 77 Bath Street”.

Phillips were at Newhall Street from 1896 to (circa) 1904, a period of 8 years, which suggests to me an infant company struggling to get established; in contrast, they are only at Bath Street for some three years, perhaps indicating a firm that is prospering and needs to expand the means of production. Whilst it is not identifiable on maps, number 77 would have been somewhere around the middle to upper end, as the last building in the street (ie, the Northern end) is number 101. Taking one of the larger buildings in the middle of the street as an example, the premises would have been very modest in size, perhaps 15,000 square feet over three floors.

Starting from Newhall Street, a short walk down the steeply sloping Great Charles Street (and passing under the railway bridge by Snow Hill Station) took you to Bath Street; sadly, you cannot take this route today as Great Charles Street disappeared beneath the inner ring road in the 1960’s, together with most of Bath Street itself – only a short length to the north remains but even this contains several listed buildings - number 77 has quite vanished. St Chad’s Roman Catholic Cathedral just survived but the Bishops house on the opposite side of Bath Street was lost. We don’t know why Phillips moved there, perhaps a lease had expired in Newhall Street, or possibly they wanted bigger premises – certainly Bath Street was an eclectic mix – apart from the Cathedral and the Bishops House there was a public hall, a school and a pub, the ‘Gun-makers Arms’ (which thankfully still exists) the rest of the street consisting of mainly three storeyed terraced houses intermingled with industrial buildings, few of which however were of any great size. Some of the houses in the street and in the rear courts were of the infamous back-to-back type [Godfrey maps, 1902].

The street had long been home to a plethora of manufacturing concerns – in 1835 there was a gun lock maker, a japanner, jeweller, lock maker, stamper and piercer, and a turner in ivory and bone, whilst in 1849 there were no less than nineteen firms associated with the gun trade, most with addresses in the courts, and so would have been one-man businesses.

A notable exception however was the Abingdon Company which occupied a very large ‘E’ shaped site fronting 94-97 Bath Street, Shadwell Street and Little Shadwell Street. An 1876 advert provides a panoramic view of the works and lists the articles made which included Snider, Chassepot and Martini rifles; Swinburn breech action shotguns; roller skates and their components, military and sporting gun nipples, nipple wrenches, turnscrews, cleaning rods, lock vices &c, &c for home and exportation, whilst services included planing, boring, screw-cutting, tool making and machining. By 1904 they are cycle and motor cycle components manufacturers – Trade Mark ‘King Dick’. The factory was taken over in 1907-8 by Humphries and Dawes, cycle makers whilst the company itself moved to Tyseley, later making complete motor cycles. This firm epitomises the thrusting, entrepreneurial spirit alive in Birmingham at the turn of the century, and no doubt Phillips and his partners would have been caught up in the general fervour of the times.

Number 77, ‘Demon Gun Works’, was occupied from 1888 to 1902 by the Midland Gun Co and somewhat confusingly they are back there in 1910; they made cartridges and ‘good quality economically priced machine made guns’ – particularly double barrelled shotguns, which are highly regarded in the USA today.

The 1904 date comes from Graces Guide and refers to a Phillips advertisement of that year, giving Bath Street as their address (more details are given below) – it does not however, prove that they moved there in 1904, and indeed I suspect they were there in 1902, as the premises were vacant that year. It is possible that some or all of the gun-making machinery was left at the premises, and such items as lathes, pillar drills etc would have been very useful to the small but rapidly growing Phillips Company.

A lovely (although slightly tattered) advertisement from June 1904 details the products made by J. A. Phillips and Co., Bath Street Birmingham – ‘ “Vox Populi” pedals and rim brakes for high grade cycles; “Selwell” pedals and “Quickfit” rim brakes for Childs (?) Machine defy competition; “Cosmos” pedals and rim brakes for Medium Grade Machines; Motor Pedals and Rim Brakes a speciality. Show-card and catalogues post free.’ There is an illustration of a gentleman’s bicycle showing the front and rear braking systems – these were of the pull-up rod operated type, the brake blocks bearing on the underside of the wheel rims. This advert is obviously aimed at the trade – bicycle manufacturers and dealers, and shows the range of the products being made at this time [GG].

This area, just to the north of the city centre, seems peculiarly suited to bicycle firms because we find in the near vicinity- ‘Smith & Co, cycle accessories manufrs’; ‘Cole, Mrs Emma, cycle enameller’; ‘Wright, Henry, cycle ma.’; Simpson, William & Sons, cycle makers’; ‘Williams, J. T. & Co, cycle lamp manufacturers’; [Godfrey map, Birmingham North, 1902]

Partner Henry Charles Church was (in 1891) a clerk living with his dad in the family pub at Chapel Street, Bordesley, only one third of a mile away from Bath Street, but by 1901 is living at Station Road, Knowle – this was an upmarket country village to the south of Birmingham. There is just him and his wife, no children, but one domestic servant. His ‘profession or occupation’ is given as ‘Cycle Pedal Manufacturer’ and he is recorded as an ‘Employer’. In the same year, Ernest W Bohle is also living in Station Road, Knowle [1901 Census]. The business was obviously prospering, thus enabling them to improve their social status.

Credenda Works, Smethwick

Credenda means matters of faith, from credendum, ‘faith’ suggesting that the original founders were of a religious persuasion - possibly Quakers?

In 1907, J. A. Phillips and Co, manufacturers of bicycle components, bought the Credenda Works in Smethwick, giving up their Birmingham premises.

In ‘British History On-line’ we find a brief history of the Credenda Works site; “In 1889, the newly formed Credenda Seamless Tube Co bought the Bridge Street factory of the former Birmingham Plate Glass Co and converted it into a tube mill, the Credenda Works. The business was bought in1896 by a Birmingham firm, the Star Tube Co, which in 1897 became part of the combine known as Weldless Tubes Ltd (later Tubes Ltd). The works was closed in 1906”. Another source states that “the New Credenda Tube Co Ltd was formed in 1896 to carry on the business of making weldless steel tubes at Credenda Tube Works, Bridge Street, Smethwick established in 1888. These works had a frontage to the Birmingham Canal and made tubes for the cycle, marine and other boiler tubes, shafting, heating apparatus, condensers, super heaters, boring and mining apparatus, axles and gun carriages. The Bridge Street premises was offered for sale in September 1906, where the plant included tube rolling mills and 16 steam engines” [Birmingham History Forum].

An advertisement which appeared in 1893 boasted of “Credenda, strength with lightness – The Credenda Patent Seamless Steel Tube – cold drawn for engineering, cycle and scientific purposes – trade-Credenda- mark – finest quality produced in the world – Credenda Seamless Steel Tube Co Ltd., Smethwick, Birmingham [GG].

From contemporary newspapers, I learnt that Tubes Ltd (comprised of Climax, Credenda and Star Tube works) was virtually broke by the end of 1905, and the Credenda works site was to be put up for sale the next year. The Chairman, Arthur Chamberlain (brother of Joseph Chamberlain, father of Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister) bought the Climax works and ‘two or three machines at the Credenda Works which Mr Chamberlain wished to transfer to the Climax Works’[Birmingham Daily Gazette: 20 November 1905; 6 December 1906; 18 February 1907].

Thus the Credenda works was purchased by Phillips with (presumably) much of the tailor made tube making machinery insitu; this would certainly been a huge advantage to a firm making cycle components, and later, compete bicycles.

The premises are identified on the 1901 Godfrey map as ‘Credenda Works (Steel Tube)’ and on the 1913 edition in the same series as ‘Credenda Works, (Cycle Accessories)’. A close inspection of the two versions reveals very little change in the intervening twelve years, amounting in fact to little more than the erection of a few relatively minor buildings around the main works. From my own inspections of the maps, I found that it comprised a long narrow site of some 8.6 acres stretching West to East, with about one third (at the Eastern end) being undeveloped. It had an internal rail system, shared with neighbours The Kingston Metal Works, giving access to the L. & N. W. R. Stour Valley Line, whilst to the south the site was bounded by the Birmingham Canal Navigations Feeder Arm, the company having its own wharf, so, superb communications. Even more amazing is that the main works building provided some 90,000 square feet of space, with ancillary buildings adding about the same again, giving a total figure of around 180,000 square feet of buildings. I estimated above that the Bath Street premises were probably about 15,000 square feet in area – so it is quite perplexing to understand how the partners managed to fund the purchase of the Credenda Works, unless it was from substantial borrowing.

Marketing Efforts

In 1908, from November, 21st to 28th at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, London J. A. Phillips and Co have a stand at the ‘Stanley Show’, an event put on by the Stanley Cycling Club. The company exhibits its improved designs of pedals and brakes [GG]. In 1909, a patent is registered by Ernest William Bohle and J. A. Phillips and Co., relating to improvements in means of attaching brakes and other parts and fittings to cycles and like machines [GG]. It is evident to me that E. W. B was a competent engineer and designer.

The Departure of John Alfred Phillips

The following Notice appeared in the London Gazette, dated July 15th 1910;

‘Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, John Alfred Phillips, Ernest William Bohle, and Henry Charles Church, carrying on business as Cycle Accessories Manufacturers, at “Credenda Works”, Bridge Street, Smethwick, in the County of Stafford, under the style or firm of “J. A. PHILLIPS AND CO”, was dissolved, as regards the said John Alfred Phillips, as and from the 30th day of September, 1909, by mutual consent. All debts due to and owing by the said late firm will be received and paid by the said Ernest William Bohle and Henry Charles Church, who will continue to carry on the business at the above address under the same style or firm as hitherto of “J. A. Phillips and Co..” Dated the 8th day of July 1910’ J. A. PHILLIPS E. W. BOHLE H. C. CHURCH

It is rather puzzling as to why this Notice came nine months after the dissolution.

Some more light is thrown upon this ground-breaking period, and on the respective roles of the individuals involved, in an article which appeared in The Times [GG] and gives a vivid account of that behemoth, Mr E.W. Bohle, in 1910 (the article is quoted verbatim, but the reference to his second Christian name is incorrect);


Mr E. H. Bohle, partner with Mr H. C. Church in the successful concern of J. A. Phillips and Co., Ltd., Birmingham, is a forceful personality, and a master of detail, and a strong believer in the economic benefits of thorough standardisation. Some years ago he met Mr J. A. Phillips, and discovered that their mutual interest lay in forming a partnership. They concentrated their energies on the sole manufacture of brakes and pedals for the trade, and the business has steadily grown to its present large proportions. Mr Bohle holds himself responsible for the entire works department, while also supervising the commercial side, Mr Church being the travelling partner”

It is quite clear from this article That Bohle is the driving force behind the company, and it confirms the account given above of the Schwalbe history. In retrospect, it is possible to understand the relative roles of the three partners, from 1892, up to the partnership dissolution in 1909. In 1910, Ernest William Bohle is responsible for the works operations – this would have involved designing bicycle components, buying in materials, organising production runs, managing the manufacturing process, and on the commercial side, billing the customers, keeping the company books and paying the wages and other costs. Henry Charles Church would have been travelling around the country visiting cycle manufacturers and cycle shops, winning orders for cycle fittings - presumably he was responsible for ensuring delivery of same. Did he also organise the exhibitions? After all, this was sales and marketing.

What was the role of John Alfred Phillips, titular head of the company from 1896 up to 1909? - and, whilst Bohle and Church lived close to Birmingham – ‘on the job’ - J. A. P. continued to live at Coventry, some 18 miles from Birmingham and 20 from Smethwick. In 1891 he was a self employed commission agent in the silk and cotton industries, hardly an ideal background for a tycoon in bicycle manufacturing. I can only speculate as to the reasons behind this development as the printed sources are silent in this matter; possibly he was a sleeping partner and as the majority shareholder took a generous income from the company. On the other hand he may have been active in the affairs of the company but was incompetent or irresponsible in his conduct – I can’t get away from the impression that he was ousted by the other two partners. There is a hint in the dissolution proceedings that the company was in financial difficulties in 1909 but that the remaining two partners would pay off any outstanding debts. I would speculate that this situation had to do with the purchase of the Credenda Works– were these debts run up by Phillips? And did the other two partners effectively buy him out? One other possibility remains – that Bohle and/or Church promoted the acquisition against the wishes of Phillips, who then wanted out.

Death of Henry Phillips

The father of John Alfred Phillips dies in 1910 aged 73, and we find details in the National Probate Calendar; “PHILLIPS Henry of Mansfield Villa Stoke Coventry commission agent died 20 August 1910 Probate Birmingham 12 November to Thomas Greenway Phillips commission agent and Walter Edward Phillips of no occupation. Effects £1965 12s. 8d.” This amount would be around £210,000 in today’s money. A review of current prices for Coventry suggests that a similar property would cost in the order of £200,000 to £250,000, so ‘the Effects’ is pretty much the value of the house.

On a point of information, Probate means an ‘Official proving of the will; verified copy of will with certificate as handed to executors’ [OED]. Without a copy of the will itself, we do not know who was left what; however, I note below that in 1911 the widow and one son are living at Mansfield Villa.

Sales Drive

After the dissolution of the partnership there appears to have been a determined effort, presumably on the part of Bohle and Church to promote the company products. In 1910 the company has a stand at the Stanley Show held at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington London, November 11th to 19th and also in the same year exhibits at the Cycle and Motorcycle Show held at Olympia, London. The range of products included handlebars, brakes, pedals, hubs (added this year) reflectors and roller skates [GG].

J. A. P. Gets Married

On 4th March, 1911, John Alfred Phillips is married to Agnes Ellen Clifton at St Peters Church, Bournemouth, Hampshire. He is aged 44, a ‘Bachelor’ and a ‘Gentleman’, his father is given as Henry Phillips, deceased (Merchant); she is 32, (so thus born 1879) a ‘Spinster’, rank or profession not given, father William Clifton, ‘Farmer’. Born Bishops Itchington, Warwickshire.

I was curious to find out more about Ms. Clifton, and discovered her in the 1901 Census where she was recorded as an ‘Officer’ working as a ‘sick nurse’ in the Aston Union Workhouse, Birmingham, aged 22 (so born 1879) at Bishops Itchington.

There were 33 sick nurses in total in the Infirmary; the original workhouse was built circa 1850-1852 and was one of the largest such institutions built in the 1850’s, with accommodation for 1,610 officers and inmates - a new infirmary was built in1889 and comprised a corridor a quarter of a mile long with nine wings or pavilions staggered along its length, with beds for 1,300 patients- the design was reputably based on one recommended by Florence Nightingale. As a ‘sick nurse’ having worked in such an establishment, Agnes Ellen Clifton seems a rather surprising match for a ‘Gentleman’.

I managed to find some details on one of the witnesses – Charles Drummond Muspratt, living in Bournemouth in 1901 (Census) age 42, occupation ‘Physician’, born in the East Indies. It seems likely that John Alfred Phillips was living at Bournemouth at the time of his marriage and may have become friends with Mr Muspratt who appears in the Royal College of Surgeons website; ‘Muspratt, Charles Drummond (1859-1927)’ who was Surgeon to West Hants Hospital. He was living at Madeira Road, Bournemouth on 2nd April 1911 (Census).

Agnes Ellen Clifton also appears in the 1881 Census living at Bishops Itchington; father is William Clifton aged 29, a labourer in a Lime Works, mother is Hannah aged 28. She has two older sisters, Margaret E. S., age 6; and Constance E. age 4; Agnes E. is aged 2.

The entire family were born at Bishops Itchington, a village about 6 miles South-East of Warwick; 12 miles from Coventry and about 27 miles from Aston. Perhaps Agnes thought that job opportunities were limited at home, so she moved to Birmingham for better prospects, possibly domestic service then nursing at the Workhouse?.

I looked for John Alfred Phillips in the 1911 Census (taken on 2nd April). I checked under ‘England’ and also ‘Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ without any results. It is likely that he left England immediately after his marriage, to honeymoon abroad; in fact, no further trace can be found of him in the UK after this date, until his death in Coventry, Quarter ending March 1933 [Pettifer family tree].

Family Fortunes

1911 might be an appropriate year to catch up with the rest of the family of John Alfred Phillips. The older brother of John Alfred, ie, Thomas Greenway Phillips, is found in the 1911 Census married with two sons and living at ‘Hazlemere’, (six rooms including kitchen) at Stoke Park, Coventry, occupation ‘Commission Agent, Cotton Trade’ working on his ‘Own Account’, so he did not leave the cloth trade. Stoke Park is immediately to the North of Stoke Green where we found the entire family living in 1901. ‘Stoke Park covers 16 acres and was walled on three sides with local pink sandstone with gated entrances at three corners of the estate. The road layout was of a curvilinear type and the land was to be disposed of in quite substantial plots, indicating that a high quality area was desired’ [Conservation Area Brochure].

His younger brother, Walter Edward Phillips now aged 40 and single, is living at home (also 1911 Census) with his widowed mother - they have one general domestic servant. He is still an artist, but his particular field is of the ‘Journalistic’ variety, and he is working at home, on his own account. ‘Home’ is still Mansfield Villa, Stoke, Coventry and has seven rooms including kitchen. It appears on my Alan Godfrey map of 1906 as a substantial property in its own grounds and is situated on Binley Road, Gosford Green and is in the current Conservation Area. What is apparent from these vignettes is that the father and siblings of John Alfred Phillips had remained in their former professions and were prosperous, apparently having had nothing to do with the cycle trade throughout their lives.

Pre-War Sales Effort

H. C. Church is found travelling to the USA in 1912 and 1913, also British Columbia the same year, and I suggest that this is an indication that Phillips is becoming a firm of international repute. The company continued to broaden its product range and in May 1913 advertises the ‘Phillips Saxon Spring Forks – best on the market for sidecar work’ This is a robust looking set of girder forks with a horizontally mounted spring.

1913 - Public Flotation and First AGM

I was well on with my researches when I came across a newspaper report, together with a Prospectus, which caused me to review and amend some of the information I had already garnered on the early history of the Company. The substance of the matter was that the two remaining partners, William Ernest Bohle and Henry Charles Church had decided to convert the business into a Joint Stock Company, the main object being to provide additional capital for further trade developments. The Birmingham Daily Gazette article entitled ‘Pending Issue’ appeared on 12 March 1913, whilst the Prospectus was published the next day.

In the Introduction to the Issue we note the formation of a new company ‘J. A Phillips & Co., Ltd.’ Thus a change from the old partnership company title ‘J. A. Phillips & Co’. The authorised capital would be £125,000, divided into 55,000, 7% Cumulative Participating Preference Shares at £1 each and 70,000 Ordinary Shares of £1, all of which Ordinary Shares will be allotted to the Vendors (ie Bohle and Church) or their nominees in part payment of purchase money. The Directors are George Gordon Brodie, J.P. “Woodlands”, Cheltenham, Joint Managing Director of John Wright and Eagle Range Ltd, Chairman; Ernest William Bohle and Henry Charles Church of Credenda Works, Bridge Street, Smethwick, Partners of the firm of J. A. Phillips & Co., Managing Directors. Details of the Companies bankers, auditors and brokers are given; finally, appears ‘Secretary and Registered Office, Otto Hesmer, Credenda Works, Smethwick, Birmingham’.

In the Prospectus itself we are told that ‘The Company has been formed to acquire from Messrs E. W. Bohle and H. C. Church the business and undertaking carried on by them under the style or firm of “J. A. Phillips & Co.,” at Credenda Works, Bridge Street, Smethwick in the County of Stafford, of Manufacturers of Cycle and Motor Fittings, Cycles, Stampers, Piercers, Bolt Screw and Nut Makers, Tube Drawers and Benders.

The business was formed in 1896 with a capital of £900, from which the present Capital has been accumulated mainly out of profits. The present works at Smethwick were acquired in 1907 and the business moved there. They are Freehold and comprise an area of 4½ acres or thereabouts. Large sums have been spent on the premises and machinery to adapt them to the purposes of the business, but they are still capable of extension, and there is ample spare land for the construction of additional buildings.

The remarkable development of the last five years has so largely increased the magnitude of the undertaking that the Vendors consider the time has arrived for converting the business into a Joint Stock Company, and the main object of the present issue is to provide additional Capital for further trade developments. The employees of the Firm number about 1,400, the customers several thousands, and the products are sold in nearly every country throughout the world. It is proposed that the business shall be continued upon the lines which have proved so successful in the past, maintaining services of the managers and staff who have largely contributed to that success.

The Business will be taken over by the Company as a going concern as from the 31st day of August 1912, the date of the last annual stocktaking, the Vendors paying all liabilities and receiving all debts owing up to that date, and the Company will have the benefit of all profits realised from that date after allowing a proportionate amount thereof to the Vendors to cover the period from 31st August 1912 to the 1st March 1913’

Then followed a valuation of assets – land and buildings, fixed plant and machinery, loose tools, fittings and fixtures, and stock in trade, plus the assets of the subsidiary Rolfe Manufacturing Co; total value £82,063 8s 8d.

My commentary:-

This is a remarkable success story, to go from a capital of £900 in 1896 to assets of £82,000 in just seventeen years - in modern day figures this would be from about £84,000 to £6.6 million – the results (I suspect) largely due to the dynamic Ernest W Bohle. George Gordon Brodie JP – this gentleman, born in 1849, was a director of Rudge Cycles in 1894, and at the date of the Issue was a joint managing director of John Wright (Gas Engineers) and of Eagle Range (cast iron domestic cookers). In later years he would become Chairman of the Halford Cycle Co Ltd, and of Parker Winder and Achurch, and a director of Radiation Ltd. He died a wealthy man in 1928. I would suggest that he was brought in to add some gravitas to the Executive, on the eve of the flotation.

‘The remarkable development of the last five years’ puts actual production commencing in 1908; this makes sense, as after the purchase of the premises in 1907, they would have to refurbish the factory and install specialised machinery – perhaps this is where the date of 1908 comes from in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

The First AGM

This was held at the Grand Hotel, Birmingham on 6th November 1913, to report on the financial year 31 August 1912 to 31 August 1913; net profit was £20,118 10s 11d. The share issue had raised the staggering figure of £125,000, and together with the years’ profits, the total value of assets was now £155,454 6s 6d or £12.5 million in today’s money. The 70,000 £1 shares had been bought by Bohle, Church and their family members, whilst J. A. Phillips also acquired a significant amount. Full details are given below under ‘People and Shares’. [Raleigh Collection, Notts CC]

The First World War and the Great Fire

Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914; on the 14th of August 1914, the Birmingham Daily Post reported that “Mr H. C. Church of the firm of J. A. Phillips and Co., Credenda Works, Smethwick, was amongst the Lusitania’s passengers. In an interview yesterday he said the voyage was a very exciting one. The ship was only a few hours on its way from New York when engine trouble developed and the mechanism of the turbines was affected, the suggestion being that in some way or other the engines had been tampered with. Two days out on the voyage the boat was chased by a German cruiser, which had full steam up, but luckily the liner ran into a fog, and, deflecting her course considerably to the north she got clear away from her pursuer. She had been warned by the cruiser Essex of the dangerous proximity of the enemy’s craft, and this timely information was of great assistance to the captain, who acted with great promptitude and judgement. As it was, however, the Lusitania accomplished only about 440 miles a day, instead of 600. There was a German aboard who, when the ship was well on her way, admitted that he was an army officer”. (We may assume that his trip was part of the sales drive mentioned above). The Lusitania was of course fated to be lost at sea on May 7th the next year, sunk by a German U Boat torpedo with a loss of 1,100 souls out of a total of 1,900 crew and passengers on board.

The Credenda Works was commandeered by the War Office for the making of munitions, and contracts were also received to supply the Government with cycle components; the Army Cyclist Corps was formed in November 1914, with one Cyclist Company for each Division – their role was reconnaissance and communications (message taking). As there were 75 Divisions, and a Company was about 250 men, this equates to 18,750 bicycles. These contributions to the war effort were however to be halted by the disastrous fire that broke out at the end of the year.

The Birmingham Mail headlines of Monday 14th December 1914 shouted out; ‘BIG FIRE AT SMETHWICK – 1000 WORKPEOPLE THROWN OUT OF EMPLOYMENT – CREDENDA WORKS GUTTED’. The fire had broken out in the enamelling shop; understandable, as the enamelled items were baked in ovens, but the fire then swept through the entire premises. “From the Bridge Street entrance of the works along to the polishing shop, a distance of some hundreds of yards, only the outer walls remained. Inside, the iron girders and machinery were twisted out of all recognition....The shops involved were the automatic machine shop, the press, handle-bar, pedal, and frame workshops, the rubber stores and general warehouses. In the latter there was a large quantity of finished material, the whole of which, of course, was destroyed......The extent of the damage cannot yet be ascertained, but it is certain to reach a very big figure as not only the whole of the machinery, stock and materials, but also the works themselves have been destroyed’. In a separate article the same day, the newspaper commented that ‘The fire which broke out on Saturday at the works of J A Phillips and Co Ltd, Smethwick (see Page 5) was still smouldering yesterday, and the Brigade were engaged all day pouring water onto the debris. The destruction of the works is complete, and the whole of the workpeople, numbering over 1,000 are thrown out of employment. The damage, which is covered by insurance, cannot yet be estimated, but it is stated that it may possibly reach a total of £100,000’

The Birmingham Daily Gazette, also on the same day, reported that ‘some of the most delicate pneumatic machinery, the result of years of scientific research was reduced into an indescribable puzzle of twisted bars’ and claims that 1500 employees are affected. It added that ‘In order to cope with the large contracts they receive, this firm have modelled their works upon the most up-to-date system of introducing the raw material at one side and passing it through process by process it arrives at the other side of the factory as a complete and finished article. Hence the enamelling and japanning room is situated in the centre of the factory on which all the other shops converge.... The firm, the Gazette was informed, had almost completed a Government contract for cycle accessories, and the officials estimated the damage at from thirty to forty thousand pounds’

These newspaper articles are of great interest, not only because of the fire itself, but that they reveal almost incidentally that the firm was carrying out Government war material contracts, using the most modern machinery arranged for flow- line mass production.

As the company eventually resumed trading from the Credenda Works, it may be assumed that the works was rebuilt and re-equipped with new machinery to enable production to re-start after the disastrous fire of 1914. My own experience in building and civil engineering suggests that it could have taken take several years to facilitate the design of the new building, to award a contract and to construct the new plant, then there is the purchase and installation of machinery unless of course, accelerated by war time expediency.

Trading with the Enemy

And as if this wasn’t enough grief for one year, we literally find, a few days after the fire, the company Directors and staff being prosecuted under the ‘Trading with the Enemy Act’; The Birmingham Mail issue of Thursday 17th December 1914, reporting on this dramatic episode, stated that......‘There were altogether 16 summonses, six against the firm, four against Ernest William Bohle, Credenda Works and Otto Hesmer, of the same address, and against Henry Charles Church whose address was also given as Credenda Works’.

It was alleged that in August and September of 1914 they had ‘unlawfully’ obtained 20,000 pairs of handlebar grips from Germany via Messrs Adler who had premises in England, France an Amsterdam. It was reported that... “The firm of J. A. Phillips and Co Ltd., carried on business at the Credenda Works, Bridge Street, as cycle and cycle accessory manufacturers. There were 70,000 £1 shares, of which Mr Bohle held 39,000, (not 33,000 as stated in Graces Guide) Mrs Bohle 2,000. H. C. Church 24,000, Mrs Church 717, and J. A, Phillips 4,000. Mr Bohle and Mr Church were joint managing directors, the secretary being Otto Hesmer. Mr Bohle was a naturalised subject of this country, and had been a resident here for twenty or twenty-five years, while Mr Hesmer was naturalised about two years ago”

The next day, the headlines in the Birmingham Daily Gazette read - ‘GERMAN GOODS –Charge against a Firm in Smethwick – ATTEMPT TO TRADE’, and, ‘.... Two directors, and the secretary of Phillips and Co., whose Credenda Works at Smethwick were burnt out on Saturday night, were charged at Smethwick yesterday with trading with the enemy’.

The final hearing was reported in The Birmingham Daily Post on Friday 15th January 1915 when it was revealed that Otto Hesmer took the whole responsibility for the transactions; following legal arguments relating to case law however, the summonses were withdrawn by the Crown.

What is revealed in this episode, again almost incidentally, is the existence of Mr Hesmer and the role he plays in the Phillips Company, together with very significant information on Company shareholdings, and I discuss these issues in the next part of this work.

People and Shares

We have encountered Otto Hesmer before (see Public Flotation, above) and at this point I decided to do a little research on this gentleman, because his presence here reinforces my view of the strong and continuing connection between Bohle, Phillips Cycles, and Germany. Hesmer is found in the 1911 Census living at 19 Selsey Road, Harborne, Birmingham. He is a ‘Boarder’ living with Lucy Pratt and her son and daughter; he is single, his occupation given as ‘Manager, Cycle Fitting Works’ and he is a ‘Worker’ (rather than employer). Harborne was a thriving suburb of Birmingham, with housing consisting primarily of modest terraces, and Selsey Road is only two miles from Smethwick town centre. If we look further into his Naturalisation of 30th October 1913 we find that he was born in Herscheid, in the Province of Westphalia. An inspection of this region (‘Westfallen’) in my Times Atlas, reveals that Herscheid is ten miles north of Bergneustead, birthplace of Ernst Wilhelm Bohle. It seems highly likely to me that the two men were related and that Hesmer was recruited by Bohle.

But to return to the matter of the shareholdings, an analysis of the allocation of the shares held in December 1914 comes up with some revealing results;

Shareholder No. of £1 Shares Value today £m Percentage
Mr Bohle 39,000 4.13 55.71
Mrs Bohle 2,000 0.22 2.96
Mr Church 24,000 2.54 34.29
Mrs Church 717 0.08 1.02
Mr Philips 4,000 0.42 5.71
Others 283 0.03 0.41
TOTALS 70,000 7.42 100.00

Significantly, the joint holdings of Mr. And Mrs. Bohle comes to 58.57% making them the majority shareholders and also making it clear, if it was not already apparent, just who is running the Company; also interesting is that Mr Phillips holds some shares, despite the fact that he has not been actively involved in the company since 1909.

1915 - Near Bankruptcy

The following information is from the records of The National Archives, comprising 20 pages, all bearing the official stamp of ‘Supreme Court of Judicature – Companies Winding Up’. The company had been profitable in the year ending 31st August 1914, paying dividends of £7 percent on Preference Shares and £5 percent on Ordinary Shares; however the fire at the Works on 13th December 1914 had destroyed the factory and the whole of the contents and stock-in-hand. An insurance payment was made of about £90,000 and this was lodged with the Company’s bank but no use could be made of this sum as - “The company has made every effort to have its premises reinstated, but by reason of the pending war it has been unable to procure the re-building of its factory or the necessary machinery for carrying on its business which is now at a standstill and there is no probability that this state of circumstances will be altered in the near future. By reason of the premises the company’s share capital is in excess of its wants”. A Resolution was passed to get rid of the Preferential Shares, and the holders of such would be fully reimbursed; the Ordinary Shares would remain as before. A Petition to this effect was put to the High Court of Justice Chancery Division on 11th August 1915. A hearing followed on 23 November 1915, when it was determined that an enquiry would be held into the Company’s debts and liabilities, and the Petition was approved - it was ordered that £1590 9s 4d be paid to creditors and that the term ‘and Reduced’ be added to the title of the Company for one month.

At a final hearing on 24th November 1915 the results of the enquiry were announced; the Company had paid off and discharged all debts, claims and liabilities. £250 was paid to two creditors, these being Solicitors.

Sworn affidavits were provided by: Ernest William Bohle, Walter Thomas Church (younger brother of Henry Charles Church), Frank Travers Edge (solicitor), Henry Charles Trow (law clerk) and Thomas Alfred Warburton. It is significant that the name of Henry Charles Church himself, one of the three original partners, does not appear.

There followed a schedule of the debts and claims, which is quite illuminating;

Part I – ‘Creditors who have been paid’; eight firms from the Birmingham and Smethwick areas including Guest Keen and Nettlefold (owed £132), the total due being £170 2s 10d.

Part II – ‘Creditors who have consented to the proposed reduction of capital’; two firms of solicitors, £250.

Part III - ‘Creditors in respect of whose debts the Company is willing to set apart and appropriate the full amount’. A list of thirteen German firms, including Mettalwerke GMBH - still in existence today as tube manufacturers. The total of the German firm’s debts and claims was £1,590. All were paid, despite being in an enemy country!

Although not explicitly stated, it seems to me that the Company was wound up and reconstituted; however it escaped bankruptcy but at a great cost to E W Bohle and the other holders of Ordinary Shares in firstly buying out the Preferential Shareholders (£55,000) and then paying off all debts, claims and liabilities (£2,010 3s 2d) total £57,000 in round figures, a figure today which would be equal to just over £6,000,000.

It is quite startling to find that supplies from Germany (in financial terms) were about 10 times those of the English firms, but this does support my general hypotheses of a strong German participation in the Company affairs.

Concern had been mounting in the Government regarding the ability of the War Office to expedite re-armament and in May 1915 the Ministry of Munitions was formed to take over this role under David Lloyd George, and by September 1915 some 715 establishments were producing munitions. “The materials which the Ministry of Munitions brought under its control included nearly a hundred main categories, and extended not only to more obvious articles such as iron, steel, copper, chemicals, and machine tools, but to bricks, flax-seed, glassware, waste paper and yarn” [War Memoirs of David Lloyd George]. I think it safe to say that the Credenda Works was rebuilt and re-equipped for the production of war materials during 1916.

In the Birmingham Daily Post of Friday 29th September 1916 I found a brief article on ‘New Companies’ and learnt about the ‘Rolfe Manufacturing Company (1916). – This company has been registered, with a capital of £100 in £1 shares, to carry on in the United Kingdom or elsewhere the business of manufacturers of and dealers in cycles, motor-cycles and cars and component parts thereof, and of other machines, founders, engineers, machinists &c. Registered office: Credenda Works, Bridge Street, Smethwick’. Also, an advertisement in 1922 refers to ‘J. A. Phillips & Co (1916) Limited’, [GG] thus confirming the reconstitution of the Cycle Company.

One thing had continued to puzzle me about this whole affair – why the need to get rid of the Preferential shares? – the answer might be in the Petition where it is stated that “......By Article 68 of the said Articles [of association] the preference shares confer the right to a fixed cumulative preferential dividend at the rate of £7 percent per annum and the right whenever in respect of any year a dividend at the rate of 10 percent is paid on the capital paid up on the ordinary shares to a further dividend for such year out of surplus profits equivalent to one quarter percent for every one percent paid on the ordinary shares over and above 10 percent and the right in a winding-up to repayment of capital in priority to the ordinary shares but they shall not confer a right to any further participation in profits or assets” In other words, the Company could not continue paying out to Preferential Shareholders when there was no income. A final note on this extraordinary business – I had speculated above that the partners may have borrowed in order to fund the acquisition of the Credenda Works; they may have done so – however, in the schedule of debts there is no mention of any outstanding bank loans.

H. C. Church visited Beunos Aires in May 1920 (presumably on business) and it may be purely coincidental, but by the end of the same year, Phillips was acquired by Tube Investments.

Tube Investments – An Overview

The following is a brief account and the information is taken from Grace’s Guide unless otherwise stated. Comments and interpretations are my own.

‘The company was registered as Tube Investments in 1919, combining the seamless steel tube businesses of Tubes Ltd, New Credenda Tube (later known as Creda), Simplex and Accles and Pollock’ and was ‘a holding company for specialised engineering companies’.

The Times 9th December 1920; ‘The chairman, Arthur Chamberlain, told the first AGM that Phillips, a maker of bicycle parts, had been acquired since the amalgamation in 1919’.

In 1928 they acquired Reynolds Tube; in 1946 bought Swallow Coachbuilding, (founders of Jaguar Cars) but now only making sidecars at Walsall Airport, and Hercules Cycles of Coventry, once the largest manufacturer of bicycles in the world. In 1954/55 manufactured the Swallow Doretti sports car.

‘The British Cycle Corporation subsidiary was formed in 1956 and consisted of Phillips Cycles, Hercules Cycles (no connection with the German Hercules company), Armstrong, Norman Cycles and Sun Cycles’.

T. I. acquired British Aluminium after a fierce battle lasting through the years of 1958 and 1959. ‘Raleigh Industries were acquired in 1960, bringing Raleigh owned brands BSA Cycles, Humber, Triumph, Rudge, New Hudson, Sunbeam, Three Spires and J. B. Brookes. In 1963 the company bought Russell Hobbs, kettle manufacturers...’

T.I. bought Alfred Herbert, machine tool makers, in 1982. Then followed a complicated period of acquisitions and divestments which ended in them becoming part of the Smiths Group in 2000 and then disappearing altogether. Raleigh, including of course the Phillips brand, had been sold to Derby International of America in 1987.

Phillips Under T. I., 1921 to 1939

Of the original three founders, only Bohle lived to a good age; Henry Charles Church died on 5th December 1923 at Southcliffe, Bournemouth aged 53 or 55 (accounts vary). He had had no children, so we find that of his ‘Effects’ of £42,937 3s 4d, £1,000 was left to the Convalescent Home for children at Moseley, and the residue between the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, The Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, and St Dunstan’s Institution for the Blind – perhaps reflecting a lifelong interest in children’s welfare, the Masons (he had been a member since 1896) and the blind.

Otto Hesmer, at one time Secretary to the Company, died on 12th May 1927 aged only 48, at Handsworth, Birmingham. John Alfred Phillips effectively ended his involvement with the company in 1909 and died at Coventry in 1933, at the relatively early age of 67.

Ernest William Bohle died in 1953 at Moseley, Birmingham, aged aged 81, so we may assume that he retired from the company in the late 1930’s. He was certainly active in later life as he travelled to Canada and the US in 1936, and to Beunos Aries in 1937 when he was aged 66 – I assume on company business.

Life went on after the war and on 29 January 1925 we find the following reported in the Birmingham Daily Gazette; ‘In the Chancery Division yesterday, Mr Justice Tomlin granted an application by J. A. Phillips and Co., Ltd., of Credenda Works, Bridge Street, Smethwick, for an extension for four years of a patent relating to a particular method of attaching brakes and other parts to cycles. It was explained that the application was necessitated by the commandeering of the premises by the War Office for the making on munitions’. I mention above a similar patent of 1909 by W. E Bohle, so I assume this is a continuation of the same.

In 1927, a terrible accident occurred. Maintenance electrician Cyril Arthur Twigg was in the works, on his own, on a Saturday morning attending to belt that had broken in the barrelage department. (It was common practice in this era for factories to operate multiple machines by pulleys and belts from overhead shafting). Mr Twigg had carried out a repair, and must have started up the electric motors driving the particular shaft, to check it out, when he was caught up in the belt and thus suffered a horrible death. A verdict of accidental death was recorded by the jury at the Coroners inquest [Birmingham Daily Gazette, 6 December 1927]

Thomas J. Boulstridge, Company Director, later to be Managing Director enters the picture when he travels to Brisbane 1st April 1938, and I assume he is in the process of taking over from E. W. Bohle.

It is evident that Phillips developed a worldwide export business commencing in the 1930’s, right up to the late 1950’s; the following list is from the National Archives and may not be exhaustive. The earliest licensing agreement for a foreign company to import their products, which I can find, is in 1935 with Mr M Goldberg of Tel-Aviv, Israel. Further agreements followed with ‘The Rhodesia Economic Cycle Works’ (July 1936); Messrs llidio S Main of Oporto, Portugal (November 1938); Thorolf Brenni & Co Ltd of Oslo, Norway (January 1939); Braulio L Corral, of Havana, Cuba (August 1939); Messrs Agencia Carteles of Tegucigalpa, Honduras (October 1947); British Agencies Ltd, Teheran, Iran (October 1948); Messrs Hales Brothers of Bombay, India (February 1953); Messrs Vierco S A of Caracas, Venezuela (November 1955); The China Engineers Ltd of Hong Kong (January 1958) – this company still exists today, but as importers and distributers of mining and construction plant, particularly Caterpillar; Diethelm & Company Ltd of Bangkok, Thailand (April 1959), which also still exists, specialising in chemicals and engineering.

From other sources we know that they had an agency in Paris in 1922 [GG]. ‘Phillips were the second largest manufacturer of cycles and cycle component in the world, after Raleigh’.

Quite strangely, I have found no information on exports to the English speaking nations, but would suggest that Phillips probably opened their own offices/salesrooms in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the USA.

‘The T.I. group seemed quite a liberal association, as Phillips appeared to continue trading independently, manufacturing components for the cycle trade up to the early 1930’s, when they started producing ‘export parcels’ of all the components required to build up a complete bicycle. From there it was only a short step to making-up frames for the home market by the mid-30’s, then building complete bicycles under their own brand towards the end of the decade.’ [icenicam].With this article there is a coloured illustrated brochure dated c1936 showing home market cycle kits, for a “Philrace” ladies lightweight frame and a gents “Super Club” model – both are complete bicycles except for saddles, saddle-bags, wheel rims and tyres. The earliest advertisement I have found for a complete Phillips bicycle is a very colourful example dated 1937; ‘Introducing the new Phillips Coronation Model... to commemorate the historic occasion....Manufactured by J. A. Phillips & Co. Ltd, Birmingham. England’ [Advertising Archives]. The machine is a sturdy roadster with semi-dropped handlebars, cable operated brakes and a Sturmey Archer rear hub. The Coronation of King George VI took place on 12th May that year.

Boosting Morale

There was a general impression in the country in the mid to late 30’s that war was inevitable, and when I came across a raft of newspaper reports relating to Company sponsored sporting activities - fishing in the River Trent, January 1939; cricket in May 1939; football, against Hamstead Colliery in January 1940 and the bowls match in May 1940 – I concluded that the firm was encouraging these activities to build up morale during the difficult times. [Newspaper Archives on-line].

Phillips-Raleigh Agreement

I discovered a curious arrangement entered into between Phillips and Raleigh; in April, 1939 (five months before the war broke out) the two companies concluded an agreement whereby Raleigh would undertake to purchase cycle fittings aimed at the ‘cheap’ end of the market, and would guarantee to spend £20,000 per annum with Phillips provided that they (Phillips) undertook not to sell complete bicycles in the UK [Raleigh collection, Notts CC].

The Second World War

‘During the 2nd World War Phillips switched to munitions work, producing vast quantities of shells (89 million!), armour piercing tips, grenades, land mines and aircraft parts’ [icenicam].

I mention elsewhere that the company suffered loss of records during the blitz, and this may be the reason why so little information is available on this massive operation.

There must have been a separate cycle division, as I came across a photograph on-line of a World War II Phillips Mark V Military Roadster- very traditional, very heavy, with rod operated brakes and a built-in rear carrier with provision for a rifle.

In May 1940 an advertisement appeared for ‘J. A. Phillips & Co Ltd’ in which they described themselves as ‘The Cycle Fitting Specialists’ (not cycle manufacturers, you will note) requiring workers for their Export Department for work of national importance; a list of the personnel needed gives some idea of the scope of this part of the works - frame rectifiers, frame filers, export packers, labourers, small work polishers (youths), and women for light assembly work. These types of jobs apparently could be carried out by the unskilled, as there is second list for experienced workers, ie, handlebar moppers, handlebar polishers, power press tool-setters, power press fitters, auto setters and female welders. Wonderful conditions were offered with regular employment at good wages, in ideal conditions in modern factories [Birmingham Mail, 24th May 1940]. Much more modest was the requirement in late 1942 for two office cleaners to work mornings, 7.15 to 8.45, and evenings 6 to 8.30 for 1s per hour, ie, 5p.[Birmingham Daily Gazette 22nd August 1942].

As befitting a benevolent Company, Phillips opened a canteen for their workers in July 1942 (rather belatedly perhaps), advertising for a pastry cook, an assistant cook and canteen assistants [Birmingham Daily Gazette 4th July 1942].

On the 6th May 1943, the Evening Despatch noted that ‘For Navy Comforts...As a result of a dance organised by the social and athletic club of Credenda Works, Oldbury, a sum of £50 has been sent to the ‘Merchants Navy Comforts Fund’. The money will be used to provide emergency rescue kits for merchant seamen’. Confusingly, there were two Credenda Works, one at Smethwick and one at Oldbury (manufacturing electrical goods) both owned by T. I.

In late 1943, the company applied to register the ‘J. A. Phillips’ Servicemen’s Comforts Fund, the objects of which are shortly as follows:- To provide Comforts for Employees now serving in H. M. Forces, and the administrative centre of which is situate at J. A. Phillips and Co., Ltd., Bridge Street, Smethwick’.[Birmingham Daily Gazette 23rd August 1943].

In November 1944 (six months after ‘D-Day) ‘A party of wounded soldiers were guests at a lunch and entertainment at the works canteen of Messrs J. A. Phillips and Co., Credenda Works, Smethwick. The entertainment was provided by the T.H.D Variety artistes of Derby. The party also made a tour of the company’s works’. [Birmingham Daily Gazette].

‘The Smethwick and Handsworth works commenced refitting in 1945 as world conflicts concluded and military contracts eased, then Phillips returned to the cycle trade’ [icenicam] The conversion of the huge factory back to production of fittings for the civilian market would have taken some time, but we find that ‘In 1949 the firm... employed some 2000 people at the greatly enlarged Credenda works, producing and distributing bicycle components. It was still at the works in 1971’ [British History On-line].

The Post-War Years, 1945–1960

I suspect that both during and immediately after the war thoughts had turned to the design and production of a new range of bicycles, and there is some indication that this was being achieved, by the advertisement that appeared in the Gloucester Citizen on 31st October 1949; ‘500,000 dollar cycle order – A cycle show order worth 500,000 dollars has been received from the U.S.A for 20,000 bicycles states Mr T. J. Boulstridge, Managing Director of J A Phillips & Co Ltd., Smethwick. It is interesting to note that this sale was concluded before The Cycle and Motorcycle show, the first since the war, and which was held at Earls Court from November 10th to 17th 1949. Phillips had a major stand there and exhibited a colourful range which included the Valiant sports model, the Manhattan tourist model and the new ‘Fleur de Lys’ sports model, most expensive at £27 19s 11d including Purchase Tax.

There was an absolute blitz of advertising (no pun intended) after the War and I have collected many advertisements for Phillips bicycles; it is very apparent that these were aimed firmly at the well-to-do middle classes – here are a few examples; a boy and his sister wearing school uniforms cycle out from their grand, gated, family home, followed by pater (dressed in a formal riding outfit) on his horse; a youth, this time in a tweed suit (short trousers) is cycling away from his school whilst his chums, still in school uniform, look on in envy - in the background is the school with its imposing entrance and mullioned windows; an elderly gentleman formally attired in a tweed suit with knickerbockers, tie, trilby and pipe, pauses with his bicycle outside his Tudor mansion, to chat to the gardener. These advertisements appeared very regularly in up-market publications such as ‘The Sphere’ and ‘The illustrated London News’ and occasionally in ‘The Tatler’.

The decade 1950 to 1960 seems to have been the golden era for the manufacture of Phillips bicycles. Of the mass produced machines (in my opinion) Phillips bikes were better made than Raleigh, whilst not being in the same league as, say, Humber, Rudge or Sunbeam which were highly priced and produced in small numbers.

In early 1951, the Company was getting geared up (erroneously) to celebrate its Diamond Jubilee (1892 – 1952) and the Secretary, Mr W. V. Hill (who claimed that Phillips was ‘the largest manufacturer of bicycles and accessories in the world’) was appealing for ‘ much information as possible of the Company’s activities during the early history as unfortunately, many of the old records were destroyed at the time of the “blitz” [Biggleswade Chronicle 4th May 1951].

The Managing Director of Phillips, Thomas J Boulstridge, takes passage on the Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York, arriving on 26th September 1951, but gives his company’s name as ‘Messrs Indian Sales Corporation, Springfield, Mass.’ This of course relates to an arrangement with the Indian Corporation to manufacture bicycles for them, which will be marketed as ‘The Princess’ for girls and ‘The Scout’ for boys. These appear in 1952; adverts show them as very pretty touring machines, and they are actually promoted as ‘The finest light English-built bicycle....built by PHILLIPS CYCLES LTD England’. Whether the following information relates to the Indian deal I am not sure, but it may well do so; ‘On arrival at Southampton from Eastern Canada and the U.S., Mr T. J. Boulstridge, Managing Director of J A Phillips & Co Ltd, cycle manufacturers, of Smethwick, said: “I have in my pocket firm orders for cycles and parts totalling more than 1,000,000 dollars (nearly £357,142. It remains how far materials will be available to enable us to fulfil these orders on time” [Yorkshire Evening Post, 25th October 1951). Because of the country’s huge economic indebtedness to America after the war, the Labour Government had imposed severe restrictions on the availability of materials, particularly steel, with first call going to those exporting, particularly to the US.

Mr Boulstridge was an active salesman for the Company, visiting South America in March 1952 - his Immigration Card shows a man with a pleasant, but determined face - and New York in May 1952.

A beautifully coloured advertisement (1952?) for the ‘Phillips Coronation Range of Quality Bicycles’ shows a young couple feeding the pigeons in Trafalger Square, with of course their Phillips sports bicycles (complete with Derailleur gears) close to hand. A circular logo is in the upper corner of the advert, around the perimeter of which appears ‘The Crowning Year of Achievement’ and within the circle, the Phillips badge, and ‘1892-1952’ so presumably was from 1952. The Coronation would take place on 2nd June 1953 but the date was known well in advance, in fact being pronounced in June 1952. The Company name in this advert is given as ‘Phillips Cycles Limited, Smethwick, Birmingham’ – so note the difference to the 1937 advert. It appears that the bicycle arm is to be a separate legal entity from the components arm, although both would continue to be made in the same factory at Smethick. The Coronation Campaign of 1952 and 1953 is reminiscent of the 1937 efforts, suggesting some continuity in the advertising department. November 1952 saw ‘Juvenile Bicycles & tricycles’ being advertised;

A full page spread was featured on the front page of ‘CYCLING’ magazine, 8th January 1953 for ‘The New Phillips Kingfisher’; ‘the outstanding value in sports machines’ included ‘Phillips 3-speed derailleur Gear, Dunlop Speed tyres, Maes bend handlebars with 9̋ adjustable stem. Completely brazed-up 21ʺ, 22˝ and 23̋ with 69̊ angles. Solid fork ends, front and rear. Phillips Grand Vitesse hubs and hooded lever brakes. Celluloid mudguards with double stays, Flamboyant “Kingfisher” Blue finish. Large touring bag, pump and reflector’ all for the price of £17. 17. 8, tax paid. Mine was fitted with the optional front Dynohub at £2 16s 4d, so a total; of £20 14s 0d. This was the bike I owned circa 1958 – it was second hand and had been given to me by my brother-in-law – I was earning £4 per week at the time as a factory apprentice. In April 1953 there appeared a further advert for the Coronation Range, showing ladies and gents sports tourers, but with no gears.

Ernest William Bohle, who was the real driving force in the company, died on 2nd September 1953 at Moseley, Birmingham; his ‘Effects’ worth £50,230 1s. 3d. or £1,327,856 in today’s money. However, in 1914 he and his wife had paper assets (shares) which today would have had a value of £4.35 million pounds.

In late 1953 a significant document was produced [Disraeli Documents on-line]; ‘Private and confidential – PHILLIPS - RANGE OF BICYCLES AND TRICYCLES – TRADE PRICES OCTOBER 1ST 1953’. It is aimed at the trade, and is the only such document I have come across. It would be tedious to reproduce here the entire list of 40 models which includes detailed specifications for each, together with trade and retail prices, the latter given with and without Purchase Tax,- the VAT of the time - but I summarise below. (The complete document is attached as an appendix). I have rounded prices off to the nearest £, and these are for the total cost including the dreaded Purchase Tax. With the exception of tradesmen’s bicycles, and children’s tricycles, all are offered in ladies and gents versions.

The first group consists of fourteen machines, including lightweight sports ‘Roadster’ and ‘Tourist’ models, followed by heavier versions of the same (£13 to £16); the second group being the named models - Vox Populi, Phantom and “Phillips Jaguar” (£18 to £24); then comes ‘Juvenile’, ‘Junior Sports’ and ‘Kiddies’ (£10 to £12); then the carriers, two models, one with a smaller front wheel (£13 and £14); the ‘Magic Steed Tricycle’ was available in blue red and maroon (£11); the ‘Speedtrack was designed especially for speedway riders (£12); the Minor was another version of the ‘Kiddies’ only slightly bigger (£11), followed by the ‘Red Knight Tricycle’ a downmarket version of the ‘Magic Steed’ as it had solid tyres (£9), and last but not least the illustrious ‘Kingfisher’, the only machine out of the whole range to be offered with Phillips 3 speed derailleur gears as original equipment (£17).

As a separate entity are the strongly built models with reinforced front forks, designed to take a motorised rear wheel – you could buy these with or without a rear wheel (£13 to £18,) The ‘Cyclemaster’ was the most popular of the motorised rear wheels available at the time. A wide range of additional equipment was available, including 3 and 4 speed Sturmey Archer rear hubs; 3, 4, and 5 speed Benelux or Simplex Tour de France derailleurs and these could be combined with a double chainwheel, giving 8 or 10 speeds. You could have hub brakes, or the superior ‘Resilion’ brakes (Phillips own brand). Lighting was available via the use of Sturmey Archer front or rear ‘Dynohubs’. Your toddler could have a ‘Streamline Boot’ for his tricycle and you could keep the little bugger under control by attaching a telescopic handle (to the trike, not him). Alternative colours could be provided and some extras, such as an oil bath gear case, balancer wheels for the children’s bicycles, and a Phillips steel kick stand. It is interesting to compare 1953 prices with today’s – thus a ‘Kingfisher’ cost £17 and the average mans wage was £9.25, thus it took him 1.84 weeks to pay for it (assuming he went without shelter, clothing or food); today the cost would be £450 and it would take one week to pay for it. My Kingfisher was the basic original 3 speed model made circa 1953-1955, because after this date it was much prettified with additional white banding panels on the frame, red taped handlebar bend, red pump, and white-walled tyres. The Resilion Derailleur gear is fitted to a brazed-on bracket with 4 speeds as standard, plus an optional double chainwheel. The price has gone up to £19 8s 1d (4 speed) and £21 5s 7d (8 speed).

Thomas Boulstridge visits New York on ‘The Queen Mary’, sailing from Southampton on 16th January 1954, and this is one of the rare occasions that his address is given as ‘J. A. Phillips & Co Ltd, Smethwick’’.

We now enter the period, 1954 on, when the company started making bicycles complete with engines - as opposed to the earlier venture where they sold a bicycle, but the customer sourced his own motorised rear wheel. The following information is generally taken from contemporary magazines- ‘The Motor Cycle’ [TMC] and ‘Motor Cycling’ [MC]. What is slightly mysterious about these early advertisements and reports is that the make of engines is not disclosed – they were in fact the German Rex; this reticence was due to the concern that purchasers, particularly ex-servicemen, might be put off buying the machine as anti-German feeling was still high in the post-war years. A similar situation existed at BSA, when the Bantam was launched in 1948, no mention was made that it was closely based upon the war time German DKW and this fact was not publicly known for years, until revealed by the BSA owners club magazine in the early 1960’s [BSA Bantam by Owen Wright, 2003].

In late 1954 Phillips marketed a motorised bicycle as a complete machine, and the machine was exhibited at the November 1954, at the Earls Court Show. For this, they took a conventional cycle but shaped the rear end of the top tube so it curved down to lower the seat, and added bracing struts to the front forks. A pear-drop style petrol tank was mounted on the cross-bar (gents model) whilst the two stroke engine was fitted above the bottom bracket The engine make is not stated [TMC 18 November 1954]. The Phillips Gadabout moped was announced at this show, but would not go on sale until 1955.

The indefatigable Mr Boulstridge again visited New York on ‘The Queen Mary’, in March 1955.

In late 1955, the diminutive motorised bicycle receives telescopic front forks for the 1956 season - one of the few British light weights to be so equipped - 1956 price will be £55 12s 2d [MC, 20 October 1955]. The Gadabout appeared at the Earls Court Show in November 1955 – “A new Phillips 49cc moped is powered by a two stroke engine built in unit with a two speed gear box which drives by chain to the rear wheel. The pedals can be used to start the engine or to propel the machine with the clutch locked in the disengaged position. A single oval-section tube is employed for the main member of the open-type frame and a telescopic front fork utilizing coil springs is fitted. Specification includes 4in-diameter hub brakes and Bosch ignition and lighting. Also shown is a 49cc fixed gear moped; it too boasts a telescopic front fork. Prices; two speed model, £68 15s; fixed-gear model, £57 7s 11d. Phillips Cycles Ltd., Smethwick, Birmingham” [TMC, 17th November 1955]. This article is also revealing in what it does not say; the name ‘Gadabout’ is not actually given, neither is the make of engine.

Events around this period seem to be moving towards the incorporation of Phillips into a discrete cycle entity within TI, as we find, for the first time, an advert in 1955 for ‘PHILLIPS, The World’s Largest producers of Quality Fitments’ has, in very small print, ‘A unit of the TI Cycle Division’; by October the same year this has become ‘A company of the TI Cycle Division’. [GG]

There was a different sort of advertising venture when in 1956 Phillips sponsored a nostalgic little book of some 63 pages entitled ‘Salute to cycling’ by Frank J. Urry, a veteran cyclist born in 1879 but who sadly died the year the book came out; mostly about his cycling tours, it was illustrated by Reg Gammon in charming sepia, brown and orange, comprising mainly countryside views. At the back were 8 pages devoted to Phillips cycles, featuring the ‘Jaguar’and Vox Populi’ sports models; the lightweight sports ‘Tourist’ and ‘Roadster’; ‘Roadmaster’ and ‘Roadmaster Tourist’ (‘armchair cycling’) and finally, views of the four Phillips’ works; Credenda, Credex and Apollo, all in the Birmingham area - and in Newtown, Wales., the Lion Works (named by Phillips after their lion emblem) bought after the war from Accles and Pollock; this was a shadow factory built by the government for the production of cold-drawn steel tubing components for aircraft fuselages and undercarriages, and Sten gun barrels.

In August 1956 the parent group, Tube Investments, established the ‘British Cycle Corporation’ taking in four Birmingham companies; Phillips Cycles (Smethwick), Hercules Cycles (3 factories in Birmingham), Armstrong (Oldbury) and Walton & Brown (Smethwick). Bicycle sales had been falling since the end of the war as people became better off and started buying motorcycles and cars, and the aim of the new subsidiary was to centralize and streamline production - 1,250 workers were to be made redundant, and of course the proposals met with strong opposition from the Trade Unions [Northern Whig, 21st September 1956]

The ‘Motor Cycling’ magazine, on 25th October 1956 said “PHILLIPS GADABOUT – First announced at Earls Court in 1954 the Phillips mo-ped appeared in modified form with telescopic forks last year and in this guise will be shown again as a 1957 model. Listed as the Phillips “Gadabout” the machine is powered by a 49c two-stroke unit located in the “bottom bracket” position and driving through a two speed gearbox to the final chain transmission. A clutch is provided for gear changing and also to give independent pedal action for starting”

A year later (31 October 1957) a full page advertisement appears in ‘Motor Cycling’ for the Gadabout, proclaiming first place in the moped class of the Rossendale Motor Club Enduro “102 miles in pelting rain”; petrol consumption is up to 200mpg. It is now fitted with the Mark IV Telescopic forks (it would appear that Phillips had had some problems getting these forks right) and the rear wheel is now sprung with a plunger type suspension. Still no mention is made of the make of the engine. Price is now 71 gns (£82 19s.) with speedometer and inclusive of purchase tax.

Some indication of the esteem in which the company was held was shown in January 1957 when the managing director of the Cycle Division of Tube Investments, Mr. T. J. Boulstridge was elected as president of the British Cycle and Motor Cycle Industries Association. Vice chairmen elected were Mr D. S Heather, Managing Director of Associated Motorcycles, and Mr H. B. Yates, Managing Director of Brooks Saddles. In 1958 Mr Boulstridge is re-elected as President, his title being given as ‘managing director of the British Cycle Corporation’ [Motor Cycling, 31 January 1957 and 6 February 1958]

The Phillips Panda is introduced in late 1958, and in a half-page advertisement in Motor Cycling, dated 27th November - after the Earls Court Show of that year- we are told that the machine is ‘Coming your way in the New Year – look out for the Phillips Panda, a single gear moped with hand-operated clutch’. It has cycle type front forks, and no sprung suspension for the rear wheel. Price is 52 gns, or £55 2s 6d, so substantially cheaper than the Gadabout.

The ‘Power and Pedal’ magazine issue of April 1959 featured a road test of the Phillips Panda “A new British Light Autocycle” and reported that was easy to start, of light weight and easy to handle but needed “light pedal assistance on real gradients”. There was some criticism of its utilitary appearance. Maximum speed (reached rather slowly) was a little over 25mph.

On 27th August 1959, ‘The Motor Cycle’ reported on ‘the latest Phillips mopeds’;

  • The Panda single speed moped remains unchanged. The 48cc Rex engine with handlebar operated clutch is housed in an un-sprung frame of traditional cycle layout.
  • The two-speed Gadabout is now equipped with the 49cc Mark 3K Villiers moped unit, also with twist-grip gear change and telescopic front forks.
  • A new three speed version of the 49cc Rex-powered Gadabout with gear-changing by a twist grip; telescopic front forks.

Phillips Under T. I., Post 1960

After being acquired by T. I., in 1921, the company was left pretty well to its own devices to pursue the manufacture of fine cycle fittings, and later the production of a quality range of bicycles, together with several mopeds. This happy state of affairs continued until April 1960, when T. I. bought Raleigh Industries - consequently, to the T. I. stable of famous bicycle names of Phillips, Hercules, Armstrong and Norman, were added Raleigh, and its subsidiaries, BSA, Humber, Triumph, Rudge, New Hudson, Sunbeam, Three Spires, Sturmey Archer and Brookes saddles. ‘The board of Raleigh, enlarged with a director of TI and the MD of British Cycle Corporation, would control all cycle, component and motorized activities of the TI group, 2500 models being made by the group for the home market’ [GG]

I have noted above the legal separation of the bicycle and components elements of Phillips – this of course would make it easier to incorporate Phillips Cycles into Raleigh, which would go on to be the division of T. I. under which all bicycles would be made and sold, although some would be retained as brand names.

It is interesting to note that despite being absorbed into Raleigh in April 1960, Phillips had a display at the Cycle and Motor Cycle Show at Earls Court, 12 – 19 November 1960, giving their address as ‘Phillips Cycles, Credenda Works, Smethwick, Birmingham’. There was an illustrated half page advertisement in The Motor Cycle of 17 November 1960, promoting the Gadabout, whilst urging visitors to go and see the Phillips Gadabout and Panda on Stand 50. The magazine also contained a three page listing of mopeds, comprising 32 British and continental models with the Panda at the low end, and the Gadabout de Luxe near the top end of the price range – it is interesting to compare the models costs and specifications with those described above, as at 27 August 1959;

  • P49 Panda Plus; Rex 49cc two stroke engine with Miller ignition and lighting and Bing carburettor, single speed transmission, girder front forks - £57 4s 6d.
  • P45 Gadabout; Villiers 50cc two stroke engine in unit with two speed gearbox, and Villiers carburettor, telescopic forks - £67 4s 0d.
  • P50 Gadabout de Luxe; engine as P49, but three speed transmission, telescopic forks - £77 14s 0d

The rear wheels on all three models are un-sprung. Prices include British Purchase tax.

“On January 15th 1961, 1000 workers at Phillips Smethwick factory stopped work for the rest of the day, in protest against a BBC announcement to concentrate cycle production at Nottingham”. But from this year, only Raleigh cycle frames would be used, whilst incorporating some Phillips fittings [icenicam]. It seems that moped production also transferred to Nottingham during 1961.

A rare insight into the Phillips Company history appeared in ‘The Raligram’, November 1961; “After a distinguished and loyal service of almost 40 years, Mr Tom Winsper, Works Director, Raleigh Industries’ Bridge Street factory, Smethwick retired at the end of September for health reasons. Mr Winsper joined the company as a toolmaker and rose to earn a seat on the Board of Directors” In 1935 he was appointed manager of the newly opened Credex cycle production works, whilst in 1942 he transferred to the Credenda Works as works manager to assist in the re-organisation of the factory for important war production, staying with the company until his retirement in 1961 [icenicam]. This same year, Messrs Dun and Bradstreet reported that the Raleigh group was one of the largest manufacturers of cycles and cycle gears in the Common wealth, with 8000 employees [GG].

Encouraging signs that the company continued in business in its own right are adverts in the following year- ‘Profit from PHILLIPS quality fitments’ announced a trade advertisement in 1962, and listed pedals, cable brakes, hubs, bends and stems, ball bearing axles and cups, head fittings, chain wheel sets, transmission cables, and spokes and nipples – ‘Phillips fitments make friends of your customers’. J. A. Phillips Ltd., Credenda Works, Smethwick, Birmingham 40 [GG].

A further advertisement of the same year promoted Phillips roller skates under the banner ‘What’s your new line? (a reference to a popular TV quiz show of the time) and urged dealers ‘between now and Christmas’ to stock these ‘quick selling lines’, a range which included 3 types priced from 19/6d to 34/2d (98p to £1.72). J. A. Phillips & Co Ltd., Credenda Works, Smethwick, Birmingham 40. Sole distributors to the toy trade in the UK, Don Bricks Ltd., Kingsland Road, London.

The company name has change slightly from one advert to the next, and indeed both are quite different from the version given in November 1960, ‘Phillips Cycles’; a sad reflection on the changed role of the Credenda Works.

Another company gem I found on-line relating to the Managing Director, T. J. Boulstridge, (who must have been a sociable sort of a chap) was that at the age of 60 he is elected President of ‘The Pickwick Bicycle Club’ for the year 1963. The Club was founded in 1870 and the members assumed the names of characters from ‘The Pickwick Papers’, and dressed up in period costumes and went on jolly outings.

An account of life at the Credenda Works by staff correspondent ‘H. K.’ appeared in CYCLING magazine on 17th April 1963, when they were taken around by expert guide Harry Badham. One of the largest and most modern plating plants in Europe had been installed in 1958, and by 1963 the works was reckoned to be the world’s principal supplier of cycle components. “It is a magnificent factory....blanks (are) moved on to the press shop where some 300 different machines, some quite small, others as large as a lorry, in ranks like soldiers... some 3 million items pass through each week. The range of fittings included ‘Celtonia’ bells; bottom bracket axles and cups; cable brakes and pull-up varieties, including the cables and levers; head fittings, handlebar bends of varying types and extensions, fixed and adjustable, with expander bolts; all metal pedals and rubbered types; hubs and hub spindles, wide-flange or small; spokes nipples and washers; mudguards, seat pillars, spanners, and many other items. The ‘Resilion’ brand name appears on special hubs and pedals; Phillips had patented their own derailleur mechanism in 1952, but upon acquiring the Resilion name in 1954, used that name thereafter not only for derailleurs, but for the sports hubs and pedals. ‘A selection of flat tools is also produced, these included the combined spanner (with screwdriver), cone spanner cum tyre lever, combined spanner for head and (bottom) bracke , and the ‘eight in one’. The first three, and a polished oilcan, are available in a waterproof tool roll’

In September 1963, production of the Norman and Phillips mopeds ceased at Nottingham, leaving only the Raleigh range being manufactured [The Moped Archive]. The Times, on the 3rd December 1963 reported that the total number of employees was now 12,000 including those producing toys and mopeds; however, 1970 saw the end of motorised products [GG].

In 1971 the firm was still operating at Credenda Works, Smethwick but the subsequent history of this site is very difficult to find – by 1991, whilst the ‘Credenda Wks’ is still identified on the ‘A to Z’ map, the area as a whole is called ‘The Bridge Trading Estate’. Today (2017) all traces of the Credenda Works, and indeed the adjacent Kingston Metal Works have also disappeared, and have been replaced by modern factory style buildings [Google satellite mapping].

‘The “Phillips” brand is still used around the world, especially in China and the Far East, having been licensed by Raleigh’ [Wikipedia]

Postscript – The Surviving Bikes, and Motorised Machines


The company made complete bicycles for some 30 or 40 years, up to 1960, and I am unable to find any records of numbers made, but the total must run into many thousands if not some millions. However, a search of the internet in October 2017 reveals a total of 16 machines either for sale (Ebay, Gumtree etc) or in private collections (I include my own Kingfisher) and there may of course be many more rusting away in garden sheds. These are machines bearing ‘Birmingham’ on the steering-head badge, whereas Phillips made by Raleigh display ‘Nottingham’; Starting prices range from £18 to £200. Vendors rarely know the exact year, but a handful might be pre-war. Models include a 1955 Vox Populi, a childs post-war tricycle, a delivery bike and a WW2 military machine.

I have not carried out the same survey for other popular makes but suspect I would find a similar picture, and would suggest that after the war there was a big demand for cycles for personal transport, primarily to get to work, but as incomes started to rise significantly in the 1960s, so then people turned to mopeds, motorcycles and ultimately motor cars. Pedal cycles had no value and were scrapped or discarded. It is ironic that in the last few years there has been a huge upsurge of interest in cycles as a leisure pursuit, particularly for off-road use.

All ‘proper’ Phillips cycles had a frame number stamped on the near-side (ie left hand side) rear wheel mounting lug; on my Kingfisher, made between 1954 and 1959, this is K310103.

I have stripped my machine down completely - it had obviously been standing outside for many years; the paintwork and chrome being in very poor condition. Mechanically though it is sound with ball bearings and cup surfaces in good condition. It was a feature of these machines that the wheels and bottom bracket were lubricated using machine oil applied via small oil cups. Whilst the chain-wheel and rear chain sprockets are in relatively unworn, the pedal crank has been twisted out of alignment and needs straightening. It is my plan to completely restore the bike in the near future.

Bicycles with motorised rear wheels (c 1950-1958)

Only about half a dozen examples survive of Phillips bicycles fitted with the ‘Cyclemaster’ powered rear wheel; of course, this device was also fitted to other makes such as Hercules and Norman. In the case of Phillips you bought a specially strengthened bicycle, sans rear wheel, and had the Cyclemaster fitted yourself. The design originated on the continent and was produced in the UK by E.M.I - the engine was a single cylinder two stroke of 25.7cc, later increased to 32.6cc.(for 1952) and the whole assembly incorporated a fuel tank and exhaust/silencer. Apart from one “fabulous, original, unrestored” example the bikes I have found on the internet have been restored and are used, and some distinct oddities have survived. A Phillips made Indian Scout circa 1950, but with an ordinary bicycle frame; and Two ‘Carrier’ bicycles, one a man’s machine with the small front wheel which had been used as a factory run-around

Motorised Bicycles I have been unable to locate any surviving examples of this machine, first made at the end of 1954.

Mopeds In writing this section I have to declare that I have a background of owning, riding and restoring motorcycles for nearly sixty years, including most British makes and a number of foreign ones. Honda commenced making the Super Cub in 1958, sales of which have now reached the staggering sales figure of 60 million – I did own a 90cc model for a time. But was it a moped, as it didn’t have pedals? Dictionary definition of a moped: “a motorized bicycle that has pedals in addition to a low powered gasoline engine designed for low speed operation”. As far as I can ascertain, no such vehicles are manufactured today as modern engines are sufficiently powerful not to need pedal assistance.

It is possible today to discover on-line how many old vehicles have survived and are registered with the British D V L A; so how many Phillips mopeds are registered with the DVLA – the answer is – none; some other mopeds are listed such as the Raleigh Easy Rider, Garelli and Motor JIKOV. Although I have searched many copies of 1950’s motorcycle magazines, I have come across only one road-test of the Phillips models (see Panda report, April 1959 above) and so the following comments are largely based upon internet researches, and which have unearthed opinions of owners of machines past and present, and a number have been restored and are in regular use.

I mention above that there were 32 different models, British and continental, displayed at Earls Court in 1960, so millions must have been made over the ensuing decade, but the moped suffered the same fate as the pedal cycle.

The most authoritative current website covering classic mopeds must be ‘’ which is a vast source of articles on mopeds from all parts of the world, written by a mildly eccentric bunch, who enthuse over these products, and will make a special journey from the UK to New Zealand just to seek out some rare specimen. To remind the reader, Phillips mopeds fell into three categories – the Gadabout two speed, Gadabout three speed and the Panda- only ever made as a single speed model.

Here are some snippets from the articles, which include informal road-tests of surviving models:

Gadabout two speed and three speed

No reports are currently available on the two speed model, but the following information about the three speed (1959) model is based on the article ‘ The Gentlemans Club’ by Mark Daniels.

“With a power output of only 2.1 bhp, the aid of the decompressor and use of the pedals gets the engine running and it ticks over evenly. “Getting away reveals a nice clutch with clean shifts and a steady urge right up through the gears on ideally spaced ratios the bike is light and nimble, but reminds you its conservative design isn’t intended to be scratched around corners by fairly scraping the centre stand, though this does establish the handling as sure footed up to its intended limit. The exhaust note gives a pleasantly powerful and regular beat broken by a loud induction draw under throttle through the unducted filter on the back of the carb. Despite the confident impression of power this may give, in this case it can become a little tiring on long runs since this is actually not a sports machine. The P50 is consistently strong throughout its range but was never intended to work at revs, and is most comfortable cruising steadily. The VDO speedo tops out between 35 & 40 mph according to best conditions, but it’s so pleasant in top gear around 25mph that you generally settle down around this natural speed. The Phillips Gadabout Deluxe 3 is simply a superb quality ride, not fast, but it doesn’t need to be – it’s got class. The Gentlemans Club of old mopeds!”

Panda I suspect that the Gadabout was rather too sophisticated and expensive, achieving only modest sales, and that the Panda was announced in late 1958 (on sale from February 1959) to satisfy the budget end of the market. It went through several iterations, but rather oddly, model designations were not quoted at the date of each launch, they seem to have appeared in later documents ie handbooks etc. Quotations are from article “Pandamonium” by Mark Daniels.

Mk 1- P40, available from February 1959 – “The frame may look primitive, but it is certainly sturdily built, and fitted with heavy gauge commercial fork set... Happiest cruising speed is found in the low 20’s and Phillips own Excelite headlamp seems bright enough, but the puddle of light is vaguely splashed... front brake performs quite poorly., though easily manages to eclipse the completely ineffective Perry Coaster back-pedal rear hub arrangement. Panda MK 1’s practicality is simplicity and lightness. The rigid (front) fork and hard tail prove quite satisfactory within normal cruising expectation on public roads, though will certainly convey some shattering jolts if a rider fails to avoid the potholes”.

Mk2- P49 “...was introduced and being delivered to dealers from May 1960 (but) the Mk 1 remained available... being delisted in November 1960. The ride on the Mk 2 Panda is really no improvement on the rigid fork of the Mk 1 since, despite having a set of telescopic up front, these are grossly oversprung and deliver little practical suspension effect...Unfortunately, the Perry Coaster hub is still retained at the rear and, no surprise, the back pedal bronze cone brake on this machine proves predictably consistent in performance with every other example that we’ve ridden – utterly useless! ... the addition of side valanced panels on the rear mudguard offers (little) significant gain, since most side spray falls behind the rider, and the feature more likely results from some quirky styling diversion that was briefly adopted by several manufactures about this time...The bigger 41/2 inch Miller Headlamp makes better use of the power generated from the Miller 6V, 18W magneto set, and offers appreciably better illumination than the previous Excelite...Pedal away to practice our flying start. Let off the trigger to drop the clutch, and the Rex motor fires up immediately..happiest cruising is about 20mph..On the test circuit gradient, speed fell back to 17mph where it settled down to soldier up the incline.

Mk3 PMI “Our Panda Mk3 became listed from September 1961, though never rolled down the factory lines at credenda Works [authors italics]. As a derivative of the RM4 it was built at the Raleigh Works in Nottingham. The Phillips had become no more than a group- assembled market-branded product. The £62-17s-1d Raleigh RM4 was pitched as top dog in this family of badged machines, with its two-tone paintwork, ‘Super-Comfort’ saddle, and integral speedo in the Luxor headlamp. A Norman Nippy Mk5 at £60-0s-0d filled the middle ground, also with two-tone scheme, still with the ‘Super-Comfort’ saddle, but plain Lucas headlamp. Phillips found itself relegated to economy brand, priced at £59-0s-0d , with an archaic Wrights S.65/3 ‘tension coil sprung’ saddle and mono-colour paint in sparkling Royal Carmine Red. The public took well to the flashing ruby finish and premium price tag, so the Phillips Panda actually sold very well”.

There follow a lengthy and technical appraisal which would be too tedious to quote in full, but I would summarise as follows; it had a Motobecane 49cc automatic engine which proved easy to start, delivering 25-28mph on the flat. The headlight provided a “pale pool of golden illumination on the tarmac ahead” which seemed adequate for the limited performance. The undamped front forks were too firmly sprung and resulted in “a pogo ride” on bumpy surfaces, whilst the rigid rear end and economy saddle gave an uncomfortable ride. Finish of cycle parts was particularly good.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Essay compiled by Sam Whitehouse, B Sc., C eng., MICE and with his kind permission, published on Grace's Guide February 2018.